Should Startups Pay to Pitch? Damn Right!

Last week I pitched Network Hippo on This Week in Startups Shark Tank segment (embedded below) and Jason Calacanis (@jason) asked me about presenting at the DEMO conference – which is a high-quality, but expensive, conference for start-ups to pitch their business.  This “pay to pitch” debate been going on for awhile and led Michael Arrington (@Arrington) and Jason Calacanis to create TechCrunch50.  Jason has gone on to create the Open Angel Forum, which is another way for startups to pitch for free.  And when I was at the DEMO conference this year, Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) published the blog post “Where oh where did the great startup launch go?” where he panned the DEMO conference and suggested instead that companies “invite a handful of people [they] liked, trusted, and knew would be interested in a new kind of gadget, and had dinner with us.”.  Scoble’s suggestion is that instead of paying to pitch, they should just call him (he left his cell phone number in the post… I did call him).

Don’t listen to them.

What Jason, Arrington (some of the time), and Robert are doing is awesome and critical for a vibrant startup ecosystem.  They are fighting for startups to get noticed and providing free powerful outlets that help startups get their message out and attract press, investors, and users.  Jason had me on his show (see below) and provided some good insight and drove a lot of great traffic to the site (and investors!).  TechCrunch covered our launch last month after a personal note I sent to Michael telling him I was in town, and Robert talked to me for nearly half an hour on his cell phone in his car, signed up when he arrived home, and offered to grab a coffee next time I was in town.  I think these guys are hustling for startups and want to see good ideas rise to the top and succeed.  It’s great.  I’m thankful for their help and I hope they keep it up!

But you should pay to pitch because Startups shouldn’t be political.

If you:

1. Don’t live in San Francisco or Silicon Valley

2. Have a great product

3. Are trying to get the message out to the world

Then you should weight the cost and value and pitch whenever and often as you can.

There’re a lot of people trying to take money from startups and there are VC conferences every week that want you to pay a couple thousand dollars to pitch.  Most that I’ve seen are a waste of time and money.  Jason, Michael, and Robert (and many others) are doing some great events that help you get exposure, but don’t get sucked in by their politics – get your message out anyway you can.

By Scott Annan

8 Responses to “Should Startups Pay to Pitch? Damn Right!”

  1. Mark MacLeod  on June 2nd, 2010

    DEMO is a high quality event that reaches a much bigger audience than just investors. It makes sense to pay.

    I don’t believe startups should pay to pitch at pure VC events. Especially in Canada.

    VCs rarely come to conferences to look for deals. They come to meet each other.

    Only once in 11 years of doing this have I raised funds based on a conference pitch.

  2. Nicolas  on June 2nd, 2010

    What will it take to get @Jason and Open Angel Forum up here to Ottawa? Then we can show him all the crazy great work happening here. Who’s in?

  3. bosmith  on June 2nd, 2010

    I think the proof is the pudding…..have you received investor interest as a result…..have you raised any funds; if you are measuring like an advertising spend then that’s fine….but if you are measuring it in the way Jason is it’s a different story

  4. Scott Lake  on June 3rd, 2010

    That was a great segment on the Shark Tank. Great job Scott!

  5. Chris Arsenault  on June 3rd, 2010

    Conferences and investor pitch sessions/events should be part of an entrepreneur’s “visibility plan” more than truly hoping to close financing as a direct consequence of such pitch., Thus, the cost is extremely important (especially for startups).

    I’ve never funded a Company as a direct follow up to a vc event pitch. But I do like to see how entrepreneurs get their message across, how they act/react to the crowd, the questions and most importantly how they take advantage of the gathering itself.

    Going back to paying for pitching… hummm, clearly not a cost of funding…

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