1:30 p.m. – Panel Partner Meetings
Each team sits down with the judging panel around a boardroom table. No PowerPoints! The judges will have just received your written deliverables, and you’ll have 10 minutes to explain your investment decision to the judges and demonstrate your VC abilities. This session simulates an investment committee partner meeting in which junior partners or associates bring in a deal. You have the floor for this session, but you should expect to be interrupted.
Rookie mistake #1: starting by asking if they have any questions.
Judges will have plenty of questions, but you need to start the conversation, just as an associate at the firm would begin by explaining the deal. You should assume the judges have barely started reading your written materials (as they will have just received them). The best teams have something planned for this! Get a strategy to woo the judges.
Rookie mistake #2: starting by walking through the term sheet.
Okay, you could do it that way, but it is not showing much imagination, and it is setting you up for a deep dive into terms. Again, figure out a strategy for this session and practice with your local coaches before you come. Perhaps start with 20 seconds of effusive thanks for everyone giving up their day to be here. Maybe gush a little over the startups that you could not choose, pointing out their positive attributes even though they were not a fit for you. Find your voice!
Rookie mistake #3: assuming you’re losing if the judges are being harsh.
The tone of these meetings is difficult to predict, as the individuals on the judging panel will be different from region to region and from year to year. However, you should expect a tough session, as this is typical of real VC partner meetings. VCs are really harsh with one another; it is a part of the culture. So, don’t assume their being harsh to you is a bad thing. The opposite is often true: they are NICE when they think you have no chance of winning. If they are being TOUGH, it is a sign of respect. They’re treating you more like peers than students.
Also, be aware that it can be difficult for judges to differentiate between numerous smart, well-prepared teams. One way the judges may try to do this is to dig deep into some deal terms to see how deep your team’s knowledge goes. This can feel like an unfair focus on a technical nuance but is (arguably) a reasonable strategy to identify the most knowledgeable team.
If they are digging hard and sounding harsh, it is often an indicator that your team is a contender. Take it as a sign of confidence and step into it!
3:20 p.m. – Individual Partner Meetings (New in 2022)
These are one-on-one sessions with 1-2 judges per team. Teams stay put in their study rooms and judges will rotate through, 7 minutes at a time. The criteria here are the same as the panel meeting, but this time you’ll get more interactions and they will be more personal. Be on the lookout for how differently each judge approaches the investment opportunity. They will not be the same! Your success will be dependent on your team’s knowledge, charisma and ability to adapt based on the individual in front of you. Think of this as an extra credit round giving you one last chance to win over the most judges.