The VC Will See You Now at the “World’s Largest Office Hours”
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what we’re doing wrong, and how to fix it,” says Frankovich. “The secondary thing is that we want to meet a lot of VC firms and find some that might be interested in our company.”
Frankovich and Pettler hope that their selection for the office hours event is a sign that venture firms are warming up to hardware-driven businesses. “We are absolutely not naïve to the fact that when we go to a startup convention, there are like, three hardware projects and everyone else is an app, especially here in the Bay Area,” Frankovich says. “So it’s kind of cool to be accepted into things like this, because we are going up against really interactive, low-overhead kinds of companies.”
In Portland, OR, entrepreneur Huston Hedinger runs one of those low-overhead companies. Formerly known as Wikisway, it’s been rechristened Graph Alchemists as of today, and Hedinger will also be giving his pitch in San Francisco next week.
“We provide a graph infrastructure as a service to large enterprises and all the way down to startups,” Hedinger says. Graph databases—which store data as a collection of nodes and edges, rather than rows and columns—are one of the hottest things in the big-data world these days: they’re behind services like Google’s Knowledge Graph and Facebook’s Graph Search.
“The big challenge to make use of the power of graphs is that you have to have a solid understanding of what a graph is, at the academic level, and then you have to understand how to use it,” Hedinger says. “We allow people to make use of graph databases in their own applications.”
Graph Alchemists has raised $200,000 in seed funding from angel investors and the Portland Seed Fund, and was recently admitted to the Atlanta, GA-based startup incubator Civic Accelerator. But to scale up, Hedinger knows his startup will have to look beyond the accelerator world, and beyond Portland.
That’s why he applied to attend the NVCA office hours event. “I don’t expect to walk out of the meetings with a check in hand,” he says. “If we happen to meet a VC that is participating at the seed stage and they want to talk more, great. But I think any smart entrepreneur would take it as a learning opportunity—a chance to talk more with these folks who you usually have limited access to.”
Ganesan, who reviewed all of the startup applications, says it’s a strong group. “I am sure that 5 to 10 percent of this class will end up raising venture money from someone,” he says. “We will capture what happened, and at office hours in 2014 I am confident we will be surprised at how many high-quality companies emerged.”
Attending the office hours event is seemingly all upside for the entrepreneurs. But what’s in it for the venture partners? I put it to Ganesan that a jaded observer might see it as a ploy by the participating VCs to get an early look at a whole bunch of companies at once—a compressed and efficient way to do something their LPs expect them to do anyway.
“I can totally see why you would think that,” he said. “But let me tell you, sourcing is not a problem for most VCs. Most of us have to say no [to meeting requests] 90 percent of the time. So, to me, this is not about making our jobs easier. This is really about that woman entrepreneur in Florida or Detroit who doesn’t know anyone in venture capital, who hasn’t had friends who were backed by VCs, to go and show what she is doing. This is what makes the office hours special.”