Few things sharpen an innovator's mind as much as the prospect of standing in front of funders and having to pitch & answer questions.
Of course, it is also terrifying!
That is why Shark Tanks - events where students present to panels of potential funers - are a central part of my curriculum. By presenting to potential funders who are (almost) always #LovinglyCritical, the innovators gain:
- Confidence - If you survive a Shark Tank it does wonders for your morale and ability to present in front of funders (and other audiences) in the future.
- Knowledge - Sharks will gladly tell students "This is what you need to do for me to fund you" - it is like cheating, but in a good way :). Along the way Sharks pass on other advice & ideas my students find invaluable.
- Connections - Sharks know a lot of people who can help innovators and gladly make introductions that would have taken months or years for the students to secure on their own.
Our July 23rd Shark Tank followed a new format borrowed from Valley Venture Mentor's Screening Parties. This format change allowed each innovation team an hour of direct, intense, supportive feedback from 10 Sharks! My thanks to Ethan Ferris for recommending the format change. And my thanks to the awesome Sharks who donated their time to help our innovators!
The Sharks were...
- Ward Caswell (Beveridge Foundation)
- Ellen Leuchs (Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts)
- John Bidwell (UnitedWay of Hampshire County)
From for-profit investment funds, groups:
- Jay Leonard (Springfield Venture Fund)
- Randy Krotowski (Alchemy Fund, Launch413)
- Marcie Muehlke (the WIT fund)
- Rick Plaut (Launch413, River Valley Investors)
Wicked Smaht People :)
If you are interested in seeing if these kinds of events could help your nonprofit, please contact us to learn more.