Earlier this month, 3 Steps to Startup’s November Venture Fair was another successful 2021 event bringing together investors, entrepreneurs, and other West Virginia stakeholders in a virtual summit to exchange ideas and grow by learning from experienced entrepreneurs and investors. The venture fair picked up where our March event left off. In March, we heard from Intuit Chairman of the Board, Brad D. Smith.  

If you attended our November Venture Fair, you heard from Mitch Carmichael, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Economic Development, when he discussed the importance of entrepreneurism for the West Virginia economy and how our state promotes small business success. You also watched panels comprised of investors like Don Morrisson of BlueTree Allied Angels and entrepreneurs like Mara McFadden, CEO of Endolumik. If you were unable to attend, access the videos from our event here

Our November Venture Fair heavily focused on securing funding for small business startups. The panel topics ranged from formulating effective pitches to investor involvement post-investment. The Venture Fair kicked off with some words from Mitch Carmichael, Secretary of Economic Development for West Virginia. Secretary Carmichael enthusiastically discussed the advantages for businesses in West Virginia. He described an economy prime for building a new business or expanding existing business because of the current excitement and awareness surrounding opportunities in the state. Secretary Carmichael mentioned that West Virginia had a top growing GDP in the second quarter of 2021: “Our GDP growth exceeded every state in the Southeast and the Mid Atlantic. We were in the top ten in the nation for GDP growth.” He pointed to West Virginia’s low unemployment rates and the “rainy day funding” available for business ventures through the state. He also specifically mentioned tax advantages and regulatory structures benefitting West Virginia businesses. Secretary Carmichael’s remarks set an enthusiastic stage for the rest of the Venture Fair.  

In “Presenting Can be Such a ‘Pitch’”, Scott Ewing of Appalachian Investors Alliance and Mara McFadden of Endolumik guided attendees through the makings of a persuasive investor pitch. Both McFadden and Ewing agreed that a good pitch should include storytelling. Ewing said, “every pitch needs to be a story. You’re an entrepreneur and you are telling your company’s story to potential investors.” He referenced the elements of a good story: compelling characters, dramatic conflict, and background, and explained why those elements applied to a good business pitch. McFadden added, “At the end of the day we’re human talking to another human, and that element of storytelling, excitement, connection is so key… if you’re not excited about your story and opportunity, then why should anybody else be?” The panel covered experience with pitches gone wrong and determining appropriate investors for entrepreneurs to target. One final note was that entrepreneurs should always ask investors for feedback regarding their pitches. 

In Investor Role Post-Investment, we heard from Kevin Combs of Country Roads Angel Network, Matt Harbaugh of Mountain State Capital, Michele O’Connor of WV Jobs Investment Trust, and Don Morrison of BlueTree Allied Angels. The varied perspectives of these seasoned investors informed of a realistic timeline of investor involvement following funding and what that involvement meant. All panelists indicated that they hold board seats for all investments they pursue. Beyond simply being placed on the Board of Directors, the panelists emphasized that investors are focused on getting a return on their investment and on the business’s success on the whole. Don Morrison stated that when seeking investors, entrepreneurs should follow this simple advice: “in all things in life, choose your partners wisely.” An investor not only fronts funding but, in many instances, can offer experience and knowledge. Michele O’Connor stated, “we like to come in with companies who we can truly help and benefit; we help them set themselves up with proper governance. We make sure they have a board structure in place, we make sure that all of their documents are in line, and we set them up for that next big round to come in.” 

The Venture Fair also allowed us to hear from businesses delivering their pitches to a panel of investors, who then provided experienced feedback for those pitches. 

3 Steps to Startup is committed to helping West Virginia businesses succeed, and the first step in supporting startups is education and awareness of opportunities. Our venture fairs are instrumental in this goal. They are cost-free to those interested, and you can access the videos on our website because we strive to make it easy for West Virginia entrepreneurs to access resources like this! Stay tuned for our next exciting event, and in the meantime, connect with us. We love hearing from you!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,