Demo Day – Starting Line or Finishing Post?
Demo Day – Starting Line or Finishing Post?
Disclosure – before the Demo Day, I didn’t think that this was an appropriate event to end a process whose whole purpose was to accelerate and support initiatives in their early stages. Should five months of intensive work be directed into a brief opportunity – five minutes – to make a presentation in front of an auditorium full of investors and advisors, on the basis of which the initiative as a whole is to be judged. In hindsight, however – this day is an incomparably important element of the overall process undergone by the entrepreneurs when they come into the accelerator program (often with only an initial idea), and it marks the starting line for a long, protracted journey toward putting a company together.
MindCET is an accelerator that specializes in maturing technological initiatives in the educational sphere.
The Demo Day is a day in which the entrepreneurs – who had been selected to participate in the accelerator program and who have spent five intensive months of learning, trialing, support from a range of mentors and professionals – give a brief presentation of their initiatives to investors. This day is the climax of the program that we at MindCET have developed. The accelerator program is an initial period of discovery, understanding the market, discussions with clients, crystalizing an idea, assembling a team, practice at presenting an initial solution, learning, workshops, encounters with entrepreneurs and investors, and construction of a product and a company. This day symbolizes their many hopes to raise capital for further activity, but is this the whole purpose of the day? Our experience suggests otherwise.
Why do we hold Demo Days?
The very fact that such a day is held, in the course of an accelerator program with limited time, raises questions. Is it appropriate, given such as limited time-frame, to “waste” valuable working time on preparations for the Demo Day, at the expense of product development?
We tried it, and learned that the answer is yes. Entrepreneurs participating in an accelerator program expect, justifiably, to accelerate the process of maturation for their initiatives, by establishing frameworks, setting interim goals, being exposed to a broad network of experienced people, and working with peers. The Demo Day requires all of us – primarily the entrepreneurs, but also the team running the accelerator – to focus, learn, improve and advance the process. There is a time by which an idea has to be concretized as an initial demo-ready product, to demonstrate a product and show that there is a demand for it and clients who have tried it out to some extent, and it is important to learn how to present it to an audience. This is an area of expertise that integrates clear aspects such as refining the message, with visual, design, and media elements. This is apart from the need to stand before an audience and make a pitch. The Demo Day is often the first opportunity for entrepreneurs to display the fruits of their development work before a wider forum of investors and the public.
The Demo Day also gives outward expression to a process that takes place in parallel with the development process in the accelerator. It’s a process that is hard to quantify, but it provides a significant adjunct to accelerating development. It involves networking, and a growing friendship among the entrepreneurs. It’s hard not to be moved by the mutual assistance and support that takes place. Along the whole of the accelerator program, mutual assistance and joint thinking play a central role in the entrepreneurs’ own development. In the lead-up to the Demo Day, even though each of them is involved heavily in their own project, this mutual assistance does not lessen! Some of the entrepreneurs assist in refining the message and designing the presentations of other initiatives, that are supposedly competing for the attention of the same investors. The idea of synergy takes on added meaning, beyond that of 1 1=3.
Demo Day as a Learning Stage for the Future
At MindCET, one of the anchors that we have included in the accelerator program is the Lean Startup methodology, based on constant testing, measurement and learning, with an ongoing need to balance between discovery and creativity, on the one hand, and application on the other. The Demo Day, apart from being an event involving exposure to a variety of investors for the purpose of raising money, also serves as an opportunity to begin a dialogue, both with the investors and with a broader audience. This discourse is a source of detailed feedback from sources to which the entrepreneur has not been exposed as yet. The feedback is varied: it includes comments on the products themselves, business models, potential partners, and the method of presentation – written or verbal. This feedback is the starting point for the future. From the entrepreneurs whom we have been supporting, we saw how this feedback contributes to their progress. The month that has passed since the Demo Day has again proven how accurate feedback, based on measurable indices, can bring progress with it.
Five initiatives that we have supported were able, within a short time, to be presented at the Demo Day, to over one hundred guests, among them representatives of venture capital funds, private funds and individual investors. We are proud of each of them and of the unique approach that they chose; we are proud of their presentations, which were detailed, both visually and in terms of content. We hope that it is clear to each of the presenters on the Demo Day, whoever they may be, that their work is just beginning. The Demo Day is not the end – it’s just a Demo Day, another important stage in a long, challenging process.
And good luck to you, friends: #wikibrains, #smartifico, #ligilo, #roadstory, #knowii!