My Lessons from Pitching for the Lang Fund

The culmination of the Entrepreneurial Greenhouse Program at Columbia Business School is the opportunity to pitch for the Lang Fund. The Lang Fund is convertible debt to help the few who are selected start their business. The first step to win some of this money is the Columbia Entrepreneurship Showcase which occurred on Monday.

As a strategic decision, since I am starting a consulting firm, I decided to treat this not as an investment pitch, but as a sales pitch. I was in front of alumni, angel investors, and all around well connected people. I also have some very impressive peers. Knowing I was probably not going to win some capital, I was hoping to at least win a client referral.

Here is the feedback I received:

- Pros: genuine, trustworthy, passionate

- Cons: No business model, not scalable, waste of our time

I agree with this feedback completely. As a sales pitch, more than anything, I am glad I came off as genuine and trustworthy. That bodes well for my 1-on-1 sales pitches in the future. I also did not focus at all on the business model or scalability, so I am not surprised to find that I was dinged for those.

I do want to address the investor mindset, though. As part of this business, I am honest about my flexibility in where this business grows to. I could:

- Productize part of the service and become a SaaS company

- Grow it as a large digital marketing agency

- Focus more on the educational aspects and build an educational hub

- Be acquired and work as a marketing manager at a startup

I’m just starting out and I don’t know which of these options are most likely to present themselves. I like one or two of them better than the others, but, frankly, I would be happy pursuing any of these directions.

This flexibility is anathema to the investors. The Lean Startup model teaches us to be flexible as we start out. That is what I am doing. But, I can see the other side (because I’m nothing but reasonable) that even if flexible, I should still have one passionate vision  I’m driving towards even if I’m OK with the other realities. So lesson learned, I will pick one of these directions to prioritize first.

But I am sorry if I wasted anybody’s time. I have worked on my venture as hard as any of my peers and I believe I deserve the chance to showcase it. You are there to judge who is most worthy to receive funding. Or, as I see it, you are there to help the startups that CBS produces. 

I appreciate the feedback. Time to start selling and get to work.