As part of my business working with entrepreneurs, it's that time again. I'm in the middle of preparing 3 more start-ups for their presentations to the Band of Angels. This month, I had another wonderful experience discussing the title slide and opening words of one of the pitches.
I'm a big fan of opening a presentation to angel groups with something personal if you are comfortable AND it is relevant. In this case, one of the companies has developed a wonderful solution for speech to speech translation. Essentially, it's a headset that you speak into and it translates from your language into the language of the listener (using algorithms, etc.).
They've chosen hospitals as one of their first markets (wisely). So the device can go English to Spanish and Spanish back to English. As long as it can one way with the language x to y, it can go back y to x.
As I chatted with the CEO (who speaks 6 or 7 languages, is quite humorous, interesting to speak with and has a strong track record), I probed into why he started the company. After moving through his professional background, we started to craft the opening.
Then, he almost threw in, that he moved over the US when he was 13....to Cleveland,..and he only spoke Farsi....not real prevalent in Cleveland. I looked at him, smiled and said (quite boldly, I'm sure) that I know that's why he started the company. If he felt comfortable, I advised him to lead with it.
Language is a passion for him, to a certain extent I'm sure in a Darwinian fashion. But it's quite compelling when he frames his professional background to date, which includes a speech to text translation company that was sold for a lot of money.
I also had a CEO whose company had developed a blood test to detect Alzheimer's. He told me that when he was a kid, he was in his room on a snowy night and couldn't sleep. He looked out his window, across the street, and noticed movement by and beneath a light at one of the houses.
He told his parents, who went out and found out that it was an old man who had wandered off, gotten lost and suffered from Alzheimer's. It lit his passion for what he now is trying to bring forth.
It isn't ALWAYS the case that the story is that poignant. However, in almost every case there is a personal reason someone starts a company. (Particularly if they've done it before, because it's so challenging.)
Hans Severeins, one of the founders of the Band of Angels, who passed away a few years ago, said something that stuck with me the first time I met him. He said: "Tim we all must be insane. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result."
Fair enough, and when it gets personal, insanity becomes a frame of reference. When I'm in angel investing meetings, a brief, well crafted, relevant personal story is a wonderful way to break the ice and connect with the audience. Quickly, they get to know you.
And in the end, angels don't invest in technology, discovery, innovation, etc. they invest in you. A story like this goes a long way to build the foundation of a good relationship.