Battery Ventures held its first Entrepreneurship and Venture Creation Workshop in Tel Aviv on July 1 and 2 (see VC Café’s previous coverage of the workshop here). For Battery, the workshop served two main purposes: (1) to enable the firm to ‘give back’ to the Israeli entrepreneurial community amidst a challenging funding environment; and (2) to enable the firm’s investment professionals to meet and evaluate the entrepreneurial talent that is currently working on, or considering launching, early stage technology ventures in Israel.
The workshop participants, of which there were about 30, brought diverse experience and expertise to the table – from young entrepreneurs with just a few years of experience in the consumer web, to seasoned executives with decades of experience in semiconductors, telecommunications and enterprise software. The group diversity was beneficial because it enabled participants to share their first hand experiences of working at companies operating in different domains and at different phases of development.
The workshop was conducted by Danny Warshay using the Socratic method.
Danny is an entrepreneur, investor and Brown University Professor of Entrepreneurship, and has recently held similar workshops in China, Egypt and Portugal. The workshop discussions centered on a series of Harvard Business School case studies, and related reading materials, pertaining to four companies: R&R, ProfitLogic (a Battery portfolio company), E-Ink and Celtel International.
We opened each case study discussion with an analysis of the venture in question using the People, Opportunity, Context and Deals (POCD) model outlined in the Harvard Business Review article ‘Some Thoughts on Business Plans’. Each case study raised a different set of management challenges that the participants were asked to consider, including dilemmas relating to business model shifts and financing decisions. Particularly valuable was Danny’s ability to link the case study companies with his experience and contacts – he has personally dealt with entrepreneurs/managers that feature in three out of the four cases. Also interesting was the VC perspective provided by David Sokolic, a Senior Associate at Battery, who sat in on the sessions and actively engaged in the discussions. In some instances David was able to draw parallels between the experiences of the entrepreneurs/managers featured in the case studies and the experiences of entrepreneurs/managers at Battery portfolio companies.
In addition to the engaging discussions surrounding the issues raised in the case studies, the workshop provided an opportunity for participants to network and learn from one another about domains outside of their own areas of expertise. The networking dinner that was held on day one was attended by the Israel-based Battery investment team and some of their portfolio company CEOs, including Pursway CEO, Elery Pfeffer.
I found it especially interesting to learn that, as part of the due diligence process, VCs speak with many (sometimes 40+) potential customers and partners in order to validate the claims put forward by entrepreneurs. While this may sound obvious, it is crucial for entrepreneurs to do their own bottom-up market research to make sure that they have a really good understanding of the pain points of the customers that they intend to serve. Not only will this improve the likelihood of venture success, it will also boost your credibility in the eyes of potential investors as they validate (rather than reject) your claims during the due diligence process.
For Battery, the ROI for the Workshop will be difficult to quantify. However, over time I expect that it will yield significant dividends in the form of early access to investment opportunities that may have otherwise gone under Battery’s radar. My own knowledge of Battery was limited prior to the workshop, but I now have an understanding of the firm’s culture, operating model and focus areas, and I encourage entrepreneurs that are ready and suitable for venture financing to consider reaching out to the firm. As demonstrated in the HBS case studies discussed during the workshop, entrepreneurs encounter all kinds of challenges when taking a company from concept to scale; the concept of receiving additional guidance from actively-engaged investors that have already helped entrepreneurs through similar challenges is appealing.
By: Geoffrey Mugliston