After having suffered through many a bad presentation, I have come to really appreciate an effective one. But what makes a good presentation? As Marquis De Vauvenargues said, “Clarity is the counterbalance of profound thoughts.”But how is clarity to be achieved? By helping people understand rather than trying to impress them.So, remember what Marcus Tullius Cicero said, “Brevity is a great charm of eloquence.” Here are a few suggestions:
1. It’s About Story Telling
A good presentation of any kind begins with a story with a personal connection that bring out the points you are trying to make. Annie Proulx said, “I find it satisfying and intellectually stimulating to work with the intensity, brevity, balance and word play of the short story.“
Venture Capital is a fast-changing asset class. The value creation process inherent to venture capital changes with markets, availability of capital, sentiment, and overall market confidence.
As the costs for launching new startups have declined dramatically, expectations have also changed. One thing remains the same, companies that are going after big opportunities, will continue to need to raise capital. What has changed is the size and cycle of each round. Whereas before seed rounds were quite early and small, today’s seed rounds occur later and can be $2 - $3mm.
Starting a company is rather easy these days. Capital is readily available, startup costs are low, and there are numerous amazing opportunities. Growing and scaling a company, however, can be much more challenging, which is why so many companies fail in the growth stage.
To grow a company, one must move out of one’s comfort zone, understand the need to be agile, pivot when necessary, and move to managing people, versus managing a startup. From a valuation standpoint, companies of size and critical mass carry a much higher valuation and have many more liquidity options. As Warren Buffett said, “The investor of today does not profit from yesterday's growth.”
When I listen to the best and powerful speakers, whether in business, politics, or religion, I find myself highly engaged as they usually get their point across through storytelling.
The most successful people are exceptional storytellers, and they use that skillset very effectively. Most people are not impressed or motivated by data, technical knowledge, or irrelevant details. They are captivated and convinced through stories that they can relate to. It is through stories that we connect to people and build rapport. As Jim Crace said, “Humankind has been telling stories forever and will be telling stories forever.”
In today’s environment the ability to identify and solve problems can lead to highly valuable companies. But new thinking is needed. As Albert Einstein famously said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
When assessing an investment, I usually start with a simple question, “What is the problem you are solving?” It is surprising how most entrepreneurs can’t answer this simple question and resort to explaining what the solution does or how it works. If you can’t articulate the problem you are solving, how are you going to identify who you are solving it for, and how you will solve it? A good startup should be focused on identifying and solving a real problem. As Duke Ellington said, “A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” In order to do that, one must answer the following questions, clearly:
Alex is a proven tech entrepreneur, having started, led and sold multiple successful companies. Most recently he was the CEO & Co-Founder of EdgeCast Networks. EdgeCast became one of the leading global content delivery networks, carrying 5% of the Internet traffic, operating in 20 countries, while accelerating and delivering the largest and most demanding websites such as Twitter, Tumblr, Dell, Sony, and Hulu. EdgeCast was acquired by Verizon, where Alex spent 2 years helping shape the strategy of Verizon Digital Media Services.
Many entrepreneurs are skilled at starting companies, and building successful small ones. Not a simple thing to do, but they seem to have a knack for it.
Growing a company into a big, growing, successful one is very different, and in many ways, more difficult task. And taking a company through a hyper growth stage is the most difficult part of all. That’s where many younger entrepreneurs fail. There are too many moving parts, unpredictable variables, and mistakes often go un-noticed until they have caused serious damage.
I was recently at the Le Web conference in Paris where Travis Kalanick, the Cofounder and CEO of Uber was one of the speakers. It is ironic that the idea for Uber was conceived in Paris, France, where free markets and capitalism are under tremendous pressure.
What makes Uber an extraordinarily important company? In one word, freedom.
Building a company is hard. Very hard. Even the most experienced operators, investors, and entrepreneurs fail most of the time. Experienced Angels see good exits only 20% of the time. The fact is that MOST startups fail. But real entrepreneurs are not afraid of failure. It is just another step towards the ultimate goal. It is experience. And they understand what good startup CEOs are all about. Good startup CEOs:
After having suffered through many a bad presentation, I have come to really appreciate an effective one. But what makes an effective presentation? As F.L. Lucas said, “And how is clarity to be achieved? Mainly by taking trouble and by writing to serve people rather than to impress them. “ Here are a few key points:
Most every entrepreneur has the dream of starting, building, and ultimately and selling a company or taking it public. Oh, what a feeling it will be, to receive the wire transfer, to read about it online and in the press, and to have friends and colleagues talk about your incredible success. The VCs who would not take your calls a few years ago are all lining up to give you money now. You are being asked to speak at all sorts of conferences. People come up to you and ask for your card.
I am very involved with the tech community in California, and as such host, organize, and attend numerous industry events, dinners, and functions. Such events provide an opportunity to meet new people, spot trends, and gain insights into the markets. They are also a fascinating venue to observe the different styles and skill sets of the attendees, which generally consist of successful entrepreneurs, super angels, VCs, and industry executives.
I was recently at a very nice networking event where over two hundred people were gathered to listen to a panel of highly accomplished, intelligent, and successful entrepreneurs. There was enormous energy in the room. There were more new start ups and first time CEOs than I have seen in a long time. I knew everyone on the panel as well as the moderator very well, and found the evening most fascinating.
Every now and then an entrepreneur comes up with an idea so brilliant that it is not only a complete game changer, but also a radical transition and dislocation for multiple industries. The ramifications are enormous, and the results staggering.
Rarely in history, someone accomplishes this more than once. These exceptional entrepreneurs are wave makers.
I am a big believer in active networking. By that I am not referring to attending endless mixers and random networking events, but identifying groups and events that have a direct and positive impact on me and my personal and professional growth, connecting with the right individuals within those groups, and following up with the individuals that I connect with.
When I first moved to Los Angeles from Paris, a dear friend suggested that I become involved on the boards of a few charities I felt passionate about. My first reaction was, as you would expect, I did not have the time, the money, or the energy as I was already consumed by building my business. But he explained to me the merits of being charitable and generous.
Israel is a very small country. It is smaller than New Jersey with a population less than that of New York City. It has no natural resources. It is surrounded by enemies that have been trying to eliminate it since its inception over sixty years ago. It is constantly in a state of war.
It is also the most innovative country in the world.
I conduct a monthly breakfast series for technology CEOs at my office. I usually keep it to about 10 people. The purpose is to help build the Southern California tech community, provide networking opportunities for a group of CEOs in a personal setting, and discuss an important, relevant topic in detail.