Ready to Launch: A three-year retrospective on Springboard

When I started sharing the idea of a “demo day” for new venture capitalists back in 2015, most of my colleagues were against it. Even my best friend, who was grinding towards a first close on a $100M first-time fund, turned me down. There were many objections. Some said there was no way venture capitalists would share their track records. Some thought participation would be a negative signal. Some said venture capitalists wouldn’t share the stage with other venture capitalists.

Like Steve Jobs once said, however, I have learned in the past three years that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

In our first year, we were cautious. We created only 9 time slots of 10 minutes each and used big tables to make the room feel busy. We figured we could plead to get nine firms to present. We kept other VCs out of the room to make the presenters feel more comfortable. In the end, we had about thirty funds that wanted to present, which exceeded our expectations. Many of the firms selected went on to raise new funds, including Next World Capital, Eco Integrity and Material Impact.

For the second year, we reduced the time down to five minutes slots and opened 30 time slots. This change was good. The pace was right. We opened the doors so everyone could attend, which created great energy in the room. The day was long, but not too long. Over 70 firms wanted to present. Many firms went on to successful raise new funds.

This year we once again have over 80 applicants for 30 slots. Many people have asked how we select the presenters. It’s not easy. This is not about picking the 30 “best” funds. That is not our goal.

Rather, we try to select a group of presenters who can appeal to the wide variety of LPs in the audience. Our audience ranges from individual investors making $250K investments up to large pensions and endowments. We want there to be something for everyone: generalist, thematic, early-stage and growth, first and second funds, spin-outs from established firms, and of course we want a diversity that reflects the future of venture capital.

The most common reason why funds aren’t selected is a lack of detailed information. If you only submit a one-page summary of your firm, chances are you are not going to be selected because someone else gave us more information.

The second most common reason funds aren’t selected is due to a lack of differentiation among a large number of similar funds. Last year, for example, we had ten new thematic funds focused on artificial intelligence. I think we picked two.

All things being roughly equal, we will give more weight to the track record of course.

I wish we had a slot for everyone. Maybe next year we will figure out a way to make that happen.

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