RISE Hong Kong 2018: Day 3

As mentioned in the previous entry, we didn’t make it to the second round of the RISE Pitch Competition (in their very impersonal email, they said it was a very close call and a hard decision and that we’re very talented, etc.) Whatever, we couldn’t be happier, the weight of doing another pitch was off and we were free to explore the conference on our own, catch up with other startups, see some talks, and connect with potential future investors.

The talks at these conferences are usually a collection of hits and misses, but as the saying goes, even the dumbest books have at least one interesting thought. Now, I have no idea if that’s an actual saying, but the point is that there’s plenty of food for thought for everyone, one just has to keep their ears open. We’ll talk about the thoughts that sprouted inside us in the following entry because in this entry, we want to share how we approach investors and how it has worked and not worked for us so far.

Attending startup conferences is fun and exciting, but it’s even more exciting when you do your homework. As the 5 P’s in your high school gym used to say, Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance, so always be prepared. Preparation starts with one simple-to-ask-yet-not-so-simple-to-answer question: what are our main goals for attending this conference? In our case, the main goal was to establish relationships with investors in the region who’d be interested in us for Series A.

A quick preamble: our next fundraising will start in about 12 months, which we know will come a lot sooner than we expect so we start generating interest early and get on the potential VCs radar to update them on our progress in the next 12 months. Another psychological advantage of connecting sooner, is that it allows us to be more relaxed and not to be under pressure because we are desperately looking for funds.

Research — The RISE app

A couple of months before the conference, RISE launches its app for attendees listing speakers, their profiles, talk schedules and so on. This is a great resource to start your research with. Now, we are looking to connect with strategic VCs in preparation for our next round, of advertising and eCommerce-related companies for partnerships. We will go through the entire RISE app and website to categorize different names and companies into appropriate buckets — Investor, AdTech, and eCommerce.

Now you’re probably thinking that we’re just stalking people. And you’d be right! So, we start a Google Sheet and include the company name, contact email, Twitter, blog, industry, and general comments so we can learn as much about the people we want to connect with as possible. We listen to their podcast if they have one, read their blog posts, and take notes. It’s a time-consuming process but before reaching out, we want to make sure this person is of interest to us. The odds of us making a good impression and them responding are much higher if our interest to connect is genuine.

First Contact

Don’t wait until day 1 of the conference to contact people. Since most VCs and established founders don’t go to these events for fun and networking, their schedules are usually pretty packed during those days. One to two weeks before the conference, we send out an introductory email and explain why we’d like to meet and then pray for a reply.

3-Day Before Conference

If we do get replies from the emails we sent out, we schedule a meeting and connect via Linkedin. For those we haven’t heard from, we will try again and send a message using the RISE app.

During Conference

The three days of RISE go by quickly. From exhibiting, pitching, and visiting other startup booths, to meeting with people, things move fast. This is where having notifications on for your RISE app becomes important. There may be investors who will reply to you at the last second because they have a 15-minute gap between meetings or one of your scheduled meetings has a change of location. From there, since you already know how to pitch your product and make a good impression, all you need is to leave the VC with a good impression and actually stay in touch.

We’ll remind our readers, and yes, we’re talking to all 2 of you, we just closed our seed round, so we’re still quite fresh in this game, but these are the tactics that have worked for us at WebSummit and RISE so far. We’ll update as we keep truckin’ along.

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