Each semester, after the teams and their companies have had a few meetings to refine their concepts and pitches, InSITE hosts an Alumni Advising Event. The aim of the event is to invite former InSITE fellows to hear the pitches, offer feedback, and meet our current roster of entrepreneurs and fellows.
This semester’s event was held on Tuesday, February 25, at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. We tried a different format this time: in the past we’ve had all of the current companies attend. Alumni would mill around from room to room, listening to pitches and giving on-the-spot feedback. This format gave the entrepreneurs the benefit of a rapid-fire set of reactions from multiple viewpoints and what was essentially a real-time dress rehearsal for their VC pitches. To experiment with a different structure this semester, however, we limited the event to the three Tuesday teams (Bandvest, Klickable, and ProtEquity), and encouraged our guests to narrow their focus to one or two of the teams.
Despite some seriously inclement weather, a few hardy alumni were undeterred, and a number of InSITE execs, senior fellows, and Wednesday team members came out as well.
Mike Kasdan (2001 alum), an intellectual property lawyer at Amster, Rothstein & Ebenstein, joined the Klickable team, along with Wednesday team members Ben Zhuk and Sean Weinstock. Senior fellows and execs sat in as well: Rob Schneider, Katherine Chung, and me (Tim Cohan).
Mike was kind enough to give us his thoughts on the event from the alumni perspective: “It was a great opportunity to reconnect and brainstorm with the team to help refine the Klickable pitch. It was also a great reminder of what I had loved about InSITE as a student participant – working with smart, motivated people, who bring a variety of skill-sets and perspectives to the table, to assist real entrepreneurs to build cutting edge businesses.” Team leader Mike Dibenedetto, who kept the meeting focused and moving along, was pleased to have Mike’s input; he says generally that the alumni feedback was “invaluable…it gave us a chance to hear what was working and what wasn’t from people who had deep experience with pitching entrepreneurial ventures.”
Molly Siems (InSITE 2007) brought her media interests and expertise to Bandvest, a company she sees as “super promising;” according to Kat Chung, Molly’s contributions garnered rave reviews among the team. “We heart Molly” was apparently the consensus. Of course, the benefits of reaching out to alumni clearly run both ways; Molly says that she’s “really grateful to have such an awesome network of people to bounce ideas off of and definitely get as much as I give.” Special thanks also to Marisa Tricarico (a Wednesday team member who just can’t stay away from an InSITE event), who lent her feedback to the Bandvest team as well. Following up with his thoughts on the event, team leader Dan Harman notes that Marisa and Molly’s input and suggestions were “invaluable.”
Along with alum Sam Sagalnik, InSITE Chairman Paul Tumpowsky lent his input to the ProtEquity, which he describes as “a very interesting company… a true financial technology firm, an ideal fit for the New York City venture ecosystem.” Paul adds that he’s confident that with the assistance of the InSITE team he saw in action, “ProtEquity will be able to articulate its unique and valuable solution in a competitive and ever-changing space.”
The happy hour at Cassidy’s afterward was lively as usual, and gave us all a chance to relax and connect with the alumni in a more informal setting. We were pleased to see Vinay Patel and Geoff Reed (both InSITE 2009) made it out to have a drink and meet some of the new fellows as well.
Thanks again to the alumni and senior fellows that braved a cold, wet evening to join us. If any of those reading this have more thoughts on how it went, ideas for future alumni advising events, or people I’ve forgotten to note or thank, please post them here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Tim Cohan, VP Internal 2009-2010