The culminating event of every DreamIt Ventures class is Demo Day.
In Philadelphia, that takes the form of a packed house at World Cafe Live with a marathon of pitches from each startup graduating from the accelerator, plus presentations from successful DreamIt alumni (and sometimes, a comedic interpretation of a pitch).
But this year, instead of the standard demo day, the accelerator is taking the show on the road.
DreamIt plans to host a smaller, investor-focused event at First Round Capital on April 20, then head to New York City, Boston and San Francisco for startups to meet with venture capitalists, said managing partner Patrick FitzGerald.
The idea behind the four-day roadshow is meeting venture capitalists where they are. Maybe an investor can’t make demo day. Maybe they don’t want to sit through a few hours of pitches. (Plus, Demo Days of yore have not just been investor-focused but also friends and family-focused, and DreamIt wondered, is that really our target audience for this type of event?)
Instead of a one-size-fits-all method, why not tailor the pitching experience to each startup and investor? Startups will go straight to the firms instead of pitching at an all-encompassing demo days. That personal touch is more efficient and intimate, FitzGerald said.
To prep for the trip, DreamIt sent information about each startup to 200 venture capital firms to gauge interest. DreamIt staff also worked with startups to see which firm they were interested in meeting, then they did some matching work. FitzGerald joked that the process was a little like Tinder.
The startups will meet with firms like General Catalyst Partners, FirstMark Capital (an Artisan Mobile investor), Andreessen Horowitz, Highland Capital Partners and Institutional Venture Partners.
DreamIt did a similar, smaller-scale effort for last year’s class, flying startups out to Silicon Valley to meet with 10 venture firms on Sand Hill Road. The response was “overwhelming,” FitzGerald said. “They said, ‘Why haven’t we seen you guys before?'” That inspired the full-on roadshow.
Last year’s DreamIt class set the tone for a reversal: Philly DreamIt companies traditionally did not stay in the city, but last year’s class overwhelmingly did — and were vocal about it. FitzGerald himself said that he had “sold Philly really hard” to the entrepreneurs. Might the roadshow be selling the founders on other cities?
FitzGerald said no.
“Most of the companies went on their own private roadshow anyway,” he said, like 2014 DreamIt Philly startup Baloonr, which fundraised in New York and San Francisco after graduating from the accelerator.
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