StartFast Demo Day August 16, 2012 (last Thursday) was a remarkable experience. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle called it, “An Amazing and Important Day.” After the event two investors approached me gushing with excitement and they and others talked about how this “changes everything.” I was amazed at how well the whole event came together and how well each company’s presentation was received. And I was proud of the teams, proud of Upstate New York and proud of everyone in the room for believing enough to show up.
There were roughly 280 attendees including roughly 140 accredited investors, angels and venture capitalists, along with mentors, community members, volunteers and the teams, their friends and family. I’m guessing there was over $1 billion of investment capacity in the room – perhaps the largest gathering of startup capital ever in Upstate New York. The Mayor of Syracuse spoke, there was an incredible display of African drumming, dance and acrobatics. People are already asking us how we can top this next year.
This excitement is warranted and if it is infectious it will accelerate the rise of the entrepreneurial culture in Upstate NY. But for eight young companies, the point of Demo Day was to introduce their companies and products to the world, and to have investors introduce themselves to the companies. That happened quietly at a lunch/reception just outside the Demo Day venue (the Everson Museum of Art). Within 90 minutes after the presentations ended, each team had logged investor interest more than equaling the capital they need to raise. Follow-up meetings are underway and capital rounds will be closing in the next several days and weeks.
Funding is important, but as I’ve said before, the main point of StartFast is to train great entrepreneurs to build great companies. I’m proud of each of these companies and of their founders, who have all learned how to do more faster. A great performance on Demo Day is not the point, but it is a catalyst. That performance punctuates the 100 days of hard work that went before it. Hagar Romach of Guard My Angel said, “Before Demo Day I was so nervous I thought I would pass out. But after our pitch all I could think was, ‘That was so fun! I want to do it again!'” That kind of enthusiasm will inspire exceptional applicants for next year’s program.
I’m proud of the Upstate Community for coming together to support StartFast. Investors, sponsors, interns, volunteers, mentors and community members make up an ecosystem, a support structure, without which this would have been impossible. It’s been days since the event and I’m still glowing with pride!