Aspiration gathered for advice Monday.
Specifically, how best to comport oneself when seeking somebody else's millions. The short answer: Be on time, prepared, and ready to answer a lot of questions.
Of course there is more to it than that, as a crowd of about 50 entrepreneurs heard from four funding experts at a seminar at the University City Science Center. But that is a good start.
The program, which was put together by the University City Science Center, was titled "Perfecting Your Pitch to Funders." It was aimed at the region's would-be Bill Gateses, dreamers just a few bucks shy of making their visions the next big things in some corners of the business world.
That included Jay Syzdek, 30, of Germantown, who is building a social-media marketing company; Peter Malamis, 48, of New Hope, whose firm would assess clinical research labs for drug companies; and Michael Daley, 60, also of New Hope, who wants to market a full range of sports medicine products to doctors who specialize in that field.
They learned that seeking investors was a bit like seeking a spouse: Yes, it is important to have a lot to offer, but be sure to know what your would-be partner needs, as well. And if the answer is no, don't give up.
"Remember, this is a process," said Dean Miller, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies. "No is simply an opportunity to ask more questions."
Miller received a nod of agreement from the rest of the funding panel: Gloria Rabinowitz, managing director of the funding group Golden Seeds Philadelphia; Ned Moore, CEO of Portico Systems and an experienced seeker of business funds; and Katherine Crothall, a principal with Liberty Venture Partners.
The panel's advice focused on the three stages of fund-raising: preparation, the pitch, and follow-through.
For preparation, the panel stressed the need to know your product, your market, and your audience. Expect to be peppered with questions about the first two. Know who carries the weight among the last category.
In speaking of your market, don't be complacent, Rabinowitz warned.
"Don't say you don't have any competition. That is the kiss of death," she said. Rather, be prepared to talk in depth about the marketplace and any other lurking, potential competitors.
And don't be slapdash, she warned: no shoe boxes filled with receipts passing as financials, no business plans sketched on napkins.
"You might have been able to get by with that five years ago," said Rabinowitz. "No more."
As for the audience, Miller said, know "the politics of the room." Don't assume the highest-ranking official in attendance is the one with the most clout come decision time, he said.
As for the pitch, the panel said, one key was knowing how much time you would have to make it. And run it by a novice to be sure it is clear.
"You don't want it to be so thin that you can't tell what you do," said Miller. "Nor do you want it to be so voluminous that you never get to what you do."
Finally, follow up. It is important whether you receive funding or not, the panelists agreed. An investor who rejects you now might be open to investing later if they are impressed with the entrepreneur.
"A lot of this is about chemistry," said Moore.
Afterward, Daley, Syzdek, and Malamis all said they found the seminar valuable, if only to drive home points they already instinctively knew.
"My plan is to follow up," said Daley, "with all the panelists and all the people I met."
Good advice taken.