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16th – 20th March 2015

I’m writing this week’s blog on Wednesday evening at San Francisco International airport as I return home. Rather than go through the last few days since a number of Clean and Cool alumni flew back out Saturday as a follow up to the recent Mission to pitch at the Cleantech Forum, I thought I’d instead note a few of the lessons we think they and we have learned.

Kissing frogs

With hundreds of people and a legion of investors, getting to talk to the right people and to then find one of them who might have an interest in partnering/investing/trialling with you there will be a large amount of conversations that go nowhere. We are always amazed however at the frequency with which the unexpected contact turns out to be the most helpful. We keep trying to give our entrepreneurs chances for this ‘organised serendipity’ by organising meetups and side sessions and having a broad invite list.

Frogs or toads?

Of course it helps if you have researched any investor you talk to. Are they investing in your type of business? What stage are they at with their fund? Are they early on so can take longer term punts or near the end and looking to invest in near break-even, post-revenue businesses? Not doing so won’t impress and can seem desperate. Also think about VC versus angel versus corporate etc…

Be human

Investors often relate they will prioritise a good leader or team over a good idea. People invest in people and VCs are looking for companies led by committed individuals. Putting a bit of yourself into your pitch helps reveal this. Also important is to appeal to all types when resenting – just because you love numbers and information heavy slides it doesn’t mean they will respond in the same way.

Focus

Many small companies fail due to a lack of focus (I can say this from personal experience). Be clear about your true addressable market and make sure the story of the company aligns with this.  Don’t go listing every opportunity for your technology if that confuses how you are going to make money first. Be realistic about how you fit into the overall system in that market – the total size may be huge but how much of it will fall to you?

Timelines

Try and be clear on when you will break even (become profitable), how much you need to get then (and when you need it) and what you will be doing on the way. Bringing a lot of early stage companies out means some will be tracked by investors. They be looking to see how you fit to that plan. The same story repeated in a few years’ time won’t impress. They’ll also be trying to work out when and how an exit might take place.

 

I’m pleased to say the Clean and Cool companies had a very productive week with some setting up customer trials, others meeting interesting potential collaborators and many starting ongoing conversations that will lead to new capital. There were some very well-known names in the mix of potential customers, collaborators and investors so we hope more exciting news will follow.

 

Stat of the week: Drought-stricken California only has one year of water left, Nasa scientist warns http://gu.com/p/46kg5/stw

Week’s travel carbon footprint: 4000 kg CO2 equiv thanks to more international flying

Mike Pitts

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