What a week! On Tuesday I drove to Austin for the Clean Energy Venture Summit.This was my first road trip in the Smart car and it left me with several impressions. First, it is very comfortable to be and drive in. Second, because it is a city car, it has no cruise control, which makes it understandably poorly suited for long trips. Third, you can definitely feel the low power on the highway when it slows down on inclines–that never happened in my 270-horse power SLK! Fourth, the gas mileage is great; I got well over 40 MPG on the highway. And finally, it really does open up parking options that would be out of the question in most other cars!
Wednesday morning I met with a journalist from Greentech Media, a publication I have followed for many months. It was a thrill to be interviewed by Jeff St. John, their Smart Grid specialist. As expected, he was extremely knowledgeable and had great insight into the entire space in which Enistic is playing. It was a great conversation, after which I felt even more energized about what we are doing–a good way to start off the two-day summit.
The rest of the day was spent learning about current Smart Grid trends, opportunities, and potential future scenarios–exciting stuff! In the evening there was a reception at City Hall hosted by the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Although I thought I wouldn’t know anyone there, that turned out not to be the case at all. Immediately upon arrival I bumped into a classmate of mine from university who now works for an Austin-based VC. Shortly after that a classmate of mine from high school came over to say hi–he now works for a Bay area VC and would even be on the VC panel for the following day’s pitch competition! Small world! I also met many other people there as it was a pretty friendly bunch.
Afterward, instead of going out, I stayed in and rehearsed my pitch. Although I consider myself a pretty good extemporaneous speaker, especially when I’m as passionate about something as I am about Enistic, IMD taught me that I am all that much better at presenting when I am well prepared. The next day I would have only five minutes to present a compelling vision of our company, why what we’re doing is worthwhile, and how investors will realize major returns–both economic and “green” returns. Therefore I needed to be dead on about making each and every point, holding it just long enough for emphasis, and then moving on to ensure I stayed within time limits.
Thursday morning began early! I arrived at the UT McCombs School of Business AT&T Conference Center at 6 AM to run through my pitch. It may have been a bit overkill but I really wanted to ensure that they had the right version of my powerpoint and that everything showed up/transitioned well on the large projection screen. My pre-run went flawlessly so I felt kind of sheepish being there so early, but I would much rather that than the sheepish feeling of beginning my pitch only to realize that the powerpoint is the wrong version, as happened to one of the other presenters later in the day.
The morning was great and the company pitches were quite compelling. It felt wonderful to be surrounded by so many passionate, knowledgeable people who had similar goals of creating great businesses that do a lot of good for the world. I had an opportunity throughout the day to meet most of the presenters too and my impression is that they are all top notch individuals.
Lunch came and went but I didn’t have much appetite as I grew a little nervous before my afternoon pitch. This always happens: I know the presentation backward and forward but I get butterflies in advance. The butterflies build to a crescendo right before I start and I can literally feel my heart in my throat. Then, all of a sudden, BAM, I’m in the zone and it usually comes off really well. The same pattern has emerged before every performance I’ve ever given–including performances on the football field–and I absolutely revel in it. I love the feeling of nervous anticipation beforehand, the zen in the moment, and the feeling of triumph afterward.
Long story short: the pitch went really well. There were 400+ attendees out there and it felt great to share with them the grand vision for Enistic. After the pitch we had 10 minutes of Q&A from the VC panel and I was excited that the VCs had many questions for me and that their questions indicated significant interest. After the pitch, several people took me aside to compliment me on the pitch, which felt great. In the end, we didn’t win the pitch competition, which I consider a failure. It was definitely one of my goals. However, we did receive a great deal of follow-up from potential investors, business partners, and employees, so I still think it was a strong net positive.
With the Summit over, I celebrated by meeting several friends from Rice at Chuy’s, a tex mex institution. The Texas Martini, stuffed/fried avocado, and creamy jalapeno sauce reminded me how much I missed this cuisine while I was in Switzerland! Afterward we went to a wine bar in a beat-up shack nearby. Austin is definitely weird–and I love it!
Friday morning I woke up and was thrilled to see two pieces of news: first, the Greentech Media article on us had been published. Second, IMD was ranked #2 in the world by The Economist. Bolstered by the good start, I breezed back to Houston, where I met with an interested investor. All-in-all I’d say it was a great week for Enistic!
The weekend was much more laid back. Katie’s sister and cousin were in town so we spent most of our time with them. The weather was cool and gorgeous, perfect for walking around outside and watching football inside. It was also my nephew’s birthday AND I learned that my mother received a major award, so reasons to celebrate abounded! Next week will be very hectic as we kick Enistic into high gear. In the meantime, though, I am absolutely loving life!