Talk reveals ‘Secrets of the Pitch’

In its primary fall event, the Yale Entrepreneurial Society hosted a panel of business professionals who spoke before the largest undergraduate showing in its history. The panel, whose members YES President Joe Walker ’09 said were able to relate well to the audience, discussed tricks of the trade and argued that, despite the current economic climate, business is still a viable career. Rachel Wang reports.

Business-minded students last night learned smiling, among other tricks, is key to hooking an investor.

The Yale Entrepreneurial Society hosted a conference titled “Perspectives on Venture Capital: Secrets of the Pitch” at the Yale School of Management’s Horchow Hall on Wednesday night. The talk invited undergraduates, School of Management students and business and law professionals to discuss how to effectively pitch business proposals and featured a four-person panel comprised entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, who shared their experiences from both the funding and proposing sides of business.

The event drew a sizeable number of students — most of the 60 people present were from SOM, though a quarter of that number were Yale undergraduates. David Albin, a partner of event sponsor Finn Dixon & Herling Law, a firm with offices in Stamford and New Haven, noted that the audience for this conference consisted of more undergraduates than last year’s.

“I have moderated for this panel in the past, and the audience was predominately graduate students,” he said.

The panel started off down memory lane as moderator Rob Bettigole ’76, managing partner of Elm Street Ventures, asked each panelist to describe difficulties each had encountered in the past. Bettigole remembered one meeting he had attended right after lunch, when the investors were too full and sleepy to listen attentively to his presentation.

“I would highly recommend that you meet people before lunchtime,” he said.

But, despite preparation, he said, sometimes relations between investors and entrepreneurs just does not work out.

“Pitching is sort of like dating: If you realize that you both are not compatible, don’t waste your time,” said Ken Blount, co-founder and director of research for BioRelix, Inc.

Founder and Managing Director of Launch Capital Elon S. Boms SOM ’07, said another tip was not to overwhelm the investors with too many people at once. He said earlier Wednesday he was overwhelmed by a six-person group pitch when he and another investor were the only audience.

The rest of the discussion focused on specific tips for young entrepreneurs hoping to make the perfect pitch to a prospective investor. Most of the panelists emphasized the importance of short length and clear presentation. But Liddy Karter, co-founder of Angel Investments, Inc., which provides capital for startup businesses, also stressed passion and enthusiasm as a selling point. She said studies suggest the amount one smiles during an interview is directly proportional to the ineterview’s success — the more you smile, she said, the better.

“Be enthusiastic, smile a lot and you’ll make more money,” she said.

Karter went on to address the current state of the economy and its correlation to business careers, saying she felt the current trough would generate less competition and, therefore, more opportunity for business students.

Additionally, Boms said that prospects look brighter for Yale students seeking a job in the business field because of their alma mater.

“If you are going to e-mail me and tell me that you are at Yale, have been to Yale, or are related to Yale, I’ll immediately respond,” he said.

YES hosts a series of conferences each year on varying topics related to business. 2009 marks YES’s 10th anniversary.

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