In the past, we’d been invited to attend many roadshows (for the record, we’re talking about startup investment roadshows, not marketing ones, not IPO ones either). About a year ago, we decided we’d had enough.
Let’s be fair, though. Roadshows aren’t all that bad. You get the chance to interact with multiple companies at the same occasion – and you can hear the questions others ask. It could be a good learning experience collectively, even if you do not find any companies you’d necessarily be interested to put money and/or effort into.
Here is the reason why we stopped attending roadshows – the presentations at most roadshows are, to put it bluntly, boring. Even if the companies are actually good, there is rarely proper interaction with the audience. Oftentimes, these roadshows are packed so tightly with presentations that one wouldn’t have the slightest chance of asking any pertinent questions, nor would any useful discussion be conducted.
Roadshows need to be more flexible – participants are there to truly know the companies, how the founders are like, whether the potential espoused by deck is as as good as it claims. Usually hidden behind well-rehearsed (and boring) presentations, one may as well conduct a conference call (one of our biggest nightmare) if that is how it’s going to be.
That said, many articles online espouse the importance of either organising or attending a roadshow, where the former is deemed especially important to entice investments. Heck, this one article cited the lack of having held a roadshow as a reason to not attend a particular company’s IPO!
So if you’re the one organising the roadshow, consider: are the meetings going nowhere? Give participants some respite by gathering those talented individuals in your company to organise and stage a performance. Throw in a game with a prize or two, maybe freshly baked cookies. The sky’s the limit for the creative to turn a roadshow into a memorable event for its participants and instil a sense of trust by putting a face to the company. And if you’re one of the participants attending, enjoy (especially if there are freebies)!
However, as John LeFevre, the author of Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, and Billion-Dollar Deals, recounts in his book, roadshows can be nightmarish. Humorous as the extract may be, it highlights a fundamental question that we hope to address in this article: are roadshows truly that necessary?
Herein lies the rub: roadshows are perceived as an important step in the process of convincing potential investors to take the next step forward and actually pump funds into your company. However, it’s a long, tedious process which is just draining physically and emotionally. A large amount of time has to be invested too in the process of planning and executing for the roadshow. Would you rather spend the time on targeted investor pitching and product marketing instead?
It is a tricky balancing act, to ensure that the company benefits from the roadshow – organising or attending one just for the exposure (which does not pay for bills) is not a tenable option in the long run. How then can we make sure that the organised roadshow is beneficial for both investors and participating companies, that the roadshow isn’t there just for the sake of it?
At Momentum Works, we have come up with a simple series of 3 questions that you should ask yourself whenever deciding to organise or attend a roadshow:
- What are the projects being put on display?
It makes no sense to attend a roadshow targeted at investors interested in fintech start-ups if your organisation bears no relation to the industry. For investors, if the project belongs to a founder without any experience in the industry, chances are you’ll be wasting your time. Asking this first question allows you to filter out those projects which have the potential to grow big and go far.
What we have commonly seen are organisers of a roadshow for deep-tech ending up unable to find enough deep-tech companies to participate. As a result, they lower the standard to allow “not so deep” tech companies to attend. The result is bad alignment of expectations, which can sometimes turn out disastrous.
- Who are the investors attending?
Are the investors attending going to be big names, or tiny obscure ones which may not have sufficient funds? With roadshows, where the aim is to get as much investor exposure as possible for one’s venture, the quality of investors matters. Don’t sell yourself short by attending roadshows where investors spend too much time hesitating – that can be very distracting. You know for start-ups that focus is extremely important.
- How is the roadshow being conducted?
Does it follow a marketplace model where investors pick and choose who they want to invest in? Certain models (such as the marketplace model) simply do not work. Be aware of how the event will be conducted so you can plan accordingly to make the most out of your attendance.
Alternatively, you can just avoid wasting time at roadshows at all. Focus your attention on investors who actually matter if you are a founder. And if you are an investor, focus on start-ups using targeted channels.
The market has developed so much, and there is plenty of resources you can get your hands on for information – so do not shortchange yourself!