While there is no one sure path to startup success, connecting with investors is typically a smart move for any entrepreneur looking to scale. Participating in a venture conference is a great way to get yourself in front of multiple investors at once, potentially opening up a lot of doors for a growing business. With Venture Atlanta 2017 set to host more than 120 top tier funds at the Football Hall of Fame for its 10 year anniversary event this October, the stakes are higher than ever.
Whether you’re looking to raise venture capital, gain exposure, connect with others in your industry, or just soak in all the growth goodness, here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind to make the most of a venture conference like Venture Atlanta:
Do: make friends & be nice
Whether it’s a previous presenter or someone who is deeply involved in the conference, be sure to reach out and get connected before the conference. Whether you’re going through the application or preparation process, it can really help to get advice from people who have already gone through the experience. And, it may seem obvious, but be nice. There is nothing worse for your reputation than coming across as a disengaged know-it-all. Kindness can go a long way for those looking to get involved and make the most of the conference.
Don’t: forget about your existing network
There’s only so much you can get across about your company on paper and, chances are, someone in your ecosystem knows someone involved in Venture Atlanta. Reach out to your existing network (accountant, lawyer, friends and family) to get an introduction. Venture Atlanta typically publishes a list of the advisory board, so reach out and offer a cup of coffee in exchange for conference wisdom. Like they say, the opposite of networking is NOT working.
Do: spend adequate time on your application
When you speed through your application and submit it the day that it’s due, the selection board will notice. You have the best shot of catching the board’s attention by submitting a clean, well-thought-out application. Get a second or third pair of eyes on it for flow and grammar before sending it in. Most importantly, be sure to include every piece of information the selection committee is asking for.
When you’re filling out an application for Venture Atlanta, don’t waste your time by embellishing any information about your company. After all, if selected, you’ll be presenting in front of hundreds of people who have no time for your lies. If you’re tempted to fudge your revenue numbers, think again. Even if you’re pre-revenue, be honest and don’t apologize for it. There have been plenty of pre-revenue companies involved with Venture Atlanta that went on to do amazing things.
Do: take the pitch & coaching seriously
Venture Atlanta offers coaching prior to the pitch. Make sure to willingly participate and stay open to any and all feedback. Typically, these coaches are heavy influencers in the startup community, or even angel investors or VCs that could invest in your startup down the road. Take the coaching and preparation process seriously. The relationships you form during this time can make just as big of an impact on your business as the pitch itself.
Don’t: play checkers
If you’ve already been selected to participate in Venture Atlanta, congratulations! Now, ask yourself if you want to play checkers or chess. If you apply at the last possible minute, forgo r research and don’t take things seriously, you’re playing checkers. If you’re seeking solid connections, doing your prep work in advance and actively participating, you’re playing chess. Remember that raising money is an 18 to 24 month process – even if you’re not quite ready to raise money now, the relationships you form with investors now can quite literally make or break your business later on.
Do: utilize the mobile app
To get the most out of Venture Atlanta, use all of the tools at your disposal. The conference’s app can help you find valuable networking opportunities. If selected, you’ll have the added advantage of booking one-on-one meetings with potential investors through the mobile app. At the 2016 event, over 350 meetings took place between investors and presenting companies. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity!
Venture Atlanta 2017 applications are officially closed. If you still want to get involved in this year’s event, be sure to register today.
Matthew May is the COO and co-founder of Atlanta-based bookkeeping service, Acuity. As an advisory board member and leader of the Venture Atlanta coaching process, Matthew is deeply involved with the VA community and is happy to share his knowledge with the startup community.