How to hold better startup demo days

This week, I was with Jeff Tannenbaum at Manu Kumar’s recent K9 Ventures shindig.  Manu is an awesome investor, brilliant guy, and all-around nice person.  Hard to say why he invited Jeff and I to his party, but hey, when do I say no to free food?

During the event, Manu had his entrepreneurs (and in some cases, alumni from successful acquisitions) provide 30-second pitches for their company.

Both Jeff and I (after our initial horror after realizing the party included a demo day in disguise) were truly impressed by the presentations.  The companies and their businesses were impressive, of course, but what caught our attention was the economy of the quick pitches–short and sweet.

That led us to muse on how to improve the demo day format.  Since I don’t have the time or energy to register and launch a consultancy to leverage this IP, I’ll just let you have it for free:

1) 30-second pitches.  As absurd as it sounds, 2 minutes is too long.  If you can’t convey the gist of your startup in 30 seconds, you’ve got bigger problems.  Instead of forcing all of us to sit through 2-minute presentations, give each company a private conference room to deliver a more detailed pitch to whichever investors are most interested after hearing the 30-second pitch.

2) A progress bar.  At every demo day I attend, the investors pore over the program religiously…not to look for companies, but rather to try to figure out when the presentations will end and the bar will open.  Why not provide a progress bar, complete with estimated time of completion!

3) Instant voting and feedback on screen.  As the presentations occur, we’re all gossiping and rating them to our neighbors anyway–why not have that input displayed on screen during the presentation.  It would be great for the entrepreneurs to get better feedback, and investors would be more involved.

I’m sure there’s more we’ve forgotten–feel free to add your own suggestions!

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