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

  1. I agree with all the points your making, but for most entrepreneurs its can still we well worth the time to go.

    Sure, you are not likely to land any source of funding while you’re there, so you’ll have to lower your expectations.

    But if you really want to play in this world, you’ve got to learn how it works and this is one of the ways to immerse yourself.

    Sometimes the source of money you’re looking for that is the right fit for your business may be one or two degrees of separation from someone you may meet at a fair as well.

  2. Your sentiments are true. Some of the ventures are worthy going for however; the caution is not to jump to the venture you don’t understand. One should understand all what the venture entails before committing himself/herself to it.

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