Early stage startups present their companies under the scrutiny, guidance of VCs

By Dennis Clemente

Where startups in New York go by the numbers of introducing new products or services to a curious, relaxed audience, the startups that present at the Hatchery events face perhaps what no other meetups offer—the scrutiny of venture capitalists (VCs). In both cases last May 22 at Chadbourne & Parke, LLP, the audience saw how the pitching process works and how VCs give feedback to early stage startups.

With some having not much presence online being in the early stage of their business, the VCs dissected their business model, assessed their presentation skills, asked financial questions and most important, gave essential tips.

The presenters were Bespoke Social Media, Pretty In My Pocket, Sentometer, and Unbound. The VCs were Peg Jackson of Gridley & Co, Warren Haber of Exoventure, Josh Bruno of Bain Capital and Bill Reinisch of Paladin Capital.

Pretty In My Pocket (PRIMP) and Unbound are aimed at the female market—the former offers perks in primping, the latter gives you orgasm in a box.

PRIMP CEO and Founder Caroline vin Sickle said the idea came to her when she went to a popular pharmacy store and couldn’t open the beauty products. “We’ve all made lots of “oops” purchases over the years.”

Raising $1.5 million in funding, PRIMP is a mobile shopping solution for beauty products during in-store shopping experiences. With a quick mobile bar-code scan, its selection engine provides product look-ups, social recommendations, and location-based incentives.

“Our goal is to help women find the products they need at the most critical time—in the aisle. We help them choose products based on preferences and personal beauty needs,” she said of the $50 million beauty industry.

Raising $500,000 in capital, Unbound is looking at subscription and affiliate sales in what the three female founders think is going to be a $25 billion erotic products industry in the foreseeable future.

The founders call themselves Greer, “product goddess,” Sarah Jayne, “content czar,” and Katie, “minister of design” and one of them handed out a free box worth $60 to the only female VC in the panel, Peg who smiled mischievously as she accepted the gift.

What’s in the box? They contain “several tested and adored products, inspiring erotica, thoughtful guidance and extra swag.”

The other presenters were tame in comparison.

Bespoke Social Media Atelier is going the Pinterest route but with privacy in mind. “Ours is a tool for creatives to curate, organize and present content that is kept private or shared with small groups,” said Michele Spiezia, founder and CEO.

Bespoke has two main elements: the Inspiration Stream and Inspiration Books. Users can add their social media streams (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr) and any RSS feeds they follow to their Inspiration Stream for a real-time, visual flow of content. Content can then be saved to Inspiration Books, which users can share with friends or keep private.

Spiezia said Bespoke recently partnered with Evernote, but she is still seeking $750,000 in funding, as she also estimates profit to come in by 2014.

Sentometer, for its part, is a tool for measuring and monitoring conversations in the social media universe.

Founder Mike Kelly has set up appointments with ad agencies to offer his social media tool. He likes to think of it as “taking the pulse” of a topic and letting people know when it speeds up. “We have the social aspect in cruise control.”

Some of the feedback from VCs included these gems:
• It doesn’t mean you can start a company you should
• Biggest variable is not time, it’s the market
• If you are not #1 or #2 you will not be able to stay around. Figure out how you can be #1 in the market. No one wants #3
• Credibility (when first presenting) is very important
• Have a backup Powerpoint slide (if you need to show more)
• Make sure you understand your market

Organized by Yao-Hui Huang, the Hatchery helps build communities of entrepreneurs and investors.

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Dennis Clemente

Shuttling between New York and other US cities, Dennis writes about tech meetups when he's not too busy working as a Web Developer/Producer + UX Writer and Digital Marketer.

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