I’m using live streaming as a way to connect more startups and aspiring entrepreneurs from around the world with investors and experienced entrepreneurs.
About two months ago, while at SXSW, I thought of an idea to do a live “show,” similar to Shark Tank, but far more collaborative. It would be a virtual meeting, where entrepreneurs could pitch for advice as much as investment, and the audience would join in with questions and feedback.
I mulled over the idea, then decided to float it past some startup founders at the Collision Conference in NOLA a couple weeks ago. In less than a week, nearly 100 startups asked to pitch – before the first “episode” was even scheduled.
Clearly, there is a need from the entrepreneurs’ side of the table, but what about investors?
I am thrilled to report that, so far, nearly every single investor I’ve asked to come on as a guest, has not only agreed, but has shared the concept with other partners. Dozens of investors have stepped up to GO LIVE with me to help entrepreneurs, most of whom would never have the opportunity to pitch to a Silicon Valley VC.
So, people like the idea; how did I come up with it? It was really the convergence of several observations, all of which are obvious on their own:
1. In tech centers like San Francisco, we take for granted how relatively easy it is to get our business questions answered, including what we need to do to obtain funding. Show up at almost any bar, lounge, house-party or club, and half the people in the room have started a company, are currently founders, or are investors. Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley do not realize how much valuable advice we get just by talking with the people around us. Friday Happy-Hour conversations about the week’s happenings are filled with, “This is how we handled that,” and “I’ll connect you with person X who can help.” This is not the case in most US communities, let alone other parts of the world.
2. How we communicate, especially one-to-many, is evolving. We moved from prose to short-form writing; from a series of pictures to video. Influencers, who once found a voice in blogs, moved to Twitter and Facebook. Millennials, now 19 to 35 years old, adopted Instagram and Snapchat, first sharing images then video, while in their early teens. As mainstream (read: old people) moves to Snapchat, I wondered, “Where are today’s teens?” I found them on live streaming platforms like YouNow, Twitch and Blab. Live streaming is where communication is headed, and where we will find our next wave of influencers.
3. Smartphones, along with greater access to cellular service and wifi, make it possible to have real-time, life-like experiences with people almost anywhere in the world. The clunkiness that is live streaming now, will improve. Old people, who are used to the seamless flow of television, will come to accept the sometimes slow and always imperfect broadcasts, just as the teens have. (Aside: It isn’t lost on me that it takes a great deal of patience to enjoy live streaming broadcasts, something the teens, who we accuse of short attention span, have mastered.) At the same time, technology will improve, making patience moot. Adopting live streaming as a form of communication, especially by innovative entrepreneurs and tech-savvy investors, won’t be hard.
From there, the answer was clear; live streaming is how I can help entrepreneurs gain access to valuable feedback and investment opportunities.
Then, a problem…. How the heck am I going to do a live streaming show? I barely use social media and I HATE being on camera.
Before I could talk myself out of it, I invited a few startups and a guest investor to join me live, flipped on my iPhone-camera, and just did it. Two weeks, and TONS of solved tech-issues later, we have completed a pilot and four “alpha” pitch-sessions. The response, even with the bumpy start, has been tremendous. I will keep going as long as this proves to be a helpful platform.
Special thanks to the startups and guest investors who are blazing this trail with me – you are true innovators and early adopters who are helping to change how we do things in “the Valley.”