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ENTREVESTOR: Atlantic Venture Forum showcases startup potential

The Atlantic Venture Forum is showcasing an interesting group of entrepreneurs this week — a young group that collectively says they are on the cusp of exponential revenue growth.

The annual conference is a meeting place between East Coast entrepreneurs, support organizations and a range of investors. Through the two-day event Wednesday and Thursday, 22 entrepreneurs are pitching to the crowd, and a further eight exhibiting companies are on hand to meet potential investors.

Their audience this week includes 40 investor groups or potential strategic partners, some of whom could be a key to helping the companies gain capital or secure links to valuable clients. The entrepreneurs have to convince the investors that they’re worth it. And the investors are looking for something special.

“The No. 1 thing I’m looking for is the big opportunity, so we’re looking a global opportunity,” said Andrew Ray, the vice-president of investment at Innovacorp. “The No. 2 thing is the team, and whether they have a credible plan to solve a global problem.”

The process to become a presenting company at AVF was competitive, so these companies include some of the hottest young companies in the region. Here’s a 50,000-foot view of the 30 companies that Ray and other investors will meet this week at the AVF.

On average, they are 2.5 years old and only 13 of them say they had revenue before this year. They’ve raised a total of about $16.5 million in equity financing. Collectively, they expect a 5.2 times growth in revenue next year. All of them expect to have at least $1 million in revenue by 2021, with one anticipating revenue of $110 million.

One thing I’ve come to look forward to at the AVF is getting the program, a booklet that this year runs to 145 pages packed with information on the presenting and exhibiting companies. All the companies that apply are asked for data on things like their revenues and funding.

Ideally, the list will show revenue history of the companies at the conference but that is foggy this year. A few of the companies declined to provide revenue data, and most of them had no revenue before this year.

But you’re still getting a really strong growth story from the companies that did provide a revenue history. Eleven of the companies showed revenues in 2018 and they expect their revenues will increase 3.6 times this year. Several companies expect revenue for the first time in 2019, then jumping in 2020. Overall, the companies providing revenue data expect their revenues will grow more than five times next year.

So OK, this is what young companies are telling investors, and they still have to execute, so it’s a good idea to take it with a grain of salt. But even if they’re off by 50 per cent, it still means these companies foresee 260 per cent growth in the next year. These entrepreneurs certainly have the ambition and global vision that Ray mentioned above, and it will be up to the investors to decide whether their claims are credible.

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