Investor Conferences Are Not What They Seem

There’s a fundamental adage in the social sciences when it comes to observing human affairs: all is NOT what it appears to be. 

The season of investor conferences has begun in person yet again. Bevnet. Nutritional Capital Network. And so on. 

Founders new to the industry should understand what’s happening at these events. They are organized for the benefit of investors, primarily institutional firms. You are the entertainment. At best.

NCN at least has a membership model and does not have crazy angels or unknown actors showing up. It’s a tribe. I’m not sure this creates a lot of ethical accountability to founders, however. But they do know each other very well. 

Some of these investor conferences bill themselves as ‘industry events,’ like Bevnet, even though investors make up 60% or more of attendees, and the content is aimed at them.

Investor conferences are a social milieu for investors to:

  1. exchange deal gossip (who’s investing in what?)
  2. hunt for quick deals from desperate brands who still (to my horror) keep showing up with shitty balance sheets
  3. search for easy follow-on deals led by peer investors (the laziest investing model there is)
  4. listen to pitches from startups in part to steal ideas
  5. meet founders of eight-figure brands they primarily invest in to ‘size the founder up.
  6. party
  7. and now…make fun of my book, which challenges the hasty, distribution-led American investing model many of these conference attendees still tend to believe in.

If you’re brand new, these are NOT useful events. Some may screen you out as premature (like NCN). Look, there may be a time to meet institutional firms if a significant raise is something you need, but generally it will be later up the Ramp, as in the eight-figures.

Frankly, I have a client roster full of Skate Ramp brands that have never attended these conferences. Just something to ponder. Great companies don’t need a conference to attract PE/VC firms. Trust me. Great performing companies in CPG are rare, and the best investors are scouting in data constantly for them. 

Finally, please don’t ever attend an investor conference in a mood of financial desperation, or you will likely regret it.

A lot.

It’s an investor networking opportunity, so set up tons of meetings and begin to date your money. Carefully.

Dr. James Richardson

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