The Prep Sheet for SXSW (Including Advice for All Investor Meetings)
Posted at 7:45h, 27 Feb 2018 in Advice by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

SXSW is coming up once again, and those of you know us know that we more or less consider it Spring Break for the Tech Set.

With investors and a speaker series (that no one really bothers with) thrown into the mix.

It’s no accident that Spring Break and South By pretty much overlap. Having just attended Peak Pitch, which hosts 80+ investors and 80+ hand-picked founders at Hunter Mountain for skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing and pitching for a day or two (depending on which side of the table you occupy), we thought it might be a good idea to provide you with a tip sheet for navigating SXSW, while points are fresh in our mind, and to give you some breathing room as you prepare to head to Austin.

Remember: not all of the investors go. Many entrepreneurs do. Good time to attend local events. You might find smaller crowds and a chance to get more than 15 seconds with an investor.

So without further ado, here’s the list and this above all: always wear comfortable shoes.

  1. For those of you who are heading to Austin, we’ve given you tips before. They’re still relevant. Why repeat ourselves when we’ve simply reposted it for you.
  2. Get your talking points ready. And practice. On a stranger. Be able to tell your story in 10-15 seconds, and make sure that you can grab someone’s attention in the first breath. Which hopefully will not be alcohol-laden. Save the drinking for later.
  3. Remember how we did our checklist of How to Navigate Holiday Parties in the #MeToo Era? Same basic rules apply. In the age of social media, what happens in Austin doesn’t necessarily stay in Austin.
  4. Have you thought of every use case for your product? Remember: Twitter started as a solution for EMS workers. Max Cohen founded PeelAway Labs, a solution for college students to always have clean sheets without having to wash them – just peel away a layer and voila, a fresh sheet. He didn’t strike a deal when he pitched on Shark Tank. But the sharks are not the only fish in the sea. His sheets are now available at retail and on Amazon. His initial market may have been college students – but turned out to be a great solution for hospitals. And other facilities with a high turnover, wink wink.
  5. Don’t simply look for investors – look for early adopters/beta testers, too. SXSW and tech events are rife with them. If you pitch and see them roll their eyes and saying, “Oh, this is like… pay attention. Good to know who your competitors are and what users do and don’t like about them. Listen to the feedback. And always consider the source.
  6. Research the investors – and sponsors – before you go. Make sure to focus on the ones who invest in your space – and at your level. Later stage funds are not going to invest in your seed round. Still, not a bad idea to get to know them. It’s never too early to cultivate relationships. But keep in mind that that’s all your doing with them. At the moment.
  7. When it comes to your pitch deck, Don’t Waste Your First Slide. Highlight your product. Have a tag line that’ll grab a potential investor’s or partner’s attention.
  8. This Simple Diagram Will Help You Tell Better Brand Stories. Just trying to be helpful here.
  9. Keep an eye out for potential mentors and corporate partners, too. Where do you find them? See those booths where you can charge up for free, or where they’re serving free lunch? They’re sponsoring for a reason. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
  10. Go to the unofficial events. And talk to people whom you wouldn’t ordinarily meet, including founders and investors from other cities.

SXSW Bonus Point: You’re in the land of Tex-Mex, Margaritas and tequila. Do not order Jose Cuervo. Ever. This is Texas. Show some respect.

Onward and forward.