No, this is not about England’s Ashes rout at Australia or about the recent Indian (dismal) performance at South Africa! It is not even about curating the cricket pitches for favourable performances! In fact, this is not about cricket at all!!
It’s about a quickly assembled event jointly by TiE Chennai and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) this evening (9th Jan 2014) where Ms Annette Kramer helped polish and enhance pitches by entrepreneurs for investment.
When I heard about this event through a regular TiE communication, I was curious and hence sent a request to make a pitch in her presence. But when I got a mail suggesting the format, I felt that it would be more suitable for those pitching to UK/US Investors and I decided to give it a pass. I am thankful to Sonia Pradhan of TiE who called me the previous day and told me about the opportunity in improving my pitch. I attended the event very reluctantly but I am really happy I did.
During my chat with Annette just before the event, I asked her if she saw any differences between Investors from different nationalities and she categorically said that they are all the same in wanting to earn lots of money from their investments.
After a brief and sweet introduction by TiE Chennai Secretary Pravin Shekar, Annette gave a quick outline of the pitch and invited the willing entrepreneurs to come to the stage and deliver their pitches.
Because I was seated in the first row and perhaps because I had interacted with her a short while earlier, she asked if I would be willing to be the first one to give it a try. (I then understood the merits of being a back-bencher!!)
I went to the stage and made a pitch for DiaSof, more conscious of Annette’s presence and the time limit of 3 minutes. When I finished Annette came to the stage and congratulated me for doing a fantastic job. Little did I know then that it was just to put me at ease so that I would be more attentive to her feedback. She really made a mincemeat of my pitch by pointing out the key things I omitted viz the team, the reference from a user to name a few. And as I responded to her queries, it became evident that I was keeping the crown jewels (of my venture) hidden from the investors. And once she was finished, she asked the audience if they had any feedback and I then got a ton of it. I then realized that my pitch was early stage or alpha as it is commonly referred to!! What was so wonderful about the entire experience that at no point of time did Annette make me feel bad or defensive. On the contrary, she contributed to a much refined and elegant approach.
And it wasn’t only me who got this soft glove treatment. All the entrepreneurs who followed viz Ramkumar (who pitched for funds to support his start-up marketing accelerator), Balaji (a well delivered pitch for his educational package), Vishwanathan (a trainer focussing on creating employable youth in the rural India) and SN (who talked about Visual resumes to replace the old boring CV format) were beautifully coached by Annette. She brought out the best in each of us that we had not disclosed during our respective pitches be it a differentiator in our offering, our track record and its relevance to our ventures and the pedigree of our clients.
Annette has done a lot of work in helping Theater professionals and it showed during her animated responses to our gaffe especially the exasperation when each of us talked about our ‘solutions’ which in her opinion was a much abused cliché. Likewise, when we took a long time to get to the revenue model, she would cut us short and get us to the point of talking about the money. She did this time and again because she felt that Investors were looking for only how they will make their money back and how soon they can do that.
When she opened the questions to the audience after each pitch, we caught on quickly and asked pointedly about revenue models so much so that she said that ‘this was the most interactive audience she has ever had’. She was generous with her compliments for everyone but at the same time made her points stick with the participants firmly. She had a good word to say about every contribution, be it from the participants and the audience. I am still marvelling at the way she made a distinction between ‘I hope’ and ‘I know’ or ‘If’ and ‘when’. And she really inspired me by the manner in which she packaged her suggestions as if we thought of them ourselves!
I normally avoid repeating myself but this was certainly an enchanting evening. I only wished that more TiE Members had attended the event and benefited from it, even if they were not looking to make investment pitches in the foreseeable future. Thanks a ton TiE Chennai and UKTI. It would be really wonderful if a longer session say a half-day workshop is conducted on the similar lines when Annette Kramer is here next!!
It is past midnight now but the energy of Annette and of the session is still keeping me fresh as I sign off this post.