By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold
Irina: So, let’s talk about how entrepreneurs can reach Keiretsu Forum.
Randy: The best way, if they’ve never been to Keiretsu Forum, is to go online. We have a very simple process to apply, and then what happens is we then introduce them to a committee that is in their vertical. For instance, software, that would go to our software committee, if it’s a clean tech opportunity, it goes to our clean tech committee, and so forth. But we also like to have serious companies that are ready for funding or ready to go through the process . . . we invite them to come meet our community. And so, we like to slow down the process, even though most entrepreneurs are in a hurry to raise capital. We like to have them come and watch first.
We always make slots for at least 2%–3% of the attendees [because] we like to have future presenters come watch and get to meet our members. And then that will, determine if, in fact, they’re ready, and also ascertain if they want to go to the next step and present to us. It’s not easy for entrepreneurs. We have great empathy for entrepreneurs trying to raise capital in this market. But we also think that through their coming to the forums to meet the members, they’ll establish relationships and see how the process works.
So, the first step, to answer your question is to fill out the application online, then we reach out, and if the entrepreneurs have the time and bandwidth to come to the forums during the monthly cycles, so they can see for themselves who’s in the room, all the questions being addressed, and also see the process and how we do things. And then they’ll apply and again, then what happens is it goes to the committee system, and then the top companies are selected to the screening day, and then top companies from screening come to the forum.
So, getting back to my example, we receive approximately 50 companies a month in Northern California, choose the top 10 from the committees that recommend the top 10 companies, those companies come to a screening day, where we have 30 of our members gathered. Those companies have 15 minutes to present, each of which eight minutes is core presentation and seven minutes of Q&A. Then we have a private voting system to determine which companies will make it. We don’t want anybody to see anybody’s vote and want to make sure it’s extremely fair for all entrepreneurs who come to us. And then the top four or five companies make the forum each month.
Irina: What happens to the companies that don’t make the forum?
Randy: Great question. We care deeply about debriefing with every entrepreneur, and so we write copious notes, which we give to them. This is all of course free. And we give that information back to the entrepreneurs to say, The reasons you didn’t make it are the following . . . however, these are all the notes and all the comments that were made about your company. It’s pretty in depth, you know, some of the comments about a company can be four or five pages long. One thing that’s very important to us is that we give them milestones to reach. And what I’m very proud of, is of the 265 companies over the past ten years that we have funded, at least 10% of those companies did not make the screening day or were rejected, so to speak, at the committee level. It’s really not easy to make it the forum, but once you do, there’s a good shot at funding. But, conversely, if you don’t make the forum and you’re put on a bubble and/or you’re asked to meet those milestones, I’m very proud to say a lot of those companies have come back and made the forum and have received funding.