Archive for May 29th, 2008

Venture Fairs: Are they worth it?

The Canadian Innovation Exchange took place in Toronto recently. It’s one of a host of similar conferences where startup entrepreneurs pitch their stories to VCs. The topic for the day is: Are these venture fairs worthwhile?

The short answer is: it depends. You should go to these fairs if:

  • You’re a 1st time entrepreneur, have not raised VC before, and / or just don’t have connections to book meetings with VCs directly
  • You have the spare time to go and sit in the sessions and learn
  • You’re a professional and looking to get clients in the space
  • You are a speaker (on a panel, not pitching your company)

Don’t expect to hook a VC at this show. For most investors, these shows are for investor-investor networking. The company pitches can be a distraction. This is a shame because the companies there make a real effort. I’m generalizing of course, and I’m sure there are many VCs who really do check out these companies, but on the whole, it’s not their top priority.

Personally, I avoid them. The last time I went was 2004. There is a prevailing view that the best companies and most experienced entrepreneurs skip these shows. Still, for every rule, there’s an exception: There are some good companies there this week that include 1st time VC-backed entrepreneurs like Ben as well as seasoned pros like Austin. So, their presence alone contradicts my opinion.

So, I guess it’s up to you at the end of the day. Go if you need to build your relationships and / or learn about VC. Don’t go if your goal is to land the VC that will fund you. You may be disappointed…

Mark MacLeod