V is for Venture: Day 3 of V2V 2014

The final day of SXSW V2V 2014 was all about the “v” for “venture” in the name.

To wit, I spent the majority of the day dividing my time between the afternoon mentoring sessions and the full day venture pitch programming, with a couple of panels thrown in.

The mentoring sessions are a highlight feature of the V2V program. After serving as a mentor last year, I wanted to experience sitting on the other side of the table as a “mentee” and, thus, visited with a variety of mentors about a skunkworks project we’re doing this summer at my company that we’re calling Wannabe.

The mentor sessions are ultra-speedy, in slots of 10 minutes or less, depending on if you get started on time and how full a mentor’s schedule is. By contrast, in Austin, I pace most on my office hours sessions at Capital Factory at 30 minutes – especially those with founders I’m meeting for the first time.

Nonetheless, it was a great pleasure to meet and visit with all of the mentors – both formal and informal – throughout the 3 days of the conference, including (among the ones I spoke with): Peter Nilsson, Mike McGee, Scott Good, Carrie Layne, Mark Drosos, Ronnie Cameron, Tamara Thorpe, Asha Aravindakshan, Kimberly Knoll, Ted Loh, and Jim Hopkinson.

They were all good sports and I learned something from every one of them. Sadly, the mentor (not among those mentioned above) that was the least sporting was the one institutional investor I met with. I still got a couple of good tips from him, but it was a great reminder to me about how much of a drag it can be to get stuck with someone acting like an asshole, whether they know it or not.

It’s one of those paradoxical elements of the investor/founder dynamic I’ve seen (and if I’m honest, been a party to) many times, in which we expect the founder to show passion, genuine enthusiasm, and sharp speaking & listening skills, while the VC avoids eye contact, puts on their most dour heard-it-all-before poker face, and generally does their best to look & act completely disinterested.

pitch day panorama

Moving on…the best component of V2V Day 3 was the venture competition. I listened in on the pitching for extended periods throughout the day, across multiple categories of technologies and industry sectors. The room was packed the entire day.  Overall, I thought it was a really well-fun program – from the quality of companies on-stage, to the judges’ Q&A, to the organizers keeping the myriad of logistics operating smoothly.

The emcee for the day, Christine Herron of Intel Capital, deserves a special shout-out, for being the ringleader for the entire day. She kept things on time, filled the dead spots with good color commentary, asked good questions, and generally kept the audience entertained. She definitely deserved the drink from Brooklyn Bowl, the closing party host, that she was practically begging for by the end of the day!

The venture competition winners were a strong group of companies, illustrating the diversity of the V2V audience, hailing from Missouri, Florida, Arizona, Montreal Canada, Washington state, California, and Kentucky. See the full list on the V2V website.  Note to the hometown gang: “Hey Austin: let’s see some ventures from ATX on the winners platform in 2015!”

Today, I’m planning to spend some time on the ground getting a tour of the Downtown Project. I’ll be back tomorrow for some final thoughts on V2V 2014.

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