Recruiting startups is often the hardest part! 

Click here for a Sample Startup Invitation

Your VCs are Your #1 Draw: It is important to understand that most startups are only willing to come for one thing: access to your VCs. Get a few VCs on board early and use their names as you recruit startups.

Play the Waiting Game: The best startups cannot commit early. It’s not their fault. Be patient. Resist the urge to book startups early if they really aren’t a great fit. You might leave one slot for the week prior to the event. It’s stressful for organizers, but the best deals often will not commit until the week of.

Time Commitment: Founders must commit to a full morning, 8:30 a.m. to noon.

What About a Business Plan or a Leave-Behind Deck? This is tricky these days. Many great startups have no real business plan. However, our student teams will be severely time constrained and need a jump start on their due diligence. If you come across a great startup, you can forego the traditional “plan” as long as they have a very robust pitch deck, including financials. You should also ask if they have any supporting documentation, like market research, competitive landscape, etc.

Variety is Good. Ideally, your presenters will be from different sectors and will have different funding needs. At finals, teams will definitely be exposed to a variety of deals. Be careful not to get someone too early, though. Those tend to be angel rather than VC deals.

How About Student Plans? NO! It is too easy for teams to dismiss a student plan as unfundable because the students are not 100% committed yet. There are exceptions to this rule, but rarely.

Don’t Forget to Tailor the Fund Profile. You will need to adjust your event’s fund profile to match the entrepreneurs you recruit. For example, don’t use a $250M fund if you have seed deals (unless you specify it has a side seed fund). Similarly, don’t go with a micro-fund at $20M if you have a startup seeking a $5M investment. Often a $75-150M fund can pretty much cover anything.

Helpful TIPS

  • Students who have had internships at VC or angel firms often know some interesting deals.

  • If you ask a VC to refer a deal, phrase it as “something interesting that you passed on.” They usually won’t want to give you live deals.

  • Be respectful, but don’t beg. You need their help, but you also have something great to offer.

  • Cast a wide net by email, newsletter, web, etc., to direct entrepreneurs to the website where they may “apply.”

  • Do not accept non-venture-backable startup early just because you are nervous!

  • It is difficult to get commitments more than a few weeks in advance. You often need to wait until the event is just a couple of weeks away, which can be nerve wracking, but yields the best startups. 

  • Regional venture fairs are a great source – invite their presenters to practice at your VCIC.