Should You Go to Startup Event? + How to Get to Most Out of It

Benjamin Debonneville
Founder & CEO
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In the buzzing world of startups, one of the most challenging aspects is undoubtedly securing the necessary funding to turn groundbreaking products or ideas into tangible reality.

It's a high-stakes, high-pressure environment where every connection, every pitch, and every interaction can be a game-changer. This is where startup fundraising conferences come into play.

Startup fundraising conferences are more than just events; they are a golden opportunity to meet the investors, venture capitalists, and fellow entrepreneurs who can provide not only the funds, but also the guidance, connections, and mentorship required to navigate the complex entrepreneurial landscape.

Having said that, as per recent stats, there are over 3000 startup conferences taking place globally each year, you might think attending as many as possible is a surefire path to success. However, that's not always the case.

While these events can indeed serve as powerful platforms for fundraising and networking, it's not about quantity, but quality. Yes, you should absolutely attend startup fundraising conferences, but remember - it's about selecting the right ones and maximizing your experience there.

Why Attend Startup Conferences for Fundraising?

Investing in a startup conference means parting with at least a cool $1k. This includes travel costs, booking or registration, food, accommodation, etc. You might wonder if that expenditure is truly justifiable. Should you be putting your hard-earned money into these events?

To answer this, we must consider the benefits such conferences offer. Primarily, startup fundraising conferences are about far more than just presentations and workshops.

These conferences are a unique breed of event, designed specifically to bridge the gap between innovative startups and potential investors. The value these events can offer goes far beyond the initial investment.

Here are some key reasons why attending these conferences can significantly benefit your fundraising endeavors.

  • Networking: Conferences are networking goldmines, offering the opportunity to connect with investors, venture capitalists, and fellow entrepreneurs. These are the people who can provide not just funding but also invaluable advice and connections.
  • Learning Opportunity: These events often feature speakers and panel discussions with successful entrepreneurs and investors. Attendees can gain insights into the latest trends, strategies, and practices in startup fundraising.
  • Pitching: Many conferences offer startups the chance to pitch their ideas to a room full of potential investors. This is a unique platform to attract interest and possibly secure funding on the spot.
  • Visibility: By attending these conferences, startups increase their visibility within the investor community. This can lead to future opportunities for funding, collaboration, or mentorship.
  • Market Feedback: Interacting with investors, industry experts, and other startups provides an excellent opportunity to get feedback on your business model, products, or services.

While conferences demand an investment of time and resources, the potential return can far outweigh these costs if you choose wisely and prepare effectively.

Now, let's dig deep into the types of conferences you can attend.

What Types of Startup Conferences Can You Attend?

There are various types of startup conferences that you can attend for fundraising purposes. These conferences often bring together entrepreneurs, investors, industry experts, and other key stakeholders in the startup ecosystem.

Here are some common types of startup conferences you can consider:

Pitch Competitions

These conferences focus on pitching your startup idea or business to a panel of judges, potential investors, and a live audience. Examples include TechCrunch Disrupt's Startup Battlefield, SXSW Pitch, and Slush.

Pitch competitions provide a platform to showcase your startup's idea or business model to a panel of judges and potential investors. Winning a pitch competition can not only provide prize money but also attract investor attention.

For example, the winner of TechCrunch Disrupt's Startup Battlefield receives a significant cash prize and gains visibility in the startup community, leading to potential investment opportunities.

Investor Conferences

These conferences are specifically designed to connect startups with potential investors. They provide opportunities for networking, one-on-one meetings, and pitch sessions. Some notable events in this category include Web Summit, The Montgomery Summit, and The Venture Capital World Summit.

Investor conferences are designed to connect startups with potential investors. These events offer networking opportunities, one-on-one meetings, and dedicated pitch sessions where you can present your business directly to investors.

By participating in these conferences, you can build relationships with investors who may be interested in funding your startup. The Web Summit, for instance, attracts a wide range of investors from around the world, offering ample networking opportunities for startups.

Industry-Specific Conferences

These conferences are centered around specific industries or sectors, such as technology, healthcare, finance, or sustainability. They gather startups, investors, and experts with a focus on that particular industry.

Examples include CES (Consumer Electronics Show), HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), and Money20/20 (fintech and payments).

Industry-specific conferences allow you to connect with investors who have a particular interest in your sector. These events often feature panel discussions, keynote speeches, and networking sessions that bring together entrepreneurs and investors in your industry.

For example, attending HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) as a healthcare startup can help you meet investors focused on the healthcare sector.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conferences

These conferences cover a broader range of startup-related topics, including entrepreneurship, innovation, and emerging trends. They often include sessions on fundraising strategies, networking opportunities, and mentorship. Some well-known events in this category are The Next Web Conference, Startup Grind Global Conference, and Collision.

These conferences provide valuable insights into entrepreneurship, innovation, and emerging trends. While they may not directly focus on fundraising, they offer opportunities for networking with investors, mentors, and other startups.

By making connections and sharing your startup's vision and progress, you can attract potential investors. Collision, for instance, brings together startups, investors, and industry leaders, creating an environment conducive to fundraising.

Accelerator and Incubator Demo Days

Many startup accelerators and incubators host demo days as part of their programs. These events provide a platform for their portfolio companies to showcase their progress to a curated audience of investors. Examples include Y Combinator Demo Day, Techstars Demo Day, and 500 Startups Demo Day.

If your startup is part of an accelerator or incubator program, demo days give you a chance to pitch your progress and achievements to a curated audience of investors. These events are specifically designed to showcase portfolio companies to potential investors and can lead to funding opportunities.

For example, Y Combinator Demo Day is known for attracting a large number of investors looking to identify promising startups.

Regional and Local Startup Events

Depending on your location, there might be regional or local startup events and conferences that focus on connecting startups with investors from that specific area.

These events offer opportunities to build local connections and gain visibility. Search for startup or entrepreneur associations, chambers of commerce, or business development organizations in your region to find relevant events.

It's worth noting that conference availability and formats may change over time, and some events may transition to virtual or hybrid formats due to factors like the COVID-19 pandemic or due to cost-effective measures.

Therefore, it's always a good idea to research and verify the latest information regarding specific conferences you're interested in attending.

Regional and local startup events provide an opportunity to connect with investors within your specific location. These events often have a more intimate setting, allowing for meaningful interactions and potential investment leads.

How to Evaluate a Startup Event Prior to Attendance

In the process of startup fundraising, choosing the right conference can be as vital as presenting a compelling pitch. It's not about attending all the conferences but attending the right ones - those that align with your startup's goals, industry, and stage of development.

The importance of doing your homework before attending is summed up by Florian Hübner, Founder of Startup Creator.

“The majority of people regret going to a conference. Why? Because they dont prepare beforehand – scheduling meetings with potential partners, and clients or being informed about the agenda, and then expect that everyone will be interested in their service or product. No chance! If you prepare and stand out of the crowd, its worth it.”

Therefore, a thoughtful evaluation of potential events prior to attendance is key.

Here are some of the vital areas you need to research before deciding to attend conferences.

What is the Event’s Focus?

One essential element to assess during your conference evaluation is the event's focus. This aspect could greatly determine whether the conference will provide value aligned with your startup's direction, or just be a fun but unproductive diversion.

The first step in discerning an event's focus involves deep diving into the purpose of the event. What do the organizers intend for the participants to gain? Is it a platform for networking, a showcase for groundbreaking technologies, or a hunting ground for new business opportunities?

To gauge the event’s focus, immerse yourself in all the information you can find. Comb through the event website, scour social media, and keep an eye on any pre-event activities. This will help you understand if the event resonates with your startup’s area of work.

Harit Soni, Founder, and Director, of Ecolibrium Energy says,

“I think the conferences which were useful to me were the ones that focused on specific topics such as fundraising, recruiting, scale up using partnerships, international expansion into a specific region, etc.”

Always ask yourself, "Will this event help build my brand and accelerate my fundraising efforts?" If the answer is a resounding yes, then you've likely found an event that aligns with your startup's niche and is worth your time and investment.

Relevancy to Your Business Niche

Choosing a conference relevant to your business niche isn't just a good-to-have—it's a must. Attending industry-specific events can lead to deeper connections, tailored learning opportunities, and valuable exposure to potential investors who already have an interest in your sector.

Sector-specific conferences often reap more benefits than those with a broader entrepreneurial theme. For instance, a startup in the med-tech sector might derive more value from a conference focused on healthcare innovations rather than a general tech conference.

Consider the words of renowned business thinker, Seth Godin, who says, "Conferences are not really about the talks, but about the people and the conversations." When these people and conversations are centered around your business niche, the impact is amplified.

These focused conferences can offer targeted insights, relevant networking, and opportunities that could catalyze your startup's growth. The participants at these events - the investors, the speakers, the fellow startups - are all likely to have a keen interest and expertise in your sector.

This not only elevates the discussions but also increases the chances of finding potential partners, collaborators, and investors who understand the value of your product or service and can contribute to your growth journey.

Coordination with Conference Attendees

Before you step into a startup fundraising conference, there's a gold mine of opportunities that you can tap into - pre-event networking. Mingling with attendees even before the event starts can add a strategic advantage to your conference experience.

Reach out to attendees or speakers via social media or email, seeking their insights and expectations for the event. This can equip you with a sense of what to anticipate.

Similarly, tap into pre-event resources like blog posts, podcasts, or interviews featuring event participants. These can serve as a window to valuable knowledge and help you prepare to maximize your time at the conference.

Make sure to explore any event-specific apps. They often house virtual forums for attendees to connect, discuss, and plan. Using these apps regularly can give you an inside look into the conference ecosystem and help identify key people you'd want to meet.

Consider these pre-event interactions as a headstart to meaningful networking. As startup guru Paul Graham puts it, "Startup success is a function of ideas, execution, and luck. And luck is a function of the volume of at-bats."

These coordinated interactions can be your additional 'at-bats', enhancing your chances of a home run at the conference!

What to Consider When Attending a Fundraising conference?

Attending a fundraising conference can be a pivotal moment for startups looking to raise capital, forge meaningful connections, and gain industry insights. However, to extract the most from these events, careful considerations need to be made.

  • Define Your Objectives: Start with clarity about what you aim to achieve from the conference. Are you there to network, gain knowledge, or secure investments? Your objectives will guide your actions and engagements throughout the event.
  • Know Your Audience: If you're pitching, ensure your presentation aligns with the interests and investment areas of the potential investors in attendance. The more tailored your pitch, the more impactful it will be.
  • Stay Open to Learning: Conferences often feature rich dialogues about industry trends and advancements. Soak in this knowledge to sharpen your startup's competitive edge.
  • Leverage Networking Opportunities: The people you meet could play crucial roles in your startup's journey. Be it potential investors, partners, or mentors, make it a point to forge meaningful connections.
  • Plan for Follow-ups: Your networking efforts shouldn’t end with the conference. Plan to reconnect with your new contacts post-event to solidify relationships and explore potential collaborations.

How to Maximize Success at a Startup Event

Startup fundraising conferences can be game-changing for your product or idea, but the trick lies in maximizing their potential. As venture capitalist Mark Suster puts it, "Success at a conference isn’t about how many cards you collected, but how many meaningful connections you made."

Here are some tips to maximize success toward your goal of fundraising at startup fundraising conferences.

Do Your Research

Knowledge is power, especially at a conference. Understand the attendee list, learn about the speakers, and familiarize yourself with the topics of discussion. This preparation helps you engage effectively, ask insightful questions, and identify valuable opportunities.

Bring Your Deck

Always be ready to pitch. Startup conferences often host potential investors who are on the lookout for exciting opportunities. Having a well-prepared, concise, and persuasive deck, even on a piece of paper, can be your golden ticket to securing an investor's interest.

Bring Your Team to Maximize the Outreach at the Event

Conferences are about collective efforts. By bringing your team along, you're able to cover more ground, attend parallel sessions, and connect with a broader network. This strategy also showcases your team dynamic to potential investors, an often overlooked aspect of attracting investment.

Set Your Goals

Establish clear, measurable objectives for the conference. These could range from meeting a specific number of potential investors to learning about a certain number of industry trends. Having concrete goals keeps you focused and productive.

Dress the Part

A professional appearance matters. Dressing appropriately for the event not only aids in making a positive first impression but also bolsters your confidence. When you look good, you feel good, and you perform well.

Follow up After the Event

The conference's end doesn't signify the end of your networking efforts. Make sure to follow up with the contacts you've made, and work towards converting those initial conversations into potential partnerships.

Post Event Follow Up

A startup fundraising conference doesn't end with the last session; it extends to the vibrant post-conference events that often take place.

These after-parties or social gatherings provide an opportunity to continue the discussions that began in the formal setting of a conference room. In a more relaxed atmosphere, you have the chance to connect more deeply with potential investors, partners, or mentors.

These casual conversations can sometimes lead to significant breakthroughs or insights. Plus, people often remember personal stories or experiences shared in such settings, which can help you stand out in their memory.

In addition, make sure to participate in post-conference workshops or roundtables if they are available. These sessions usually focus on specific topics, providing a more intimate environment for learning and networking.

Remember to continue the conversation online. Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can be invaluable tools for maintaining and growing the connections you've made at the conference.

In short, attending post-conference events and following up digitally can help you maximize your conference experience, extending its benefits well beyond the conference hall.


So, should you mark your calendar for that upcoming startup fundraising conference?

The definitive answer is an emphatic yes, but with a cautionary footnote: Be strategic. The opportunity to mingle with key industry players, potential investors, and kindred spirits is invaluable, but your startup budget isn't limitless, so it's essential to make each penny count.

Consider startup conferences as a launchpad, one that propels your startup toward its desired orbit. These events open doors to discussions with potential clients, partners, and investors that may be otherwise tricky to initiate.

Remember, the idea is not just to attend, but to actively participate and engage in dialogue that resonates with your business.

Dive deep into the event's focus – does it align with your product, idea, or market? If yes, you've found your arena to pitch, present, and participate. Conferences are less about cold calling and more about warm conversations that can lead to valuable partnerships or funding opportunities.

In summary, attending startup fundraising conferences is not merely about securing a seat in the auditorium. It's about engaging, networking, learning, and leveraging every available opportunity, from focused sessions to after-parties. Because in the end, it's not just about being present at the conference - it's about making your presence felt.

Embrace the chaos, seize the opportunity, and step into a world of endless potential.

Benjamin gave great tips to my start-up Blend for polishing and optimising my pitch deck, refreshing perspective. Recommend!