Launch Festival 2017: San Francisco
Post by Prabha Dublish ’18
I found the Launch Festival to be an extremely insightful experience when it came to expanding my knowledge in the San Francisco startup scene. The basis of the conference is to encourage people in the startup space to convene to share thoughts around critical areas such as pitching and investing, as well as hearing from high caliber individuals such as Stripe CEO and Founder, Patrick Collison. I attended sessions such as Investor Outlook (where prominent VCs spoke), pitches from alumni of the Launch incubator, speakers from IBM speaking about cognitive technology, and the future of food. Specifically, I found the sessions relating to pitching and investing to be really interesting, especially with the majority of my background knowledge being from the east coast.
The pitching events were mini-competitions where prominent startups typically pre-seed or series-A would discuss the vision of their idea. The companies that presented were in industries anywhere from advanced virtual reality to childcare companies. These companies had three minutes to pitch and then four minutes of Q&A from the judges to answer any remaining questions. In terms of the actual pitch, I found the style of pitching to be much different than on the east coast. These pitches had few numbers and focused more on the high level vision of an organization. This is much different than the east coast where numbers are the main focus along with traction. This taught me how I need to tailor my pitch based on the location and audience I’m pitching to.
In terms of the events discussing investing, there were two main aspects that I found to be interesting: crowdfunding and diversity. One platform that was highlighted intensely throughout the entire conference was called SeedInvest. SeedInvest allows investors to invest into a company live during a pitch, rather than waiting to get to their computer and submit funding through a separated equity crowdfunding platform. I found this idea to be very on trend as equity crowdfunding is becoming more and more popular recently with companies like AngelList building their own platform to address the need in the market. It was fascinating as well to witness companies that were able to raise $500,000 in one day through this platform through their pitch, which also emphasized the importance of being able to pitch effectively, a skill that I’m personally working on. It was clear that the pitches that were delivered most effectively were receiving the most funding. As for diversity, I was impressed to see a strong mix of female investors on the investor outlook panel, something that is rare to see at other events. In particular, Megan Quinn, a General Partner at Spark Capital, pointed out this focus on using diversity as a marketing play, rather than actually acting on it, which I found to be very powerful for a high caliber event like this.
Overall, I found this conference to be very useful as a young business owner to understanding the various businesses that are out there, the importance of tailoring a pitch to your audience, and the role diversity can play in businesses. I’m thankful Babson and the Undergraduate Professional Accelerator Fund were able to provide me with this opportunity as I will take the lessons and apply it further to my nonprofit, Womentum.