Tips for Applying to Pitch at Venture Atlanta

Venture Atlanta Application

Earlier this week, we opened company applications for Venture Atlanta 2019. We also held a Meet & Greet with BIP Capital for interested entrepreneurs to come learn more about the application process, find out how to tell their best story, and hear what we’re looking for in an applicant. If you were unable to attend the event, don’t be discouraged — we’re about to share everything that you need to know. Here are our top tips for crafting a story that will captivate the judges and land you a spot at VA 2019. Download your executive summary template, and let’s get started.

Tip #1 – Rely on the 3 C’s: Clear, Concise, Compelling.

Here’s the million dollar question: What’s the best way to tell the story of my company? For us, that answer comes down to the three C’s: Be clear, concise, and compelling. Judges need to be able to quickly discern whether or not they like what they see, so start by explaining the problem you’re solving, and how you’re doing it. Your main goal is to convey the essence of your company, and how you’re going to lead it to success. You only get one first impression (and a limited word count), so get straight to the point in your delivery.

Tip #2 – Sell it. Don’t describe it.

What the judges want to know is that the problem you’re solving is worth backing and that it’s going to make money. So what are you trying to do? Close the deal, get the win, hit the jackpot — whatever you want to call it, you’re here to sell. So do that.

An extra tip? Leave the buzzwords out of your executive summary. We’re a tech conference, so we’ve heard all the popular lingo: innovative, groundbreaking, dynamic, big data, etc. Unless your product actually uses things like AI, machine learning, etc., don’t include them. You’ll just waste your precious real estate on fluff, and that’s not the best strategy for making it to the VA stage.

CONFERENCE HACK #1:

Don’t try to explain your entire business plan when you submit your application — just tell the story that gets the judges to understand how you’re going to reach the next stage of success. Think of your executive summary as a first date, and all you’re trying to do is get to the second date. We don’t want to know about what you did on summer vacation when you were six, we just want to know enough about you to keep us interested enough for Date #2, a.k.a. your pitch presentation.  

Tip #3 – If you have $0 revenue, show traction.

We’re looking for companies of all sizes — from startups looking to raise their first $1-5 million to CEOs going after the $50 million checks — so we know that some of our applicants won’t have revenue yet. The good news? It doesn’t matter; what matters is that your company is moving forward and that you’ve got a plan for the money that you’re asking for. So when it comes time to tell the money story, talk about how you got your first customers, what their business is doing for your overall goals, and how that momentum will shape how your investors will make a profit if they partner with you. After all, what an investor wants to know more than anything is that their investment is a good one. If you can convey that they’re not going to have to keep pouring money into your idea to see a return, you’re golden.

Tip #4 – Take the time to complete your executive summary the RIGHT way.

Company applications for Venture Atlanta are open from May 15, 2019, until August 2, 2019, so you’ve got plenty of time to get it right. Here’s a short checklist to consider.

  1. Start with your business description. Describe what you do in as few words as possible. This should be an elevator pitch-style sentence that offers the big picture of your business (again leave out the buzzwords!).
  2. Don’t leave any sections blank. That’s a red flag that you’re not a good fit for VA. If you feel like you can’t fill out a section, think on it and come back to it.
  3. Get your summary proofed. It’s time to cash in favors with your friends, peers, and mentors to help you look for grammatical errors, weirdly worded sentences, and more.
  4. On traction, be realistic. We’ve seen the business plan of a lot of start-ups, so we know the first and second year is when “the hockey sticks” start. So just be honest — you’ll go a lot further.
  5. Have quantifiable numbers. Investors want to see that the problem your solving has a sizeable market — but not too general that it looks like you didn’t do your research. Spend the time, and put the right perimeters on your target market. A large market isn’t a guarantee of a profit — you’ll get much further with a specific one.
  6. You have competition. If you get to the question about your competition and your answer is “I don’t have any,” you’re wrong. There’s going to be some sort of competition with your market, so tell it like it is.

Want a more robust checklist of everything to do before submitting? Check out the full presentation from our Meet & Greet here

CONFERENCE HACK #2:

We know this may sound premature, but it’s vital: If you don’t get selected this year, come to the conference anyway. Venture Atlanta is the biggest conference in the Southeast, and 170+ funds were in attendance at the 2018 conference. What does that mean for you? You don’t have to be selected to be in the room. And this is a room you DEFINITELY want to be in.  There are opportunities throughout the conference to make valuable connections.

Have a few questions already? We’ve got answers.

We’ve been doing this awhile, so we know there’s a couple of key questions you’re dying to ask. Here are the most frequently asked questions from people that are applying just like you.

Q: How much is this going to cost?

A: Nothing — it’s free to apply and free to present. We’re not interested in making money off of the startups that we work with, we’re interested in giving them the platform that they need to grow. Thanks to our generous sponsors, our fees are covered. So apply — it literally costs you nothing!

Q: When I’m trying to figure out how to scale my plan based on investment, what should that look like?

A: Show both your base case and your stretch case when it comes to your projections — it’s the best of both worlds.

Q: What’s the sweet spot for an investment ask?

A: As we mentioned before, Venture Atlanta is looking for companies seeking everything from Series A to growth funding, so the sweet spot is: Whatever your company needs to get to the next stage. If you have a foundation to support the ask, then make the ask — and we’ll do what we can to get you wherever you’re heading.

The perks for being a part of Venture Atlanta are huge: The companies that have pitched at Venture Atlanta in the past have gone on to make major headlines (with $14B in exits alone). But if you’re selected, you’ll also get mentorship and coaching, marketing support, continued PR support, and an ongoing invitation to be a part of our community, which is pretty great, if we do say so ourselves.

So, think you’re ready to submit your application? Get started here, and good luck! If you have any questions, email Executive Director Allyson Eman at aeman@ventureatlanta.org.