Friday, June 25, 2010

Pitching through the week

DSC00684 The pitch went well: I stepped away from the podium, stood straight, and assured investors that we were experienced, ambitious, and would execute the plan with their money.  I did my best ‘Gates: We want your investment and participation.  I stood and shook hands at our table all day. It felt good, and, at the end of the day, we had several expressions of interest.

DSC00687The group next to our table was an emerging wind-energy company: 19k$ backyard wind turbines. They had a cool model, a nice backdrop, and ran their slide presentation through a photo-displayer: it made a nice introduction.  I can see we need to kick our marketing up a notch.

Afterward, my partner got a note: “After speaking with you and your colleague David at the stand I met him in the car park as he seemed to be heading on a body clock challenge to Europe, Chicago and Seattle.  Interesting life but a tough one. “ <sigh> I feel like someone’s going to stage an intervention one of these days.

I cached myself near Gatwick and was on-time the next morning for the flight to the US.  As we left, a half-dozen fully flack-jacketed and helmeted special security people armed with submachine guns descended on the boarding area.  Three blocked the exits, the rest searched through the crowd with dogs.  Then they disappeared; everyone debated whether we felt more or less secure after the attention.

I arrived in Chicago moments ahead of a raging thunderstorm.  Although the clouds didn’t seem threatening as we came in over the lake, there was a curtain of black rain at the edge of the runway as we taxi’d to the gate. The storm knocked out power and prevented the plane from being unloaded: it was three hours before the bags finally arrived.

The joys of travel.  But we did take time today to head to the Lake between meetings for a quick sail along the glorious Chicago waterfront.   After three days of pushing, rushing, and doubting, three hours of wind and water were wonderful.

I even found a(probably) Dutchman’s boat

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It’s alles over Beesie

DSC00723

(Het is allemaal over Bessie)

It started out fairly innocently.

‘just a new promotion at my local AH grocer, supporting the Dutch team at the World Cup (Hup!).  The little furry beesie was kind of cute in a way…I got one for every 15 euros I spent on groceries, and collected all four colors in a couple of days.    They curl around lamps and chair backs, and were a nice accent around the apartment for the party last week.

But they’ve taken on a life of their own.

Bessie No bag of groceries is safe, and beesie started to metastasize across my apartment, colonizing every rail, pole, and rung.  The big BESSIE-BOA was next: A gift for my daughter, but clearly queen of the brood once she moved in.

Soon, the trouble became reminiscent of …tribbles Of course, they have a Facebook group, they are on LinkedIn, they want my personal information (only Basic and Profile, nothing more, promise…) Bessie fb

At least they’re not on Wikipedia.  Yet.

Utrecht’s Flamingo points to a Flickr group devoted to people’s Bessie photos.  I threatened Invader Stu that I would see to it that two new colors were released and the promotion extended if he didn’t return summer to the Netherlands.  I don’t think he’ll cave, unfortunately (sorry, Holland, I tried…).

DSC00726I have taken to stuffing them into my suitcase to give to friends and family when I travel.  This is akin to spreading disease via long-haul flights.  The BOA, in particular, seems to have found her best friend in my hotel room this morning.

‘not a good sign…

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Having presence

Machiavelli wrote that it’s better for leaders to be feared than loved.  When I’m pitching to investors, though I’ve taken the opposite tack.  

Maybe that’s why I’m still pitching.

I had a long conversation with a good friend and angel investor over dinner, talking about the difficulty of raising money.  “We’ve secured matching grants, critiqued the plans, recruited good people, scouted the exits, yet it remains an uphill battle," I lamented.

 Bill pitchesBill Gates would simply get the money, he said.

“Bill would have said or done whatever he needed to,”, I suggested, remembering the story of how Gates founded Microsoft by selling an operating system to IBM that he didn’t own.

No, asserted my friend: Gates had a presence that made IBM want to give him money.

We spent the evening talking this through.  No question, there are people who close the deal.  All too often they are arrogant or unpleasant, but they have gravity and project confident authority.  They don’t ask for the money, they ask if they can count on your support.

I want to be liked, and get diffident around authority.  I’m a scientist who knows that there are never easy or final answers, an expat who sees the importance of listening and learning and fitting in.

This, observed my friend, is the problem.  Is it better to have investors like you, or to have them want to be like you? 

I’ve been reading Boothman’s “How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less”, which is all about first impressions. He stresses the importance of making a connection, leaning forward with a welcoming open attitude.  I’ve worked at being relaxed and natural on-stage, telling the story, keeping eye contact.  It works, people are comfortable with me.

Title slide But, in this situation, I want people to invest their money with me, rather than someone else or nobody.   And the connection is not to someone we like, it’s with people like ourselves.  confident, responsible, aggressive, successful.

Gates is.

A friend at the McKinsey Consultancy once joked to me that they put the “Women you want to date and the men you want to be” front and center for their presentations to executives. 

Investors want someone who will be as successful as they are.

We’ve honed the pitch; I’m taking it on the road.  “And don’t come back without the money,” my friend admonished.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Concert on the Cam

DSC00649 And sometimes it’s nice to get the perspective from the shore.

The Collegium Regale, a portion of the  Kings College choir, gave their annual presentation on the river behind the iconic college on Sunday evening.  It’s a good event: King’s is one of two colleges that use all male singers (St. Johns is the other), and the alto voices add to make a wonderful mix.  The men are all bundled onto a raft of punts across the river as the audience fills the greens on the other (one of the few times that anyone is allowed to walk on the grass without being a Fellow of the College).

The the breeze blows and the sun sets while the choir sings classical and pop, improvising songs and banter.  The a capella voices lift across the water, sometimes sounding DSC00655 like church, sometimes like a barbershop quartet, while everyone sips drinks and nibbles dinner.  It’s very relaxed and placid, a nice break in the week.

The boats add an unpredictable element to the evening as well.  The normal traffic of punts continues too drift by, sometimes a wonderful counterpoint, sometimes disruptive.  A student fell off of one  during the first set, splashing around beneath the bridge. Another student, thinking that poling harder would make the boat turn, managed to ram the raft of singers (nobody fell in).

DSC00681 And, at the end of the evening, they push the singers off and down the river, still in full voice.  And with only one person needed to do the poling and guide the boat up and down in front of the crowd.