Why I Prefer Advisory Board to Official Demo Days?
By Monika Roštárová 27/08/2018

Instead of organizing official demo days for public, we decided to form Advisory Board which will meet accelerated startups on regular bases.

What Are We Talking About?

Let’s start with brief descriptions. Demo days are several types of events, where startups have to pitch prospective investors. The length usually varies between 30 minutes and two days. It can be private, invitation-only or public. Accelerators and incubators are typical organizers.

Alumni networks consist of mentors, business angels, innovative entrepreneurs or successful startup founders. Alumni is characteristic for more soundful and bigger chains of accelerators. According to Business dictionary “Alumni is usually used to refer to a group of graduates of either one or both genders, while 'alumnus' traditionally refers to a single male graduate, with the feminine term being 'alumna.”

Advisory Board is our new concept and it is a kind of mixture.

What is Common and Different with Advisory Board? And Actually...What is It?

Advisory Board is one of the acceleration benefits. We link together Flemio startups

and prospective investors. Startups have the opportunity to understand investors´ criteria, focus and valuation metrics. Startup founders receive feedbacks from their target segment. Investors can advise startups to meet their requirements and to scale up their business models. They become mentors of chosen startups and gain the ability to build a long-term relationship with interesting projects before the real investment.

Our AB meets regularly once in two months. Accelerated startups pitch and show their progress. Prospective startup applicants, who passed via screening process, present their ideas as well. It would be difficult to handle a bigger frequency of meetings, because all AB members are pretty busy. Complete AB with all members? Never happens. But... we always try to snare more than one half of members in person.

Advantages for All Parties Involved

There are several AB goals. Startups can build their pitches, work on their soft skills and create relationships with investors from the beginning. Investors often lack good ideas to support. They can choose from startups preselected by accelerator. We focus on choosing investors, who are interested in pre-seed stage companies, we work with. AB members present their investment criteria, details about term sheets, decision-making process or their actual portfolio. This kind of information is very precious for Flemio team as well. We can adjust KPIs for startups.  All parties involved enjoy networking after the official program.

Demo Days Research

I have recently analyzed 200 accelerators in my dizertation thesis. One of my research goals was to identify the critical factors of successful business models. According to the statistical method of linear regression there was no correlation between demo days and  accelerator’s success. The group of variables linked with success consisted of qualitative variables such as number of graduated startups, number of existing startups 2 years after acceleration, number of mentors and so on. Moreover, I focused on quantitative ones, such as the number of  investment deals, exits and volume of external funding provided by investors, grants and other sources. I did not find any correlation. Demo days can be quite expensive and their outcome is not clear. I believe, it is a very good way of marketing, but we can not confirm the relation to success.

Almost 46 percents of analyzed accelerators offered demo days as a benefit in their program. Many of them were successful, but almost the equal number was not. Demo days are big public events, accelerators are more famous and popular with ecosystem, however the variable “external funding” was not correlating with the variable “ demo day”. Basically it means: The main purpose of demo days is to provide external investment for startups with the best pitches. Demo day organizers did not get a higher funding volume than non-organizers.

Investors' Attitude 

Investors‘ opinions considering demo days differ a lot. Some of them enjoy it. There are haters, who explain it like a time waste in their blogs. The one clear point is, that one investor receives too many invitations. The pool of invitations is much bigger than he or she is able to handle and wants to attend.

A true-blue demo day including a bunch of strong startups, promising networking, soul names of attendees is definitely worthy to visit. I would visit events with good references and prepared for them to maximize the outcome.

Demo days are full of visitors, however they do not guarantee any funding or fundraising for startups. On the other hand, startups can pitch in demo day and have the wishful WOW effect.

I decided to focus more on long-term relationships between accelerated startups and investors as AB members. In AB meeting they work on their pitch and product together. Moreover, AB validates progress of projects between particular meetings and presentations. What is more, investors present and introduce each other to attendees as well. Startups can get a big picture and recognize, if there is a prospective match.