Thursday, February 07, 2008

Desperately seeking Susan. Or Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice

Last night I attended an investment funding event at (and, I think, co-sponsored by) the University of Worcester School of Business.

There were others involved, with the lead being a brokerage called Beer & Partners, but also Advantage West Midlands as well.

Initially billed as a 'Dragon's Den', I almost didn't go because of the connotations of that sick show, but in the form of a 'Business Angel' Panel, which it was, I am glad I did.

A well-attended event, there was a good 100 folk there, so interest was high. And I recognized a few faces.

The panel comprised some experienced investors, though the names meant little to me: Mike Weaver (head of Beer in this neck 'o the woods), Kerry Jones, and Jim Walker.

The latter came out with the quote of the evening, which at least made it for me: 'Any product which addresses environmental issues is now really important, and top of any investor's list'.

And the pitches were all from 'green' businesses, which was a complete, if pleasant, surprise. There was an automotive fuel efficiency device and two energy monitoring devices/systems, which is an area I know quite a lot about of course.

At about 10mins, with feedback from panel and Q&A, it all scooted through in a very interesting hour.

I was mainly there as all that I am up to has hit the next hurdle of actually getting what I am doing to market, and into profit, and for that I know I need people with me. So, interestingly, earlier that day I had been engaged in just such an effort. And pretty encouraging it was, too. One was an interview, whereby a very talented and savvy post grad was seeing why she would want to spend a month here. I hope she got the answers she sought, and hence will. The other was with a marketing guy who for once was not looking for an upfront fee before doing anything. And he is both local, experienced and connected.

But as I do think investors may well still be part of the mix, I was keen to see how one might package the proposition.

Three interesting products. Three personable chaps pitching. But I was encouraged, because I had been thinking what I was up to and capable of would not be up to the task. Yet I felt my pitch, when it comes, would stack up very well in comparison. And the judges, though I suspect being very nice about it all, seemed interested and keen to develop things with these guys, though I actually had some reservations from my knowledge of market conditions, in several areas, for at least a couple of them.

Also interesting was the pitches. All were cut off. And all were cut off by spending too much time on what it was at the expense of how it would make money, and where, with who, etc. An easy mistake to make, and one I have done a lot by being the creator and not so focused on the profit motive aspects.

Also of note was the amounts requested, especially with some fairly hefty capital-requiring proposals, and/or also with significant staffing levels of senior folk for as yet unproven market concepts. Numbers of £150k were being mentioned, which can get gobbled up in a flash! Heck, I could do that with Junkk just on a sales director for a year.

Speaking of which, one the angels mentioned something I did not know, which is that supermarkets expect associated marketing budgets to be attached to any 'product' they engage. Worth bearing in mind for RE:tie.

There were also several other panel questions that seldom were addressed in the pitches, but were good to know as being important for inclusion and also as points of priority in such pitches.

IP was seldom highlighted, but is obviously key.

But the one thing that stood out above all that these guys were looking for is the management team. In place... and on the case.

And that is what I don't yet have, and must soon get.

Thing is, this event got me no further, just as have any conversations I have had with in theory 'innovator-supportive' Gov//NGO organizations, as to how I find such folk.

But I'm clawing closer... I think.

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