By Jeanette R. Hill, Ph.D.
It’s a new world out there for startups looking for coaching and funding. Prestigious biz-school pitch events used to be the gold-standard for securing those coveted investor dollars. Now there’s a startup competition in just about every metro area in the U.S. and there’s no excuse for not throwing your hat in the ring when the invitation comes. A recent New York Times blog post states that there are at least 15 incubators/accelerators in Austin alone and many more in Texas, so local entrepreneurs have multiple chances to tell their story, score some capital and create boffo social media buzz and content.
As the founder of a biomedical device startup I am expected to be the “face” of the company at these pitch events which have taken on elements of high theater: impresarios, spotlights, microphones, stages, applause and critics.
My professional career has been spent wearing a white lab coat at pharma companies, so taking on the role of pitch master has pushed me out of my comfort zone and into a timed two-minute (and sometimes only one-minute) limelight. They say possessing courage is the key to entrepreneurial success, so having already competed in three high profile events this year allows me the right to dub 2013 as my “Year of Pitching Dangerously.” I touted my accomplishments and announced the disruption of an existing market. I even put my financials on a giant screen for VC sharks to examine! Dangerous pitching, indeed!
Why all the pitching? Women-led startups are receiving encouragement to up their pitching game. A 2012 study shows that only 16 percent of startups pitching to angels in the U.S. were women-led with only 25 percent of that group securing funding. The startup blogosphere is suggesting that the only way to boost those percentages is to get women participating as often as their male peers.
From my POV, I see this increase happening organically as women entrepreneurs take advantage of well-publicized events happening in their own backyards. As the CEO of The Pipeline Fellowship, Natalia Oberti Noguera, advises the advantages of women pitching more often are obvious: you receive invaluable advice and feedback, you meet key influencers and make relevant connections – not to mention getting the chance to secure funding. It’s difficult to imagine a downside.
For the inquisitive, here’s a rundown of the “dangerous” pitch competitions that I’ve faced this year to date:
What’s next on the pitch horizon? We have our sights set on two more exciting competitions before year’s end so the adventure continues. Business-building remains my prime directive but it’s obvious to me and my team that making the effort to pitch dangerously is worth it.
Jeanette R. Hill, Ph.D is the founder and CEO of Spot On Sciences, a medical device company committed to the development of biological sample collection devices. Dr. Hill has 20 years experience in pharmaceutical R&D and made the leap to entrepreneur in 2010.
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