Demoday: The shock of a lifetime and what we learned from pitching investors
We didn’t know what to expect from a trip to el Cerro de los Siete Colores, or the Hill of Seven Colors. Looking back, we certainly didn’t expect to be shocked into action! But that’s what happened, and we’re grateful for the experience of pitching investors. I’ll start from the beginning…
Our maiden voyage
Demoday was part of a 3-day trip organized by venture fund Newtopia. This journey to Purmamarca, Jujuy was an adventure in itself.
All 4 of Aument’s founders traveled with other leaders from Newtopia’s first batch of portfolio companies, mostly people we’d only spoken to via video call beforehand. Together, we filled 4 rows of a plane leaving Buenos Aires. Our co-travelers were from Costa Rica, Panama, Chile, and many other countries, and just as thrilled as we were to meet in person. We were all so hyped that we got told off by the flight attendant for making a ruckus… Which was fitting with the adventure to come!
Next stop: a bus to Purmamarca where nobody would try to calm our chatter! The town is picturesque but completely disconnected, which complicated managing our business remotely. The waning WiFi and lack of phone signal made us think that our reason for being in such a remote location was to disconnect and focus on our startups. In fact, Newtopia had an ulterior motive! I’ll get to that shortly.
The trip was clearly organized by pros, with smooth logistics and information provision, and our schedule mapped out how we’d work on our business pitch over 3 days — the main objective of the trip.
Pitching our hearts out
We’d planned for Purmamarca by creating a pitch deck that we felt good about. But, as is true at any startup, everything changes at the last minute! We pride ourselves on reacting quickly to sound feedback and on the day we arrived in Jujuy, we received some reviews that provoked an about-turn. We decided to change our business pitch completely.
This was a nerve-wracking decision because we knew we were building up to a live broadcasting of Aument’s business pitch. The audience would be international investors and we’d have only one chance to get it right.
Emilio, our CEO, had to repeat and repeat the pitch to relearn it. I coached him through it so many times that I could probably repeat it myself today with the exact same intonation.
Newtopia didn’t simply take its portfolio companies on a 3-day jolly. They planned to train us to replicate a captivating pitch at the drop of a hat, so all the activities in Jujuy were geared around that objective.
One day, first thing in the morning, we were called to the far end of the town, with no idea what we’d be doing. As we reached an open road called Paseo de los Colorados, we were told to pretend we were presenting to investors with the stunning red mountain as a backdrop. We had no pitch deck, no laptops, and there was no signal at all, so Newtopia knew it was going to test our metal.
It was a total shock. Having practiced over and over sitting at a desk with support materials, we were taken off guard.
Baptism of fire
Each startup gave its business pitch and received feedback from the other founders, all under the scorching sun. At this point, we realized how wrong we were to think Purmamarca was Newtopia’s preferred location to disconnect from the day-to-day and focus on our companies. Turns out, it was carefully chosen to prepare us to pitch under any circumstance.
Emilio did miss one thing during this fire drill: he forgot to present us, the 3 other founders of Aument, despite having us as walking cue cards right in front of him! It’s a forgivable mistake, we thought.
After stress testing our pitch, we were due to perform the live show. Emilio practiced the emphasis, intonation, volume, and wording time and time again.
Demoday arrived. We awaited our time slot in the middle of the desert, under the midday sun. While other companies gave their business pitches, we watched in nervous silence. We completely trusted Emilio to represent us but the tension had built up over 3 days, and I’d been present for his dry-runs for weeks, at any time of day or night. So I did feel butterflies as we waited.
Emilio took the torch, and gave a stellar 5-minute pitch. He had plenty of moral support with the 3 of us watching on, of course.
Having been by his side for every dry run, I never doubted Emilio would do a great job even in English, which isn’t our native language. There was one pronunciation slip-up, however: Emilio tends to pronounce raise like “rise”, leading one of our investors to tease him about saying “rice” instead of “raising capital”. Old habits die hard, and on Demoday, “rice” was the word we broadcast.
We hugged Emilio as he finished. A few days later, 4 kilos of rice showed up at his door. The lighthearted nature of the partners of Newtopia is something Aument loves, and it reminds us to work on our pronunciation!
Later that day, a local organization educated us on the environment we’d spent the day in. The native habitants of the zone are not recognized as such, meaning the area is not protected as an inhabited town. Moreover, the neighboring salt flats are at risk due to lithium extraction for electric vehicles.
That day, we learnt about pitching investors and about the importance of a responsible human connection with environments like the salt flats in Purmamarca.
In the evening, we celebrated with live music. Mixing with companies in a similar situation to us, or who had been through funding rounds already, led the 4 of us to learn a lot. We applied their advice when raising our own pre-seed investment.
On our way home from Demoday, we reflected on how impressive the event’s organization was, even in such a far-removed location. It was a complex trip and all our travel, schedules, and training for presenting to investors was managed smoothly.
Newtopia invited external investors too, and 10 investor connections resulted from the networking done in Purmamarca. The sheer effort that Newtopia put into planning Demoday was beyond impressive, and deepened our relationship with the fund.
Newtopia also made an effort to make sure the event got coverage in Argentinian papers and the international press. Our social media certainly benefited! We know this isn’t easy to achieve and the brand positioning was invaluable.
Aument couldn’t have gotten off to a better start in the ecommerce industry, and we’re thankful to apply these learnings to our marketing automations for years to come.
Want more stories from my co-founders? Check out our CPO’s take on starting businesses or learn about roadmapping retention from our CTO.