2019 Innovation Showcase Delivers Powerful Results for Presenting Startup

By: Emily Angold, ACA Marketing Manager

The annual Innovation Showcase at the ACA Summit can be a crucial event for participating startup companies to make lasting connections that will ultimately lead to new opportunities.  Companies are nominated by organizations - ACA member angel groups, venture funds, accelerators, and universities government agencies or trade commissions - and selected to make a brief presentation to the entire ACA Summit audience.  Participating companies also spend two and a half days networking, connecting and learning more on how angel investors really think about opportunities across the board.  The “showcase” represents an incredible chance for these underwriters to showcase their best portfolio companies to the angel investors and startup ecosystem leaders at the Summit. 

ExpressCells, sponsored by Keiretsu Forum Mid-Atlantic, knows firsthand how important the Innovation Showcase can be to develop new relationships with ACA Summit attendees.  ExpressCells, a genetic engineering company based in Philadelphia, strives to improve drug development and basic biological research by creating better cell lines with its gene-insertion technology.  Matt Handel, Chief Executive Officer, describes how ExpressCells’ participation in the 2019 Innovation Showcase has influenced recent progress:

Can you describe your Innovation Showcase experience?

We had a very positive experience at the 2019 Innovation Showcase.  Most importantly, it was a great opportunity to meet many different people and potential investors.  Someone once said that when you are seeking first round funding, you will receive 120 “no’s” and maybe two “yesses.”  The more exposure your company receives, the more likely you will be to get those two yesses.  The Innovation Showcase provided this exposure.

How has your participation in the Innovation Showcase benefited your company?

The most direct way the Innovation Showcase benefited ExpressCells is that we were able to make connections with angel groups attending the Summit that were interested in investing in us.  We would have never been able to make these connections or meet these investors without this event.  Our participation resulted in discussions with several groups and even led to funding.

How did your pitch coach help you prepare?

Angela Jackson of Portland Seed Fund was our pitch coach and she was extremely helpful for the event preparation.  She guided us as we developed our presentation and had valuable feedback on how to communicate with the crowd in a way they understood and with which they could connect.  Our presentation was less about detailed company information and more about answering questions that investors might have as they decided which companies interested them as funding opportunities.  With only a few minutes to present, you can’t waste a word!

What advice would you give to a startup participating in the Innovation Showcase for the first time?

My advice would be to remember that it isn’t just about winning (although, that is nice too), it is about meeting new people, making connections and building those relationships.  A 90 second pitch isn’t going to make anyone invest, but it is enough to start a conversation.  The primary focus is to get exposure and connect with those who would potentially be interested.

ExpressCells has made tremendous progress since the 2019 ACA Summit and Innovation Showcase in April 2019.  They had their first close on Series A funding and received $800,000 in financing.  ExpressCells also received additional financial commitments of $400,000—half from investors they met at the ACA Summit—and also hired their first full-time scientist.

Matt states, “We would not be in this position without the support of Howard Lubert and Keiretsu Forum Mid-Atlantic in bringing us to ACA. We would not have done well in gaining publicity without Angela’s help on the presentation. I appreciate it very much!”

If you are a member of ACA and interested in nominating a portfolio company for the 2020 ACA Summit in Westminster, CO, please contact Lucy Howell for more information.