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Early-stage founders and conferences: to go or not to go

Four Velocity startup founders met in Boston in September to attend the RESI Conference. Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) is a conference specifically designed to connect start-ups and early-stage investors and strategic channel partners in the health industry. Before attending, the four companies: Vessl, TAMVOES, Liberum Bio and Kenota Health had extensively prepped with Velocity Health advisor, Moazam Khan, on how to make the most out of the conference.

Should early-stage founders attend conferences?

Between packed days and limited resources to spend on travel expenses, founders can have a hard time deciding whether attending a conference is worth the cost.

The answer is: it depends.

To get the most out of a conference, you need to understand why you are going. If you are trying to find investors or strategic partners, do you already know who will be at the conference and can you set up meetings with them ahead of time? Which external events will they attend and can you get an invitation?

“While we are not raising investment right now, we wanted to start building relationships early, especially with angels and VCs in the US. That’s the angle we approached the conference from,” recalled Sydney Robinson, co-founder at Vessl Prosthetics.

“The conference had a platform where you could look up attendees and set up meetings. We could look at the different investors attending to see if they aligned with our company before reaching out to connect and set up meetings.”

If you are looking for clients on the other hand, you will need a solid strategy in place to ensure visibility, whether that is securing a speaker slot, purchasing a booth and filling it with appealing SWAG, or pre-ordering an industrial quantity of business cards to distribute.

“At Velocity, we worked with our founders ahead of time to ensure they maximise their time at the conference. Velocity worked with the founders on their pitch, securing meetings, and guiding them on techniques for success,” noted Moazam Khan, Velocity Health Lead Advisor, who also attended the conference alongside Velocity founders. “We put in extra effort to ensure the conference was a success for all.”

How to make the most of your time at a conference as a startup founder?

Still trying to decide if you should attend the next conference? We gathered tips from our founders on how you can best prepare to make the most of your time there.

Set up meetings ahead of time

“Moazam, our Velocity advisor, encouraged us to go and reach out to investors ahead of time to set up in-person meetings. We had two people on our team reach out to investors and potential partners and started receiving positive responses about a week before the conference started, and even some last minute responses while we were at the conference”, commented Jessica Lunshof, TAMVOES Co-Founder & President 

Network while you are there

“I jumped up at the end of the first panel, asked the conference speaker if he had time for a coffee and he took me up on it. Most investors were happy to answer one or two questions after their talk, especially if you asked questions during the panel. We also made a lot of very good connections at the conference with some of the sponsors and people who had a booth there,” noted Sydney.

There is strength in number

By having other Velocity founders at the conference, our founders were able to cover more ground. 

“While there, we met some of the other Velocity founders. There was a real sense of community. We looked out for each other while we were there. Other founders were telling us ‘you should talk to this person’ or ‘have you been to that booth yet’,” remarked Sydney.

The right advisors truly make a difference

“Moazam, our Velocity advisor, helped us get grants to cover travel, urged us ahead of time to connect with investors, helped us get meetings, even on site. He was very present throughout the entire month leading up to it and even during the conference. If I just went to the conference by myself, I wouldn’t even have gotten the same value,” shared Jessica.

“We wouldn’t have known the conference existed without Velocity. Moazam really helped us facilitate some funding through MITACS, connecting us with another incubator in Boston that sponsored our grant application. He also answered a lot of questions on how to maximise our time at the conference and was very present during the conference,” finished Sydney.

At Velocity, we worked with our founders ahead of time to ensure they maximise their time at the conference. Velocity worked with the founders on their pitch, securing meetings, and guiding them on techniques for success.

Moazam Khan, Velocity Health, Lead advisor

Vessl, TAMVOES, Liberum Bio and Kenota Health are supported by Velocity in parts through the Southwestern Ontario Health Innovation Partnership program.