We got the news our pitch deck was accepted into the first VRVCA funding round on a Wednesday afternoon, two weeks before we were to meet in Beijing. VRVCA is a venture capital alliance focusing on long term growth in the VR (virtual reality) industry. It is made up of 36 of the top VR investors in the world who believe that virtual technology is a transformative technology that will revolutionize entire industries. We were ecstatic to hear the news since we found out about the submission opportunity the day before the deadline and we had to quickly put together an application and demo video of our product. The pitch date was set for September 22; this was real.
Our leadership team landed in Beijing on Monday afternoon, the day before we were to present. We grabbed some Starbucks at the airport (judge us all you want, we drink Starbucks OK?) and finagled a taxi to take us the Science Building Center where we were to meet the rest of the companies chosen to pitch. We crammed into the taxi with our luggage and backpacks. The sky was clear blue and the sun was shining. The taxi driver dropped us off on the side of the road next to a square of buildings and vaguely pointed at one of them. Dodging bicycles and scooters, we tried to get oriented and find the building he had pointed to.
Thankfully Elbert had cell phone coverage (he highly recommends T-Mobile for unlimited data if you travel internationally often) and was able to call Chance who met us outside. We took the elevators up and congregated in a large room with the other company teams. We were the only Americans amongst other Chinese, Italian, and Canadian teams. The energy in the room was a mix nervous and excited. We were to wait until it was our turn to practice our pitch with the vice president of the fund, Michael, and program manager, Demi. While we waited, Chance and Elbert set up the HTC Vives for the demo following the pitch the next day and Mat and Lily rehearsed the pitch. Thankfully, there was another Starbucks a few buildings down. We were sleep deprived having been awake since the following morning and taking a 15 hour flight. "You're fidgeting too much while you talk!" we kept telling Mat. "It's the Starbucks", he joked.
Finally, it was our turn to practice the pitch. We felt confident as we projected our PowerPoint in front of Michael, Kevin, and Demi. We had 5 minutes to get through 13 slides. We were going strong until we got to the "Ask". We were told our ask was way too high and we should cut it down more than half, if of course it made sense financially. We were blown away as were expecting this round to fund us for the next few years. Our perception was way off. We realized that this round should be focused on funding us for the next few months and that we would have to keep raising money for each milestone we set, not necessarily years out. We thanked the Michael, Kevin, and Demi for their advice, took our PowerPoint and headed back to the hotel. We crammed into Chance's suite to adjust our numbers and update the pitch deck. It was now 3:30am and we could finally sleep.
The next day we felt even more ready. We were able to implement all the advice from the day before to make our message clearer and our "Ask" was more focused to our audience. We arrived back at the office at noon, our pitch session wasn't until 4:44pm (lucky number). Since we had some time Chance and Elbert continued the setup of our demo. We planned to have Jameson meet the investors in rumii however we didn't anticipate the internet speeds from our location. We would have to do a local demo. The time flew by and before we knew it it was our turn to present.
We filed into the room filled with 25 investors. Mat took the microphone, Kevin started the timer, and off we went. "We are here so that venture capitalists don't have to travel any more" Mat said. The VCs looked up from their phones and laughed. We continued the pitch explaining that companies spend $1 trillion globally each year sending their distributed teams around the world to meet up. Rumii is the solution to that problem, by meeting in virtual work environments using integrated tools, VCs (and any distributed team) can work comfortably from where they are yet be immersed with their team members in rumii. After what seemed like only a minute the pitch was over and the room applauded. Alvin, president of the fund gave us a nod of approval.
The demo was set up a few floors below where the pitches were happening. Each company had a space to demo their virtual reality product. Everyone was relieved to be done with the pitch and move on to the fun part of demoing their product. We had rumii up and running and the HTC Vives ready to teleport people into their virtual office. We had a blast showing VCs and the other teams the power of rumii. Everyone we spoke to was excited about the possibilities and asked when we could implement a full version for them. More importantly we enjoyed the comradery of showing the power of this technology with the other companies. It was great to see the different applications of VR and to see the VCs' excitement in investing in it.
When all the pitches and demos were complete we all walked to a restaurant called Kro's Nest. The waitress served us beer and giant sliced pizza was laid out on trays. The waiters continued to bring out food. First french fries, which we thought was a bit strange, then BBQ chicken wings, and lastly onion rings! One of the Canadian teams was so happy to eat this North American food since they were in the middle of a four month stay in China. After we were done eating, but not done drinking, Michael had us go around the room introducing people who weren't on our teams. If you didn't know who they were you had to sing or dance. We saw Gangnam Style, heard Happy Birthday in Chinese, and Elbert blurted out the Backstreet Boys. The final challenge of the night was that one person from each team was to go take five separate selfies with Chinese folks on the street. We selected Chance since he was the tallest. We watched from the restaurant window as our team members ran around taking selfies with innocent Chinese citizens trying to make their way down the sidewalk. It was a great way to end this first chapter of our fundraising adventure.