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Erick P. '17

May 1, 2016

Ask A VC Boston 2016

Posted in: Miscellaneous

A venture capitalist seeks out startups with high potential and invests money from the venture capital firm they work for into those startups to make returns. As an entrepreneur, being in their good graces and learning from their insight could be the difference between life and death for one's company. I wanted to meet as many as I could and learn as much from them as I could before I started my own venture.

Then on late Thursday night, my friend told me "Hey Erick, tomorrow morning is Ask A VC Boston, right in the Microsoft Nerd Center. Venture capitalists from all over will be there." So, I made a mental pro's and con's list:

 

Reasons not go:

  • The event starts at 8am. My sleep schedule has been sleeping from 6am to noon for the past month so I wasn't sure how my body would react to being woken up at 8.
  • I had a class that grades attendance around that time that I would have to skip.

Reasons to go:

  • Over 20 VC's from all different industries were going to be gathered in one place less than a block away from MIT campus and I could ask them any question I wanted.

 

Pros outweighed the cons. I finished my pset, slept for a few hours, woke up, rolled out of bed, splashed my face with cold water, brewed some coffee to stay awake, and headed over.

The event started with some networking followed by a Q&A panel. Afterwards, the attendees could pitch their startups to the venture capitalists and get feedback on the spot. I didn't have my own startup yet so I just focused on getting good insight.

There were so many speakers and attendees that they split the panel into two different rooms. Sumeet Shah from Brand Foundry Ventures led our panel, and he opened up by asking the VC's, "What was the worst pitch you ever recieved?" The responses were hilarious, from "disposable toothbrushes" (aren't all toothbrushes disposable?) to "like an iPad but in the shape of a sphere and it goes on top of your car".

Towards the end of the panel, I introduced myself and asked them what they felt were the biggest current challenges in their current industries that new startups would have to overcome. Some of the things I learned:

  • Fintech industry is full of hard regulations.
  • Virtual reality is exciting and novel, but there's no developed market for it. You have to create a need before people will buy the solution.
  • Artificial intelligence is new and exciting, and we're often touted as being in the "age of artifical intelligence". But until you can talk to AI bots like a regular person, they won't see mass adoption as "virtual assistants" like most people think.
  • Real estate requires a lot of collaboration and partnerships with established brands.
  • Hardware startups face limited economies of scales. if you ship out 2000 products, you will only make 2000 x the price of your product. and you have to cover your costs. This is opposed to a software startup that develops one product which many people can access.

 

Afterwards, we listened to some of the pitches from the audience, followed by more networking afterwards.

I didn't stick around too long for the networking afterwards because I had to get to another class, but I did learn a lot. Until this point I imagined VC's as intimidating faceless groups that could spell doom for your company if they didn't want to give you money. But that day, after talking to many of them, I realized how they're really people who want the same thing as the entrepreneurs - to see good companies flourish (and make money).

As the old adage in the VC world goes, "Ask for money and you get advice. Ask for advice and you get money."

 

Here’s the guest list of the VC’s that were invited. Not all of them were able to make it but I did get to talk to the ones that were there and learn from them.

Chris Quintero from Bolt, a venture capital firm designed for hardware startups. Two out of three of the founders got their Master's at MIT.

Sumeet Shah from Brand Foundry Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm focused on emerging, innovative consumer focused brands.

Jason Shuman from Corigin Ventures, which focuses on the future of consumer behavior and daily living.

Evan Kornack from Data Point Capital, focused on innovative internet companies.

Shayne Veramallay from DLA Piper, a global law firm with 4,200 lawyers in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East to help companies with their legal needs around the world. 

Jay Farber from F-Prime Capital, a global venture capital firm investing in healthcare and technology.

Michael Greeley from Flare Capital Partners, a healthcare technology venture capital firm.

Juan Luis Leung Li from General Catalyst, which focusing on companies that show high growth potential. These guys invested in companies like Airbnb, Snapchat, Stripe, and KAYAK.

Chris Protasewich from Highland Capital Partners, which has raised over $3 billion in committed capital and invested in more than 225 companies, resulting in category-defining businesses across consumer and enterprise technology

John Murphy from Hyperplane VC, which focuses on machine learning and data companies.

Eric Girouard from LAUNCH, for next generation commerce companies.

Ed Coady from Launch Capital, with a core focus in technology, healthcare, medical, and consumer businesses.

Arsham Memarzadeh from OpenView Venture Partners, focusing mainly on B2B software companies.

Matt Hayes from Point Judith Capital, which focuses on investments in software and technology enabled services.

Joseph Coyne from Samsung Strategic Investments, Samsung's venture capital arm that focuses on software and services.

Jay Thakrar from SeedInvest, an equity crowdfunding platform that connects investors with startups.

Paul Flanagan from Sigma Prime Ventures, which invests in early stage technology companies solving hard business problems with SaaS,

Evelyn Buchatskiy from Techstars, a startup accelerator that provides mentorship-driven seed-stage investment services for technology-oriented companies

Steve Agular from Zaffre Investments, which invests in products and services that focus on changing healthcare.

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