Dozens of investors from the US, Europe and the Far East are in Tel Aviv this week to review the offerings of Israeli high-tech companies, at this year’s Israel Innovation Marathon in Tel Aviv, sponsored by Bootcamp Ventures. Twenty companies will give eight-minute presentations to investors, who will have the opportunity to provide feedback, and, perhaps, investments as well.
This is the group’s eighteenth investor event, Ed Frank, CEO of Bootcamp Ventures told The Times of Israel. “We’ve got investors coming from fourteen countries, and are hosting funds and companies that have never worked with Israeli companies, including Mangrove, Arts Alliance, Piton Capital, Bright Capital, and others.”
Bootcamp works with the companies in its program, helping them to polish their presentations and ensuring that they strike the chords that investors are interested in, said Frank, who runs Bootcamp along with co-founder Esther Loewy. “Most of the companies we work with are very bright and have great ideas. But they don’t necessarily know how to present themselves in a manner that investors will be able to relate to. We teach them how to clearly present themselves, so that investors can understand what their bottom line is.”
Bootcamp Ventures is about five years old, and has held events not only in Israel, but in Europe as well. This year, the winner of the Marathon will be invited to present at the Demo Conference, a major start-up investor event in San Francisco in April. A representative from the conference will be present at the Marathon to review the candidates. Matt Marshall of VentureBeat, which sponsors Demo, praised the Bootcamp events, saying that they “truly highlight outstanding technology by bridging gaps between regions, which open up new windows of opportunities for global investors.”
When Bootcamp began its events, the elevator pitch presentation format was relatively new. The idea is for companies to encapsulate their vision, product, and technology in a five- to ten-minute presentation — somewhat longer than the amount of time you’d spend talking to someone in an elevator, but that’s where the name came from — so that investors can get an executive summary from each of the companies seeking funding. The format proved so successful that there are now dozens of events each year, run by a plethora of organizations, where companies give their elevator pitches. “The format is definitely showing its age,” one attendee of a recent investment invent in Tel Aviv told The Times of Israel. “A lot of the ideas presented at these events are great, but too often the presentation is one thing, and the technology is another.”
Frank said that this technology gap is not a problem for Bootcamp, which vets the companies it presents to investors very thoroughly. But even more important is the fact that investors, along with a panel of judges, provide feedback — often very critical — after the presentations. Presenters often walk away disappointed, their balloon busted by judges who slam companies for their ideas, presentations, marketing methods, vision, technology, and any other aspect of the company. Start-ups seeking to enter the program go through several iterations of their presentation, with only those with the most effective presentations chosen for the final Marathon event, said Frank.
The criticism can be hard on entrepreneurs, but it gives them an opportunity to continue improving themselves, said Frank. “In today’s economy, they really have no choice. If they can’t make an effective case for what they’re doing, their chances of getting funding are slim, if any. We’re offering service not just to the start-ups, but to the investors as well, who are looking to us to qualify the companies that present and for us to ensure that they don’t waste their time.”