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Alan Brody's first question Tuesday was innocent enough: Describe your startup to an “angel” investor you are meeting for the first time.
It was successive variations of his next question — hammered home again and again to individuals attending Stamford “Startupalooza” — that knocked most off their pedestal: “Do you remember what they do?” In most cases, participants admitted they had only a hazy recollection of the business summaries they had heard less than 15 minutes before.
Billed as a chance for entrepreneurs to get coached up on how to get the attention of angel investors — then get the chance to do just that — Stamford Startupalooza was held May 24 at the Workpoint co-working facility at Shippan Landing on Stamford’s waterfront. Unlike Startup Stamford Weekend held annually at the Stamford Innovation Center to convene teams to develop business plans, Stamford Startupalooza included several companies already well down the road of bringing a prototype product to market.
It is one thing to develop a product, and another thing to develop a backer, said Brody, who as president of Convean helps startups connect with investors and who authored a book on the topic titled “Are You Fundable?”
“What I really care about is how do I get rich by giving you a bunch of money?” Brody said of the typical angel investor’s perspective. “The reason they call it the ‘elevator pitch’ is you’ve got 30 seconds — when the door opens, you are free to leave. ... The question is what would you say so that even when the door opens, the (investor) doesn’t leave?”
Workpoint hopes to host Stamford Startupalooza three times a year, according to Sheelah Quinn, the facility’s general manager and head of sales, with the inaugural event Tuesday sponsored by McCarter & English and Fiverr. The forum showcased several intriguing ideas ranging from the Vidpal on-demand video service for broadcaster use — the winning pitch by John Ortega — to a way to help baseball players learn to hit effectively regardless of pitch location. Entrepreneurs struck out time and time again with angel investment experts, however, with their “elevator pitches” eviscerated as woefully forgettable.
In advance of a “Shark Tank” style pitch competition, Brody was joined by Sandy Wollman, an organizer of Westchester Angels in New York, who likewise spared no quarter as participants gave their best efforts at how they would go about chasing down his investment dollars.
“Respectfully — nobody got my attention,” Wollman told workshop participants. “Any time you are talking to an angel investor, you only have one goal: get to the next conversation. One of the mistakes startups make is that they go into so much detail about their product. ... I want to know what you do — in one sentence.”
In the case of the baseball device, Wollman did just that in boiling the concept down to a pitch that might catch his notice: “‘I’ve been a baseball player my entire life and I’ve developed a way to make batters better baseball players; and as a matter of fact, I’ve shown this to ... Joe Torre and he is very interested in my idea.’
“I’m in,” Wollman continued. “You caught me right away with what you do — you’re making a baseball player better (and) you have a proprietary way. ... What you’ve done is you’ve gotten me to the next conversation.”
Stamford Startupalooza 2016 participants
Vidpal, on-demand video marketplace — winner
CircleLink, preventative health — runner up
Newsfundr, online news resource — runner up
Voco, text matching app — runner up
CLENCH Sports, custom mouth guards
CrowdFlik, online video synchronization
Ergonomic Values, baseball hitting aid
FooNow, web-based food ordering
GiftTitan, social media gifting app
Medsender, digital health record transmission
SnipMe, short-form TV show production
Stash America, data security
Ultima Smart Systems, artificial intelligence