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Jun

Rosie BennettEarlier this week we attended Venturefest at the Said Business School in Oxford. It was particularly interesting for me as it was my first time since joining Catalyst and crossing the great divide from the world of start-ups to that of the venture capitalists. Apparently it was smaller than it has been before – either a refinement of focus for the event or more likely a reflection of the cautious state of current venture capital investment. Not that there was a lack of motivation or presence on the part of the entrepreneurs. One of the things that I find makes working in VC funding interesting is the broad scope of proposals that you are invited to consider. From early stage consumer tech startups, innovative medical devices and methods, to potentially game-changing environmental technologies – like wireless electricity!

The Funding Stream included a panel discussion chaired by Colin Watts from Oxford Capital Partners about supply and demand for VC funding. Perhaps the point that illustrated the topic best was the general agreement on the panel that part of the learning curve for a good VC is learning how to say ‘no’ to people who do not meet the expected criteria for investment – a ‘no’ with too much explanation can be misread as a challenge to improve the proposal and return for another go, whereas a ‘no’ with too little feedback looks like flippancy. Panel member Matt Mead from Nesta pointed out that as a VC you don’t exactly lack practice seeing as only around 5% of proposals ever get through the first pitch stage -  you say ‘no’ a lot more times than you say ‘yes’. This did raise a question in my mind as to whether there is enough effort put in to giving entrepreneurs a realistic expectation of the criteria -  if there was more awareness raising of what constitutes a viable proposition for the VC’s in the first place they probably wouldn’t have to feel the pain of saying ‘no’ so often.

I was hoping to put the new the Yasmo Live iphone networking app to good use – afterall the idea of being able to look at the profile of delegates and pinpoint their proximity to you at the event, and then message for a meetup is a good one. However, the couple of times that I actually tried to use it during the event it didn’t seem to be working – and despite activating my phone and putting myself open to meeting invitations, no one messaged me. Hopefully Areti Kampyli and her team will improve the experience as the idea is a very good one but this time around it was back to the traditional method of networking by finding a vacant seat and chatting to the people next to you – a tried and tested low-tech method that always seems to deliver.

 

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