The stories entrepreneurs tell of their fundraising efforts are tediously familiar: They send out dozens of business plans, sign up for venture fairs, zigzag across the country meeting with potential investors and hear the word "no" more times than they can count.
Dave Gardy has been doing that since last July.
But when he couldn't show up in person, Gardy sometimes sent potential investors a link to a video clip of his pitch. After all, his company, TVWorldwide.com, is in the Internet broadcasting business, and if the venture capitalists weren't interested in Web content, they weren't likely to hand him millions of dollars, he reasoned.
Gardy's presentation met with varying levels of interest but also an intriguing suggestion: "You should really do a channel for what you're doing -- a venture show," he recalls hearing several times.
So at the end of April, Gardy's firm will launch VentureCapitalTV.com, an Internet site with streaming video broadcasts of entrepreneurs giving their quick-hit "elevator" pitches alongside related material.
Internet TV is still a fledgling concept and has yet to prove that content pumped onto a computer screen can garner enough of an audience to support itself through ad revenue or subscriptions. The medium is considered far behind digital music, for example, in tapping the Internet's distribution potential. Technology is one restraining factor: The audience is limited to people with fast broadband access.
But Gardy is confident. He says his privately held company is already profitable, based on ad revenue from a dozen channels that provide special-interest content on such topics as living with a disability, issues affecting U.S. veterans, and the University of Maryland football team.
The VentureCapital channel will turn the usual, advertising-based business model on its head -- charging entrepreneurs as much as $3,500 to "air" their pitch. They can also attach a PowerPoint presentation to the video, so investors see everything they normally would during a face-to-face meeting. If venture capitalists aren't interested -- and most say they know within the first couple of minutes -- they can simply click on to the next pitch without feigning niceties to the entrepreneur.
"VCs spend a tremendous amount of time and money running around looking for decent deals," Gardy says. "If you just get a business plan, you can't hear the guy speak or read. . . . It's the pitch that's going to matter to VCs."
The site's other content will feature lots of familiar faces. TVWorldwide and Gardy's previous company, which also did Internet broadcasts, have been taping local technology events for years, and all of those videos will be streamed onto the venture channel. Viewers will see old clips of Netpreneur panels discussing marketing strategies and board development. Technology lawyer Andrew Sherman's lecture on business growth is on the site, as is a venture training session with the investors from Updata Capital.