Friday, February 3, 2012

The two-minute pitch

2-minThis week we presented our second-round funding pitch to investors at London Business Angels, a regional angel syndicate.  We worked with them on our successful first-round funding in 2010 and so approached them again this time.

Their service is straightforward. If we are selected, then we are trained and groomed for a pitch event that they organize.  If we raise money, LBA gets a percentage as matchmaker.  They provide guidance and resources, we make the most of the opportunity.

This year, the format included both a 2-minute video pitch and an 11-minute audience pitch.  I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at the live, long-format event, but the short studio set was a new experience.  Armed with some general guidelines, I went off to prepare.

I started by writing down a few paragraphs and tried it out against a stopwatch. Three minutes. I hadn’t actually written that much; it was surprising how little content can actually be put into 120 seconds. I start to appreciate the challenge of writing commercials.

And I started chopping.

I’m Dr. David Hampton, CEO and founder of CamStent, a Cambridge-based medical technology company that is improving patient outcomes and decreasing hospital costs.

Our company began when I met a chemistry professor who had developed a non-stick coating that could prevent the buildup of biofilms, a persistent problem in medical devices. It’s especially prevalent in this one, a Foley catheter, used to drain the bladder in a quarter of all hospitalized patients. 100m of these are sold worldwide each year, a 375 m gbp market. But when toxic Foleymicroorganisms settle onto the catheter surface, they cause infections, hurting patients, adding hospital days, multiplying costs. A successful solution, an antimicrobial catheter, will be readily adopted at a premium price.

We formed the company, applied for patents, and obtained first round funding, including investment from London Business Angels.  18 months later, we’ve met our milestones; we’ve stayed within our budget. The polymer sticks to catheter surfaces; we’ve demonstrated its antimicrobial effectiveness. The coating is safe, not a drug or a biologic, so there’s a simple path to regulatory approval: we can reach market in 18 months.

We’re raising 650,000 pounds in second round funds: 250,000 has already been obtained by winning a highly competitive Technology Strategy Board grant; our existing angel investors have pledged 200,000 more. We’re seeking an final 200,000 from new investors to close this round.

Our license revenues will reach 7.5 m each year within three years of product introduction. A trade sale could net £20 million 2 years from now at market entry, or £50 million in 5 years with proven revenues. And our platform technology leverages to other applications in drains, stents, and pins, further increasing investor returns.

We’d like to discuss the details, answer your questions. Thanks: I’ll look forward to talking with you.

That’s it: no time for more.  I caught the early train to London to deliver the pitch at 11.  The guide is to repeat 20 times to commit things to memory, then relax and do more to make it flow. To my seatmate’s concern, I repeated the talk over and over and over until it became meaningless second-nature.  Fortunately, the cold snap cut the signaling lights, so we were an hour late into King’s Cross.  I was ready.

Staring into a camera is much harder than looking at an audience: there’s nobody to smile at, no body language to interpret, no reassurance from partners planted our front.  There’s just the camera operator, looking at his watch. 

First run, my brain froze half-way through the third sentence.  Sigh, sit up straight, shake it off, deep breath,nod, ‘Again.  1:56: nailed it.  Thumbs up, done and out.

The 11-minute pitch was four hours away, so I started rehearsing, but there was now no way to get the two-minute one out of my head.  It’s like a song I couldn’t forget.  I gave up and rewrote everything, wrapping my remarks around the two-minute phrases.  A bit silly, but it flowed and I didn’t hesitate.

RedfordThere’s a scene in the Robert Redford movie The Candidate where he collapses in the back seat of his car, reciting phrases from his stump speech.  I can see the same thing happen to Mitt Romney, pulling out safe, familiar phrases to suit every occasion.

It didn’t get to that point, though.  I was lead-off speaker, a bit more pressure, but hit the marks clearly (content and time) and I hope it came across conversational.  We had good investor response, but, with a month of events upcoming, though, this is just the opening game of the new season.

Disclaimer:  As always, this essay reflects personal opinions and experiences: I have neither received consideration nor been asked for endorsement by LBA.

Further, this account does not constitute an investment proposal nor is it an offer to accept investment funds.

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