Ultra Light Startups’ Investor Feedback Forum once again provided invaluable insight on what investors like to hear and the right way to pitch to them.
Once everyone was comfortable after grabbing a couple of slices of pizza, Ultra Light Startups’ Graham Lawlor and Mark Caron kicked off the monthly investor forum that allows startups to pitch and receive advice from investors so that they’re ready for the real deal.
The rules of the evening are simple – each startup has two minutes to pitch, followed by three minutes of Q/A with and three minutes of advice from the panel. There were eight presenters that evening, and here’s the pitch:
Stuzo – Stuzo, co-founder and CEO Gunter Pfau said, provides social marketing solutions to big brands like Facebook, P&G, HBO and the like. These solutions include developing entire marketing strategies, modifying current platforms and building custom-made apps. The investor panel was a bit unclear on what the company did and asked for a better description while also asking how Stuzo differentiated itself from its competitors. As for advice, it ranged from trying to be clear about what Stuzo was, perhaps using examples to explain better, figuring out what set it apart in the market and using some of its big clients to leverage the company.
CliXLEX – Developed as a multi-device, cloud filing platform, CliXLEX allows users to file legal documents online by creating forms from Word documents. It was created to take away the tedious practice of physical paper filings, saving time and effort and speeding up the process of automation in the legal industry. Targeting small businesses and law firms, CliXLEX’s charges depend on the number of fields in the form. The investor panel suggested focusing on a specific sector in the legal industry that had great potential to grow, and also working backwards, building forms and solutions for a particular sector – say, immigration lawyers – and asking the customers what they want.
wireLawyer – Matthew Tollin, the company’s CEO and co-founder, described wireLawyer as an online B2B communications forum that hopes to become the world’s largest virtual law firms. wireLawyer focuses exclusively on small and medium sized law firms that make up 75% of the market and aims to level the playing field by offering smart contract search, peer-reviewed documents, curated Q&A, insourcing, outsourcing and referral fee management, enabling these firms to maximize their revenue. . There is a 3-tiered subscription model, with revenue coming in from referrals. The one thing the panel focused on was clearly explaining how the referral system worked, since it was difficult to understand. The investors also questioned what the value proposition was for lawyers to keep returning to the platform and whether the existing practice of clusters of lawyers making referrals between themselves would be willing to go digital. AlleyWatch has written about this company before.
SumZero – SumZero is a virtual community of hedge fund, mutual fund and private equity managers who use the site to share their research. The only way to get access to the research is by either contributing a piece, which automatically grants the fund/managers six months access, before being required to submit another piece or by signing up for one of their subscription packages. There are spot checks and if an item doesn’t meet the company’s standards,it is removed from the site. Founded by Divya Narendra, the website already has thousands of contributors and multiple customers who pay five-figure fees for access. The panel was impressed with the idea and suggested finding ways to get people to pay for access, and focus on becoming their focus community’s default network.
Healthy Hand – Another entrant in the healthy eating vertical, Healthy Hand allows users (the target audience is professionals between 25-35 years old) to choose their preferences and schedules and have meals delivered to them from neighboring restaurants for $28/month. Before each scheduled meal, the customer gets an email giving them options based on the information they’ve entered and their location. The two main concerns the investors had was the likelihood of getting the same recommendations, since a user’s information won’t change that often, and being able to convince a customer to use the site as opposed to ordering directly from the restaurant. These were allayed when they were told that neighborhoods keep changing, with restaurants opening and closing everyday, and that the company employs nutritionists who plan each meal based on the user’s needs and goals. All the investors agreed that the $28 fee should be done away with, as it creates too much friction. The company was also advised to focus on wannabe health freaks rather than those who already take care of themselves.
TextPride – Through exclusive licensing agreements with major brands such as universities and sports teams, TextPride allows users to insert their favorite logos into their texts. The company’s business model depends on the sale of emoticon packs that cost between 99 cents to $4.99. Customers use the independent messaging platform developed by the company. However, messages can be sent to non-users as an MMS. The advice from the panel varied – there was discomfort at interjecting brand messaging into consumer interaction, countered with suggestions that the company own a segment of the users, like college sports fans, and work with universities to brand their schools, thus bringing in additional revenue from the fans.
ZenoRadio – Motivated by the desire to give his bored foreign security guard something to do, Baruch Herzfeld developed a radio service that allowed the guard to listen to stations from his native Ghana through his cellphone, without requiring a data plan or a smartphone. The company has tie ups with over 1500 broadcasters globally and transmits in 40 languages. What sets ZenoRadio apart from other radio streaming sites is the freedom from requiring an Internet connection or data plan. With regards to the pitch, Herzfeld was asked to focus more on the user experience in order to sell the product and also to go deep rather than broad, with regard to the demographics so that advertisers are attracted.
Bespoke – Described as a “social media atelier,” Bespoke seeks to restore calm in the chaotic world of creative professionals by sorting all their social media activity in one space, and offering cloud storage. The company is looking for a $750,000 investment to grow in the next year with co-founder Michele Spiezia and her husband using their personal network to create a client base. Subscription plans vary from $9.99-$24.99/month., The panel suggested breaking down the word “creative” and selecting a more precise customer group. While noting that cloud storage afforded a revenue source, it was also suggested that the company develop the platform as a way to generate revenue and leads for the users.
After the audience vote, the winners of the night were announced – SumZero walked away with top honors, followed by wireLawyer and ZenoRadio. Bill Reinisch was voted favorite panelist.