The Value of the Demo

It nearly always helps for me to see a startup’s demo when the founders of a company are giving a pitch to us at Masthead. Even if it is a canned demo or just a movie of what the software/service/product would look like, this visual representation is nearly always beneficial. For me, the value of the demo isn’t to help me comprehend the service itself, but rather to help me take that understanding as given and visualize beyond it. Rather than expending mental energy on translating a concept into how it could manifest itself, a demo (even if not fully baked) allows me to apply those mental resources on what it really means to have a full working product (whether that’s now or in the future). From there, I can more clearly see the potential of a business and the steps required to make it a reality. And it provides a lot of signal value as to how the team can transform/execute ideas into tangible product. I’ve been in many meetings where I understood theoretically where a company was aiming, but until I saw a raw demo of how that could translate, I didn’t fully see the company vision.

(I value demos so much that I’ve centered much of the Boston Web Innovators Group meetings, which I organize, on them. And it’s no surprise to me that one of the premier conferences for launching new emerging companies does as well.)

This simple tool that brings meetings forward in a way that others can’t, and I am surprised that more entrepreneurs don’t use it more effectively in an investor pitches, prospective customer situation, or in public relations forums. The risks in doing so, however, are real in all of these situations. Troubled execution of presenting a demo can at the very least change the tone of the meeting, or at the worst, significantly hurt it. Preparedness is the mantra here, but of course that should go without saying. For a new start-up’s demo, seeing isn’t necessarily believing, but it is a good first step on the road towards it.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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