I went to Larry's Reverse VC Pitch Party at SXSW 2010. It was one of the worst events I have ever attended. The expectations for the event was set early, right on the registration page. http://www.eventbrite.com/event/543006146
VCs are here to charm you.
Normally, you pitch VCs. Well at this event the VCs will be pitching you. Think of it as Sadie Hawkins night for entrepreneurs.
From the quote above and the name of the event I thought, for some strange reason, that VCs would pitch me. If you don't know what a VC is check out this Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venture_capital
In general the VCs invest in young companies with the hopes that when they grow up the companies will make them a lot of money. So really if all goes well it's a win-win situation, theoretically.
Now back to my experience. I paid close to $60 for my ticket for this event. Seeing as I wanted to get my money's worth I showed up about 20 minutes early. The Pitch Party was held in the back room of Roy's, a restaurant next to the Austin Convention Center. As I made my way to the back room I noticed Larry Chiang sitting in the restaurant with several women. I figured he was finishing up a dinner meeting before the party. At the registration desk there where two lovely ladies that help me sign in.
Neither of them knew what the agenda was for that night. That's because it was never given to them. I figured I was early and that Larry should be in shortly to give all of us the skinny. As I waited, more and more people showed up. We talked and we ate the food that was provided, but nothing other than that was going on. After 15 minutes after the start of the event I decided to talk with the registration desk again. There was no new information, but it was suggested that I speak with Larry, who was still sitting at his table in the restaurant.
I took their advice and walked up to the table. Here is what transpired.
Me: Larry I just have a quick question.
Larry: No! You had plenty of time to text me before this! This is my time now!
Me: I just wanted to know...
Larry: Give me a minute. Give me a minute! Give me a minute!!! GIVE ME A MINUTE!!!!
He was obviously going through something, so I walked away. I waited by the registration desk and gave him a minute. I waited another 15 minutes, and he never approached me. While I was waiting two women came out of the event and join me at the registration table. I over heard them talking. One wants to leave, and one wants to stay to see if any others will show up. That's what happened, one left and one stayed.
I chatted up the lady that stuck around. Turns out that she was one of the sponsors for the Reverse VC Pitch Party. She was part of a group that supports women entrepreneurs. She wanted to see if any more of her members would show up. She was not at all happy with how things were going. We discussed weither we should leave or stay. That's when I chose not to just sit back and take it. I was going to go back into that room and make VCs pitch me, and she was with me.
I came up with a plan. Walk up to the attendees and if they where a VC to go to the front of the room, and if they where an entrepreneur to go to the back of the room. That's just what I did, and told them that the pitching would start in 15 minutes. I was almost done with talking to everyone in the whole room when I felt someone grab my arm. It was Larry.
Larry: What are you doing?
Me: Organizing your event.
Larry: When you throw your own event then you can organize it. This is my party. VCs are telling me that they are going to have to start pitching. I told them that they wouldn't have to do anything.
Me: Well isn't that the point?
Larry: Either stop what you're doing now and we can be friends, or leave now.
Me: I came to have VCs pitch me, and that's what I want to happen.
Larry: Did you pay?
Larry: How much did you pay?
Me: I don't know, about $60.
Larry: I'll give you $100 to leave right now.
Me: Um... Okay.
Larry: Fine, here's $100. Now leave.
(He then grabs my arm again and pulls me towards the door)
(I wiggle free)
Me: Hey! You don't have to man-handle me. I said I'll leave.
Larry: Then leave.
(I start to work my way through the crowd, then I remeber my helper. I really need to tell her I'm leaving.)
Me: Oh, I need to tell...
Larry: No leave now!
(He puts his hand on my back and pushes)
Me: Okay, okay!
(We make it to the front desk. I lean over and say...)
Me: Thank you for all...
(He grabs me, and now we are on our way through the resteraunt. A few feet from the front door, he jolts me to a stop.)
Larry: Let's take a picture.
(There was a photographer in the lobby and she takes a picture.)
Larry: Now that's what it looks like to be kicked out of my party.
I left. That was the first time I have ever been thrown out of a party. I was mad, but at least I got a story out of it, and made money at the same time. I moved on to the next party. I talked to some people later that night that knew Larry. I wanted to get their take on the guy. The person I talked to had some mixed feelings about him. He was described as really bad at times and great on other occasions.
The next day I was back in the Convention Center. I was in the hallway talking to one of the SXSW volenteers when around the corner Larry comes around.
Larry: Did you like that?
Me: Like what?
Larry: Me kicking you out of my party.
He then walked away. That was his last words to me. His Reverse VC Pitch Party was not as published. It was just an unstructured networking event in which he charged VCs, entrepreneurs, and took money from sponsors. To me, that sounds like a scam.