Saturday, April 19, 2008

Like American Idol for Entrepreneurs

This week I felt as if I were on American Idol. No, not as a contestant, as a judge. I was on a panel of three critics listening to three-minute pitches from entrepreneurs. The panel's job was to help the entrepreneurs get ready to pitch their requests for funding to over 100 investors at the upcoming Crossroads Venture Fair.

I had a yellow grading sheet for each presenter. I had to grade the contestants on specific criteria. Amazingly, most of the presenters never got to some of the points. They mostly got hung up on giving their credentials, describing how great their product or service was or going into the need in the marketplace. Two presenters completely lost me as they dove into the technical aspects of their inventions, complete with diagrams that made no sense.

The judges had to tell these entrepreneurs how to improve their presentations. What amazed me was how they looked so eager to hang on every word we said. Sometimes I thought I sounded like Simon, telling people that I couldn't understand what their business was.

But some of the ideas for new businesses were really good. I hope that the entrepreneurs learned from the experience and will do well at Crossroads.

Here is a rundown of the point we had to grade on:
Product/service - what do you do?
Market - what's the size of the market?
Competitive Analysis - Is the product unique?
Finance -- how will you make money?
Management - Do you have the talent to meet your goals?
Funding -- what do you need? how will you use it?

Crossroads is run by the Connecticut Venture Group.

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