About twenty-five eager current and would be entrepreneurs gathered at the Worrell Center at WFU to learn from a panel of experts and a team of dynamic lecturers. The topic: “Becoming an Investor-Ready Entrepreneur” was presented by the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, The SBTDC (Small Business Technology Development Center), NC Bionet, IMAF(Inception Microangel Fund) and North Carolina Biotechnology Center.
The group was welcomed by Bill Parrish from the SBTDC presenting an animated short of a toy airplane attempting its first maiden flight. He compared that experience to starting up a new venture. Attendees were taken through a fourteen module session covering such important topics as the funding landscape, what is the big idea and will it attract investors, how to present to investors and how to value your company. Each module consisted of a fifteen minute discussion with visual aids , an opportunity to ask the panel of entrepreneurial experts questions and a host of links on where to go for more information on the subject.
Tim Janke from IMAF told participants their chances for getting funding. Aabout 1 in 100 ideas actually receive funds. The audience learned what industry sector has the most deals: Healthcare leads the funding, accounting for 30% of the deals down to retail and IT at 5% each. Attendees spanned a broad spectrum of industries and ideas from medical devices to medical services; from retail related services to green technology. Some attendees already had patents on their idea or product and one entrepreneur even had a prototype of his idea ready to share with the group.
Panelists shared their words of wit and wisdom with the audience. Patrick Kammer of C Change Surgical compared being unprepared for a pitch to a potential investor like a bad first date. “It’s unlikely you’ll be walking down the aisle in marriage after a bad first date” he said, implying that funding too would be unlikely after a poor first presentation. Jon Wilson of SpringMed said, “Make your competitor your friend” pointing out the benefits of competition (demonstrates market potential, provides a possible buyer/acquirer for your startup). Kip Johnson of Womble Carlyle indicated that he sees far too many “hockey sticks” for growth charts and would rather fund ventures that show upward but realistic growth curves. In that same vein, Lisa Ruckdeschel from SBTDC advised the audience to focus on bottom up sales projections versus top down. She indicated that it’s easy to assume one half one percent of the total market as a revenue projection but harder to come up with the number of sales calls, the number of products made, the number of customers needed to come up with that revenue.
Participants received a two inch thick binder with handouts of all the presentation materials, a glossary of investor and entrepreneur necessary terms and many places to jot notes and answer questions. The luncheon break featured guest entrepreneur Andy Chan, former president and CEO of two entrepreneurial ventures--eProNet and MindSteps. The session concluded with a networking reception and opportunity to meet other SBTDC staff and panelists.