Dom Fennel and Samuel Rason were both class CEOs as part of the 2017/18 program. Drawn to running the VC Competition class as soon
as it was revealed, they loved the idea of stepping into their shoes
for a day. These are their thoughts...
After both picking the same card, Dom and I decided the gentlemanly thing to do would be to play an old fashioned game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide a winner. Fortunately for Dom, Wen decided that we should team up as Co-CEO’s and tackle the class together – which seemed a rather good idea when Stephen confessed it was one of the main days of the course!
To summarise what a VC Competition is like in a word, “Mayhem” serves the purpose – A lot like the real world!
Startup’s pitched, SLP syndicates listened, real VC’s observed, deals were struck and then finally the real VC’s casted their verdict on who they felt were the best VC wannabe’s in Farringdon.
When putting the day together, we kindly had last year’s CEO Oleg on hand to share his learnings and guide us through some do’s and don’ts. A lot like a real life mentor, Oleg’s insight helped Dom and I greatly – A key learning from this was to listen to people who have been there and done it successfully, but jazz it up a little and innovate to take it to a new level – So Oleg, thanks for helping us top your class!
Shaping the Class
Sam had to jet off to Australia for a month and unfortunately was going to miss the day, so it was decided to split the tasks down the middle. Sam would handle pre-day duties and Dom would take all the glory on the day – which he did fantastically.
The Build Up
First off we had to find some high class startups who were really out fundraising. We decided to keep the investment ask within certain parameters to make the decision making for SLP syndicate’s process driven, with value propositions and Investment ROI easier to compare.
We soon pulled together a list of founders who we both knew personally and vetted by making them pitch to Sam relentlessly. A big thank you to Dan (Jafa.co.uk), Gemma (Allbymama.com), Deepak (Oddbox.co.uk), Daphnee (Theunibox.com) and Mark (Dialoguefirst.co.uk) for taking part in the day. All of them have fantastic startups that we encourage you to check out!
Next we had to find a credible list of VC panellists who had real life investment experience and skillset to judge the SLP Syndicates. Finding investors willing to join in on a day was quite a challenge. Just like many investor meetings we’ve had, 9/10 said “I’m sorry, this isn’t for me.” Fortunately the following panellists agreed to our terms (coffee & food) and we are both very thankful for their time and contribution:
- Giles Clark
- Imogen Berman
- Francesco Rossi
- Veronika Patkai
- Karen Winton
On the Day
We had a breadth of SLP fellows whom had varying levels of experience with investment evaluation, which posed both challenges and positives. We chose the groups in advance and supplied resources that each group could reference for a better understanding of VC decision making processes.
The selected startups pitched to all of the SLP Fellows so everyone was privy to the same information from the off. After this, the SLP Fellows (acting under the guise of a venture capital fund for the day) split up into their allocated teams and had ten minutes with each of the startups to carry out due diligence. Once each startup has met each SLP team, the goal for the latter was to secure an investment deal with the former. Finally, the SLP Fellows presented back to our group of expert judges who were acting as the limited partnership of the venture capital fund, with the intention of carrying out due diligence on the venture capital funds. The idea was to give the fellows the opportunity to experience life as a venture capital, deciding on investment terms with startups, with the limited partnership deciding which team conducted themselves in a manner befitting of a venture capital fund.
Challenges on the Day
The main effort throughout the day was sticking to the schedule. With lots of interesting startups pitching to the SLP Fellows, and a number of interesting judges on the panel, it was important to optimise time for conversation, over and above the competition itself.
Was the Class a Success?
With regards to the competition, not all of the SLP teams were able to reach a deal, but the outcome was less important than the process through which they went in reaching the decision not to invest. The judges had numerous invaluable insights to offer both the startups and the SLP Fellows, given their wide range of experience, including serial entrepreneurism, investment, creative strategising and PR. Regardless of deal/no-deal, the emphasis for people in the room was to put yourself in the shoes of a venture capital fund for the day, a poignant position for both the SLP Fellows, many of whom have their own fledgling startups, and the startups themselves who presented on the day. To be able to analyse things through the lens of a venture capital fund will allow one to stand themselves in much better stead when their time comes to raise money.