Editor’s note: The following article was written by Venture Atlanta board member Blake Patton and originally appeared on his blog. It is reposted here with his permission.
This year I’ve had the honor of serving on the board of Venture Atlanta as the Atlanta CEO Council representative. The CEO Council was one of the co-founders of VA, along with the Metro Atlanta Chamber and TAG. Venture Atlanta has grown to become the Southeast’s flagship venture conference – attracting VC’s from all over the country.
I am also getting to see ‘behind the curtain’ as a first-time member of the Selection Committee. With under a month left to apply to present at VA, I thought I’d pass along 4 tips based on what I’ve learned so far.
1) APPLY NOW
The committee members review every application. Each one gives the company a rating and they are later discussed at Selection Committee meetings. The committee members put many hours into reviewing the applications.
It may be my imagination, but I’ve noticed we are able to spend more time on early applicants. As the deadline approaches, the pace of applications picks up, resulting in less time to spend on each company. Other committee members have shared that in past years, many startups wait until the deadline to submit and those applications have to be reviewed quickly. An exception might be if you think something will change before the deadline that will demonstrate more progress or traction – then it might be worth waiting to apply.
From what I’ve seen so far, it appears easier to get higher ratings if you submit your application early.
2) DO OUR HOMEWORK FOR US
Applying is easy – just fill out the form at http://ventureatlanta.org/conference/apply/ and submit your executive summary. What is NOT easy is creating a great executive summary – but that’s what it will take to get selected. Highlight the good stuff and make it awesome!
A good executive summary is content rich and uses simple sentence structure. It clearly articulates what the company does and whom they do it for. Help the committee understand your market opportunity, product, technology, and target customer. Make sure it shares your competitive advantages, what stage your startup is, when you will be seeking funding, and highlights traction and customer adoption.
Some of the best companies may not get a chance to present because the committee can’t tell what you do from your executive summary! If it’s long on marketing speak and hype, but short on clear descriptions and specifics – it won’t get good ratings and won’t be selected. Do not assume the committee members know your company or your industry. Spell it out for the committee and get help from a mentor, seasoned entrepreneur, or one of the startup organizations (like ATDC, Startup Chicks, ATV, VentureLab, etc) before you submit.
VA is looking for companies that excite investors – use your executive summary to show why that’s you.
3) PAST PRESENTERS MUST HIGHLIGHT PROGRESS
If you have presented at VA in the past and you are raising money again, you can still apply to present. However, it is critical that you highlight what progress you’ve made since then to get selected.
If you have presented in the past, tell the committee what you’ve accomplished since then.
4) HAVE A SPY
You probably know someone on the Selection Committee. If you don’t, make an effort to. Update them on your company and progress so they can advocate for you while your application is being reviewed. I’ve already seen a few companies benefit because someone knows the company and shares with the rest of us why they should be invited.
Have a ‘spy’ on the Selection Committee and update them on your company.
Presenting at Venture Atlanta is a terrific opportunity for early stage and venture stage startups. I am certainly encouraging the companies Tech Square Ventures has invested in to apply. You’ll gain exposure to top VCs from across the country, benefit from experienced coaches, get practice pitching your company, and get quality networking opportunities. Companies invited to present at VA are able to setup one-on-one meetings with VCs and attend an exclusive VIP dinner with investors.
The application deadline this year is August 15th (see tip #1). Click here for the application. Good luck!
Blake Patton is a technology entrepreneur and investor with over 20 years of experience growing startup, venture-backed, and publicly traded internet, software, payments, and financial services technology companies. He is currently the managing partner of Tech Square Ventures, a seed and early-stage venture fund based in Technology Square in Atlanta.