Our startup is lucky to be in an area with a lot of VCs and startup infrastructure — a la demo days, pitch competitions, meetups, etc. We’ve done a few demo days and they’ve been fine but yielded us very little investor interest. My cofounders want us to keep going to demo days to get exposure while I want to focus our energy on the product and stop showing our idea to people who might copy it. Is a few demo days enough or should we keep showing our product despite the risks?
The goal of getting seen by investors is to create "lines, not dots". What I mean by that is that each time an investor sees you/your product, you team will have over the previous time they saw you. Investors typically only invest when they have seen a company several times and they see progress they like.
If you do run into an investor that shows interest, ask them if you can add them to a monthly email update on the company. (your advisors/mentors should also be on this email) Then each month send out an update that highlights the progress you've made, and any small "asks" that you might have (e.g. an intro, opening up a waiting list, amplifying a tweet, where they can catch you @ the next demo day, etc).
I personally would only participate in a demo day if there's been progress that you want to highlight. In between those times, I would find ways to get out into the community into locations where those investors are and you might run into them again. So perhaps every 3 months do a demo day, then on the off months find a way to meet them in a social situation through another event.
Also look for other ways to get mentors, advisors, other leadership (e.g. customers) on board to talk about your progress - create a community of advocates.
The best way to impress investors is to show consistent progress toward your stated goals. If it is a choice of develop the product OR attend investor events, you need to work on the product and/or sales to continue making progress.
But, given that you have time to do both, I would schedule demo days to emphasize your accomplishments, whether it is releasing a feature or gaining a key client. Also, treat fundraising as a pipeline, similar to sales. It takes many touches and your value prop (as an investment vehicle for their portfolio) needs to meet their portfolio needs, otherwise expect wasted effort. IE, make sure you are attending the right events with the right investors.
I just attended the Boost demo days and found that to be a little helpful in getting the word out. Was just talking to an investor in the VR/AR space who also was there and he said that demo days are helpful for him to:
1. See a bunch of companies that have been pre-filtered.
2. Build relationships with a wide variety of entrepreneurs.
3. Get personal demos of ones he's interested in.
As a journalist I find the same. It's an efficient way for me to see a bunch of companies. That said, I stopped going to YC and others. Why? The format just doesn't work for me. So, you might find it better to build personal relationships that will lead you to funding, press, etc.
That said, there is some middle ground. It's hard to get 100+ investors aware of you any other way. Not impossible, just hard.
Translation: go to as many as you can. It might not be as many as your cofounders want and it might be more than you want.
Oh, and everyone is too busy to copy your idea anyway. If you can't outrun your competitors or you haven't figured out how to make your brand/company/product defensible maybe you shouldn't be at a demo day anyway. ;-)
LOL! 'Idiots'? You can never do enough 'networking' in general. However, when it comes to fundraising you also don't want to be 'all over the place'. What's the old saying? 'Quality' over 'quantity' so best to be a bit more focused (IMHO).
I would pursue clients / market traction instead of demo days. Demo days are like "free test drive" days at your local car dealership - just because everyone is there, doesn't mean any one is a buyer.
I recommend doing more of professional trade shows and conferences - much more targeted networking with potential clients / partners.
If you do not need immediate funding and your product is not fully developed, i would not waste my time on constant demo things for now and focus on getting the thing launched.
Hi Sumit, I don't think you are idiots since Demo Days give you the opportunity to network with future investors. However, I would be very selective as there is a fine line between getting exposure and wasting time. Also, have you assessed why investors are not very interested in your startup? Maybe you are way to early in "the game" or your team lacks something or some other reason. At this point I would favor signing up for a competition since winning something will add to your credibility more than just showcasing your project.
as a startup, I see as many pitches as I can, and I judge several pitch events. I think that by analyzing pitches, you learn to see the pitch through a more critical eye, and you begin to see the subtleties that make a great pitch. So yes, get out there and pitch and watch a lot of pitches.
I think you must go through that.