Good morning, All,
FIrst, our thanks to Alicia Syrett, Founder and CEO of Pantegrion Capital, who spoke at our Breakfast with An Investor last week and made such amazing points that there were several requests for her to write a book. We’re working on it.
Wiley Cerilli is a Venture Partner at First Round, and was founder of Single Platform, which was acquired two years after its founding by Constant Contact for $100M (What It Feels Like To Wake Up At 32 With Everything You’ve Ever Wanted). SinglePlatform was initially funded by First Round, and quickly went on to be named one of the Top 10 and 25 “Companies to Watch” by Business Insider, The Next Web and Website Magazine. Wiley has been named as a “Top 25 CEO” in New York, and “Top 10 People to Watch” by Crain’s. He also dropped in and out of school five times, and met his wife on Match.com. More about him below.
Since we’ve been hosting events for the past few months, and moderated an industry panel recently, we’re putting on our moderator hat today.
One of the many things Alicia Syrett said at our event: she advised against spending a lot of money on conferences in hopes of catching the ear of maybe one or two of the speakers, and being one of 20+ cards they take and never look at again.
We don’t know what it’s like in other cities where there are active tech communities, and we do hear that NYC is something of an anomaly – you can literally go to at least one event every night and almost always have several to choose from. That isn’t necessarily time well spent – unless you’re new in town and/or are visiting and want to meet people in the industry. Good to go if you have an agenda – you’re meeting someone there, or there are speakers/panelists you’d like to get in front of but note: it’s fine to introduce yourself, but don’t bend their collective ear and whatever you do, do not launch into your pitch. It will not be appreciated and trust us on this one: we’ve personally literally been ‘pitch-stalked’ at these events. Don’t do it. The idea is to cultivate relationship, not be ‘pitch-slapped’ down, however civilly it’s done. It’s not going to endear you to anyone, and will not get you to a positive outcome. The best way to meet a speaker is to be introduced by a mutual acquaintance and do your homework before you go. Most events – at least many of them on Eventbrite and Meetup – publish the attendee list. See who you know who’s going; see if any of them are connected to the person you’d like to meet (this is where LinkedIn or FB come in handy), and ask them if they’ll make the introduction. Preferable to ask in advance of the event. If you see them talking to the person and it seems that they know each other more than just en passant, ask if he or she would kindly make the introduction – and ask after they’ve finished their conversation. Don’t interrupt.
We personally don’t understand amorphous networking events where there are 800-1000+ attendees. They’re crowded. They’re loud. And if it’s no specific purpose or agenda (ie, disorganized), they’re generally a waste of time, if you’re there to do business.
We also personally prefer breakfasts. They tend draw smaller crowds, and if your purpose is to meet the speaker(s), guess what? Chances are there’s less competition in the room for their attention. And that they’ll make themselves more accessible there, and even available for follow up, which we’ve noticed happens at our breakfasts, which is why we continue them. The smaller the group, the more meaningful the interaction. Not to mention that people who are serious make the effort to show up for breakfast. Also tends to cut down on the crowd who go to events for the free alcohol. I you’re going to just kick back and let the (networking) cards fall where they may – perfect!
And note to self: even if the investor who’s speaking at a very small breakfast event doesn’t invest in your space – and especially if that speaker happens to be part of a larger investment fund/angel group, go. Meet them. They may know someone you do need to meet, and make an introduction. We’ve seen it happen at our breakfasts.
We recently moderated a panel comprised of Israeli tech investor Yossi Vardi and New York based VC David Aronoff. It was a sizeable crowd, and the two freely mingled in the room for about an hour before the panel began. They were accessible. In fact, they were much more accessible before the panel began than afterwards. David had a meeting to get to, so note to self: if you see an opportunity, take it. And keep it brief, unless he/she engages you in conversation. Another point: What we like to call ‘Podium Syndrome’ hits once the panel ends, meaning, attendees who might not otherwise have gone over to speak to the speaker suddenly feel compelled to do so. If it’s a large group, suddenly you have to shout above the maddening din. And yours is more likely to be one of those cards that the person tosses.
Since investors do tend to shift their focus with changes in the industry, one of the questions we asked was what their focus was. David Aronoff, Managing Partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, said his love is B2D (business to developers) while Yossi Vardi said his is B2E (business to exit). Gotta love someone who calls ‘em as he sees ‘em, and never forget that no matter which events you attend or whatever else any investor may say, that’s always every investor’s bottom line. Onward and forward.