March 28, 2018

SXSW 2018: AI and VR Go Mainstream

The SXSW conference offers an opportunity to meet startups at the forefront of innovation, and participate in the discussions that are shaping the future of tech. Once again, we hosted a cocktail reception for investors and entrepreneurs, and this year Verizon Ventures Israel’s Managing Director, Merav Rotem Naaman, spoke on a panel about the role CVCs play in the startup ecosystem.

Tech That Drove SXSW Buzz

SXSW is where emerging tech is first previewed and this year there were four trends that dominated discussions and keynotes all over Austin. Capturing attention were advances in artificial intelligence (AI), new blockchain startups and applications, innovations in robotics and drone tech as well as advances in virtual reality (VR), which is starting to go beyond entertainment into media and education.

#VZVSpeakeasy Reception

Verizon Ventures hosted our fourth annual cocktail reception at the start of the interactive portion of the conference with the goal of connecting investors, entrepreneurs, marketers and others in the startup ecosystem. This year’s speakeasy-themed reception – featuring bespoke cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a unique, animated photo booth – was our most popular one to date with over 500 RSVPs.

Corporate VC Panel: The Firms, The Myths, The Legends

This year, Merav Rotem Naaman, who leads Verizon Ventures’ Israel office, participated in a panel entitled, “Corporate Venture Capital (CVC): The Firms, The Myths, The Legends.” Moderated by TechCrunch’s Katie Roof, Merav was joined by Bernhard Gold from Iris Capital and Orange Fab’s Guillaume Payan, and discussed a host of topics from the rise of CVCs to benefits of working with a corporate venture firm and answered questions from an audience of roughly 200 attendees.

We’ve captured a few of the best practices discussed during the panel below:

  • Get Personal. More often than not, CVCs source deals from inside their existing networks. Prior to approaching CVCs, the panelists all agreed that entrepreneurs should work to raise their visibility within a specific industry and make connections with other founders. This will help identify entry points into the CVC networks. 

  • Focus Your Outreach. Understand who the right investor is at the CVC for your particular vertical and only reach out to that person. You may think you’re increasing your odds of getting a meeting by reaching out to multiple partners, but you’re actually decreasing your chances of getting funding by showing that you haven’t done sufficient research into the CVC and its investors.

  • Operate to the Highest Standard. The tech startup scene is relatively small and tight knit. While this network proves useful for CVCs to source deals, it also makes it difficult for entrepreneurs and CVCs to hide skeletons in the closet. So be open and honest about past mistakes, emphasizing how you’ve learned from them and where you / your business have improved. The once popular term “fake it till you make it,” no longer applies. 

  • Practice Your Pitch - A Lot. Entrepreneurs need to boil down their business strategy to a 5-10 minute presentation, so keeping it short and simple is important. And while practicing your pitch may seem redundant, it should be taken seriously and be practiced for months. CVCs will take note of your pitch perfection.  

  • Knowledge is Power. It’s frustrating to CVCs to listen to an irrelevant pitch. CVCs invest with a strategic corporate focus in mind and their portfolio will be a representation of that vision. Prior to entering a pitch (CVC or not!), research the company and person(s) you are pitching, ensuring you understand your audience. Incorporate that knowledge into your pitch, demonstrating how your business and product will provide strategic value within the CVC. 

Listen to the full panel discussion here.

Tags: Venture Capital , Andrew Der , SXSW , Virtual Reality , Artificial Intelligence , AI , VR , event recap , CVC , Merav Rotem Naaman