Calacanis on Paying-to-Pitch

Jason Calacanis has a new cause.  He is railing against the so-called “pay-to-pitch” phenomenon.  A good read – check it out here.

Update: Scoble, Fred, and Lance have since commented on it as well.

My views on the pay-to-pitch thing are pretty well known, as I’ve written about it a ton in the past, and we’ve torn the topic to shreds several times on the podcast.  And I think we (the larger community, of which I am but a small part) have done a pretty good job here in Atlanta, at least, of (A) educating the entrepreneurs, and (B) tearing down the walls that allowed that sort of thing to come about in the first place.  Many of the pay-to-pitch groups don’t even bother with Atlanta any more (because they know they’ll get a boot in the face from the community). But I will add a few additional thoughts here …

I think the fact that someone with Jason’s “web-clout” is a bit late in jumping on this bandwagon is illustrative (to me, at least), of how “disconnected” the valley-minded crowd can be from the rest of the country.  Don’t get me wrong – I want Jason to fight the good fight :)  But StartupLounge (and others) have been screaming about this, and fighting against it, for several years.

There is a difference between someone in a place like the Valley paying to pitch, and someone in Des Moines, or Tampa, or Atlanta, et al.

If you are paying to pitch in the Valley, you and/or your idea, must really blow. It’s like the handful of applications for CapitalLounge that we get from startups in California that want to come to Atlanta to find money.  Wow – really? WTF?

If you are paying to pitch in some other part of the country (i.e. an under-served capital region, like Atlanta), you may very well be sitting on the next Google, but you likely don’t have the infrastructure and support system around you to tell you that you are wasting your capital paying to pitch – you may think that you don’t have an alternative. And that is where education comes in play.

Uneducated entrepreneur + desperation = “Gee, I bet I can charge this clown $5K to come ‘pitch’ at my service-provider dry hump fest.”

To me, it is all about supply and demand.  How do you kill the demand, since killing the pay-to-pitch organizers is, well, illegal? We’ve found that making more well-rounded, educated, and agile entrepreneurs is the best antidote for the pay-to-pitch problem.  If I had a nickel for every entrepreneur that we’ve collectively “converted” from the dark side through stuff like StartupLounge/CapitalLounge, PitchCamp, Startup Riot, ATDC, Startup Gauntlet, mentoring, et al, I could fund half the deals in the Southeast at least through Series-D :)

At any rate – good read – Jason’s a firebrand – gotta love it.  Kick ass – take names – peace out.



  1. I loved the post too. Sadly, we have been unable to stamp out the pay-to-pitch model in Atlanta, (although I think we have undermined it) and that post is a nice reminder that we need to be vigilant, and we need to constantly be seeking opportunities to steer potential users of such groups to more legitimate (and *free*) capital raising methods.

  2. As a corporate attorney representing entrepreneurs, I generally agree in principle with Jason’s position that it is “inappropriate and predatory” for angel groups to charge entrepreneurs fees to pitch them; however, I think it is important to distinguish among the different angel groups and their respective practices. Indeed, if (i) the fees are reasonable/de minimis and are adequately disclosed and (ii) the angel group is providing a legitimate service to entrepreneurs, there may be compelling reasons to support such a fee-based service. That’s why I have strongly recommended in my recent blog post (see that Jason Calacanis and John Dilts (the founder and President of Maverick Angels, LLC and an attorney) meet face-to-face and have a live debate (in the great American tradition), which can be shown on the web to all interested parties via Ustream. Many thanks.

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