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You need tons of money. You have no financial contacts. Where can you turn? Many entrepreneurs have found what they need in venture forums.

Any entrepreneur who’s ever chased venture capital dollars can tell you the process is often a brutal, soul-stripping experience. For those without Ivy League connections or friends and family in the right places, finding someone to quickly scan your executive summary or listen to your "elevator" pitch can take months.

This need of entrepreneurs who have potentially fundable ideas to be connected to investors has given rise to the quite recent venture forum phenomenon. Although these entities have been in existence for decades, the past five years have seen the number of forums grow significantly.

There are about 100 active forums nationwide. They range from relatively small, highly selective groups to forums that let just about anyone with a business plan make a pitch.

Most forums charge an application fee and offer brief one-day workshops geared toward helping selected candidates refine their presentations. Presentations range between seven and 15 minutes and are typically followed by a question and answer period, when angels and venture capitalists ask for more details about the company, its management team, the market and more.

But don’t expect investors to be so dazzled by your presentation that they rush to get their checkbooks. Venture forums are long shots that require lots of follow-up and perseverance. But are a great place to help entrepreneurs get exposure, refine their business models, and sharpen their pitches.

Venture Forums can help review your business plan, to ensure you have a good presentation plan and, most important, to help develop a strategy to locate investors.

Most entrepreneurs tend to focus all their energy on finding the financial resources to fuel their dreams. Consequently, they become frustrated and impatient when the questions are raised like "What do you and your team want out of the business?"

Venture Forums can help entrepreneurs understand how such ancillary issues will affect their search for funding and the development of their business.

In addition to polishing your presentation, the forums allow you the opportunity to network with individuals who might know the right investors.

Most entrepreneurs don’t succeed at their first venture forum. But there’s never a quick fix to capital needs. Don’t forget: If you want to raise money, you usually have to do a lot of homework and even more legwork.



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