The CSIR Licensing and Ventures (L&V) office recently hosted South African-born internet tech-entrepreneur, Vinny Lingham, to speak on the dos and don’ts when pitching to potential investors. The talk was primarily aimed at equipping staff with entrepreneurial skills and imparting business technical knowledge. The fascination with Vinny’s success in Silicon Valley was evident in the large number of CSIR employees who came to listen to the talk.
After a brief educational and career background, Vinny opened the floor for questions and this led to a relaxed, participatory and interactive atmosphere. When speaking directly to the topic of the day, Vinny spoke of pitching to investors as an art that has to be developed, saying that one needs to “listen, learn and focus. What investors are looking for is passion and expert knowledge of your field,” he says. He mentioned that one of the most important things to note when pitching to investors is “casting the right net”, in other words, knowing who to speak to.
When one employee asked him why he sold some of his companies, Vinny answered by stating that to him, “it is not so much the size of the company, but the speed of growth” that matters the most. “Because of the political and economic risk, the mind-set of South African entrepreneurs is always focused on short-term profits,” Vinny explained. He encouraged everyone to look beyond just their own personal benefit. “As a CEO and owner of a company, you have a responsibility to all your stakeholders and you have to put yourself last”, he emphasised.
CSIR Licensing and Ventures team pictured with budding CSIR entrepreneurs and Vinny Lingham.
CSIR L&V Group Manager Nicki Koorbanally said, “As the L&V team, we hope that bringing in entrepreneurs of Vinny’s calibre would inspire CSIR staff to start thinking about the commercial possibilities that exist for their own intellectual property (IP). We are here to help researchers successfully navigate the sometimes complex transition from the lab to market and encourage them to contact us for advice on how to protect and commercialise their IP.” Everyone walked away from the talk feeling inspired and ready to put their entrepreneurial skills to good use.
Vinny is a South African internet entrepreneur, as well as co-founder and CEO of Civic Technologies. He is currently based in San Francisco and serves on the boards of various companies.