Daily Grommet was selected for the Springboard Enterprises ALLTHINGSMEDIA Venture Capital Forum a few months back. Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace, had encouraged me to apply. I was kind of skeptical…our company didn’t even have seed funding yet, but I took the plunge and I am glad I did. The big event was a couple weeks ago, and I am thinking of the wonderful and sometimes peculiar journey it was. Nick Leiber of BusinessWeek did a nice job covering it, as an outsider. As an insider, I can neatly summarize the experience as a lot like being on three different TV shows.
First, in competing for a coveted slot (which involved a couple rounds of electronic business plan submissions and then a command performance presentation in NY), I felt very much like a contestant on Survivor. All the other companies looked stronger, healthier, more attractive. Especially on the presentation day when my Power Point would not project at all. I basically did shadow puppets on a white screen. How I got through the cuts that day is a mystery to me.
Phase Two–when we were tapped for presenting and then were being vigorously groomed for the big day–was like being a contestant on American Idol. I was assigned six–count ’em–coaches. Heavy hitter, experienced investors, executives, and entrepreneurs. Lots of helpful, tough, and sometimes contradictory advice. And a two day Boot Camp in New York too, which involved a miserable experience being videotaped– and believe me I never, ever want to see that tape. The written critique by our personal pitch coach, Sam Horn, was bad enough. Not as bad as Paula, Simon et al., but the bottom line was that no one was going to let me on stage to embarrass myself, or Springboard. We even had another command performance in NY three weeks before the final day, just to make sure we hadn’t somehow lost the plot. I took that threat of expulsion pretty seriously.
Finally, last month, the big day arrived, and it was suddenly a Miss America experience. We were taken to the NASDAQ…and were lined up for a photo op and also apparently appeared on a few network TV shows as a smiling, waving, cheering bunch of slightly crazed startup CEO’s, at the closing bell. (It was an up market day.)
We were treated very well, and even had a huge fancy dinner at the Boat House in Central Park, with, apparently, hundreds of Springboard supporters. But on the Miss America theme, during the dry run the day before I even had a diva moment. My Power Point again failed…not entirely…but the carefully composed typeface on my slides got totally corrupted and turned into something that looked like old fashioned Courier typewriter type. It was a mess. I was on stage, got one look at it, and put my arm over my face and cried, “I can’t bear to look at it!” Thank God Amy Millman and Joshua Henderson of Springboard have plenty of patience for the likes of me…we got it sorted out.
The day was a success. One very prominent venture capitalist said to me at the end, “I can’t believe I stayed all day. I thought this was going to be amateur hour. The quality of the presentations was terrific.” He had no idea, I am sure, of what it took to get us all there.