Make the Most of Accelerator Demo Days and Improve Your Chance of Success

VP K12 Computer Science Products, EMC School

Nikki@ISTEOver the last couple of years I’ve participated in three accelerator programs that culminated in a much-hyped demo day. Each time, I ended up questioning the value of that seemingly all-important demo day. Because each accelerator program is different, and companies all have different goals, I realize that it’s a challenge to get everyone on the same page. But there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Here’s my take on the pros and cons of demo day, and I’d like to hear yours. And your ideas for how accelerator programs could make the experience better, both for the companies pitching and the audience!

Demo Day Pros

  • The deadline of demo day forces an entrepreneur to actually get their pitch deck done. It’s easy to put off when running a startup. The enforced end date is a great motivator to actually do the work.
  • Leading up to demo day, companies get lots of support and feedback which leads to a more polished final product.
  • Practice makes perfect! Enforced practice helps improve the confidence level and performance of the person delivering the pitch.

Demo Day Cons

  • Most demo days don’t lead directly to investment. If that’s an entrepreneur’s goal, adjust expectations accordingly.
  • Time spent preparing and practicing takes the entrepreneur away from critical functions such as sales.
  • Other meaningful opportunities such as conferences may conflict with demo day.
  • As if running a startup isn’t stressful enough, the time leading up to demo day and the actual event add extra stress!

 How to Improve the Pitching Experience

  • Run the event like clockwork. Ruthlessly.
  • Allow the presenter flexibility in format and presentation style. As long as they are able to practice ahead of time, with the demo day equipment, this shouldn’t keep the event from running smoothly. And it allows the uniqueness of each company to shine.
  • Make sure the audience is chock full of people that each company wants to connect with. Not just investors. Many companies are interested in connecting with users or making sales.

How to Improve the Audience Experience

  • Run the event like clockwork. Ruthlessly.
  • Practice the whole event, in the venue, with all of the equipment, ahead of time. This will drastically reduce the time the audience sits waiting while last minute glitches are ironed out.
  • Don’t add extra announcements and “fluff” that just draws out the event and isn’t relevant to everyone.

Both entrepreneurs and the audience should be given clear direction about the goals of the demo day event, so they can adjust their expectations accordingly!

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Image courtesy of Nikki Navta.


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