It wasn't exactly like ABC television's "Shark Tank" reality show, with entrepreneurs making pitches to a celebrity panel of wisecracking, prospective investors.
But Velocity Venture Capital's third annual Entrepreneurs Showcase on Thursday night at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento had many key elements that make for drama exotic-looking new business ideas, deadline pressure and millions of dollars on the line.
Over three hours, representatives of 10 companies from Sacramento and throughout the region made their cases to receive funding from about 200 venture capitalists, corporate venture groups and angel investors.
Most of the presenting firms were decidedly high-tech. And unlike "Shark Tank," prospective investors did not interrupt the presenters, who each had six minutes to lay out their business plans, goals, revenue projections, potential competition and profit margins.
"Yeah, there's some pressure. How would you like to be up here under the hot lights with just six minutes?" said Jack Crawford Jr., general partner of Folsom-based Velocity Venture Capital.
Crawford explained that the 10 companies invited to the showcase were among the best of a larger group of fledgling companies evaluated over time.
He said the goal is to "inspire, educate and capitalize entrepreneurs" and support promising companies throughout the region.
"It's not just Silicon Valley. There are a lot of great companies with talented people right here in our area," Crawford said. "Anything we can do to provide the training and access to capital these entrepreneurs need to take it to the next level it benefits the entire region."
Those sentiments were shared by UOP officials, UOP MBA candidates and representatives of the Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance in attendance.
What they saw was a wide variety of presentations, from deadly serious to cleverly thoughtful to bombastic to comical. All entrepreneurs had a common goal, seeking capital infusions in the general neighborhood of $500,000 to $2 million.
C.J. Alvarado, co-founder and CEO of Snippet, featuring a mobile publishing platform to package online writing content, said, "We spent about eight weeks preparing for this, and yeah, we're a little bit nervous. But I know I have the team to make it work."
When Snippet's six minutes came up, Alvarado and colleagues were quick to the point and polished, smoothly dishing out ideas and goals accompanied by overhead visuals managed from a laptop.
Bryan Barton, CEO of innerVid, took a different approach, launching into a high-spirited pitch styled on Ronco's Veg-O-Matic commercials of the 1960s.
Touting innerVid's customized online video player that can be embedded in everything from blogs to websites, Barton even held up a hand-held veggie chopper and shouted, "But wait, there's more!"
Bob Whitson, CEO of Wijit Inc., did a straightforward solo presentation of the company's product, a manual wheelchair with unique lever and braking systems designed to extend lifetime use and improve the mobility and comfort of physically handicapped people.
Whitson bolstered his presentation with a video testimonial from a Wijit chair user and noted that the product was assembled locally by PRIDE Industries.
And on it went, with most of the entrepreneurs talking up high-tech solutions that would enable individual users, businesses and government entities to laser in on specific needs, as opposed to floundering amid the ocean of content found online.
The word "fragmented" was used often, a tech industry standard describing the sometimes unwieldy mass that is the World Wide Web.
At the end of their individual presentations, the 10 presenting companies were separated into two groups of five, giving prospective investors their chance to ask questions. Most queries were serious and straight to the heart: What's your margin? Who's your competition? How are you going to make this work?
At the end of the night, there were no lavish award presentations. Crawford said most presenters knew coming in that there likely would be more work to come more questions to answer and research to be done before cash perhaps comes their way.
Ultimately, Crawford believes, it will all be worth it: "We're going to be hearing more from these companies in the future."