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what to expect when you test out your BB gun March 7, 2006

Posted by Timothy Li in fire.

BB gun – [a plastic toy] gun in which BBs [- little plastic balls] are propelled by compressed air. – thefreedictionary.com

I sincerely apologize for using tools of destruction as analogies in this post. i promise i will keep their usage to an absolute minimum in the future.

At the same time I can’t lie about it. The following accounts for my first pitch.
Before I go on, to pitch is to sell – i pitched to sell my ideas.

I was feeling a little buzzed (probably not alcohol related) when Mr. Shel Israel introduced me to this mid aged man with a warm smile. seemingly intelligent and appears to be the a center of this unusual crowed of Toronto bloggers.

I didn’t think much, after the late evening beer and rounds of free hearted conversations, I was on the edge of forgetting what i intended to do this evening – practice pitching.

Frankly this whole thing is very new to me, from business model to web 2.0 and even blogging. I was probably experiencing the post stage what Kawasaki described as “then the buzz began”.

Shel broke in to a conversation and padded the man on the shoulder “Rick! Meet my youngest friend, Tim. he’s a student and is trying to get something started”.

For a second there, while the hand shaking was still going on, I thought of introducing myself, my school, my parents, my ex girlfriend… I heard he say “Rick Segal“, and next thing that rushed to my mind and overwhelmed all other thoughts was ‘pitch to him’. I am still very troubled as to what exactly came to me during that two seconds time, but I clearly heard myself “Tim, would you like to hear a pitch from me”

all of a sudden the crowed in front of “Rick” widened and formed a semi circle in front of him. I saw it out of the corner of my eyes and for the first time realized there were other audiences and the atmosphere was not as easy as.. I’m comfortable with.

as Shel broke off laughing with the remark “this is way too good, I’ve got to hear this”, the warm smile came into my focus again. Rick spread his hands and said lightly “sure, I do that for a living”.

I did not have the concentration to interpret neither Shel’s apparent source of joy, nor Rick’s last remark, but a voice jumped to my mind… I have heard of this, someone else has said that “I do this for a living”… what? Why does that bother me a bit? Little did I realize, I have just read those words on the way here to this dinner, Guy Kawasaki did the same thing for a living – hearing pitches.
But I was ready, well, I had my BB gun. – we sell travel.

Kawasaki’s voice came back, “perfect, go on
– we hired travelers to redesign the interface

answer the little man, so?
– so that your research experience is simple and inspirational

now say: for instance …
– for instance, which interface inspires you more? two text boxes for you to type in city names? or a map filled with city names?

all of a sudden Kawasaki was silent. and as I had a chance to catch my breath, it all came to me – he also hears pitches for a living, he is a Venture Capitalist
and there I was, a student with nothing but an idea, pitching Rick Segal. I felt like a little kid, testing my first BB gun, but suddenly found myself in a battle field.

Then a short wait before Rick shrugged and spread out his hands again “how about… a map”
“YES! 10 POINTS FOR RICK!” Shel’s laughter came back to my side again. I was glad my time was up, and it was all over. The warm smile appeared, this time with a bit annoyance ” .. it’s an interesting idea, work on it a bit and contact me if you need some help .. ”

i approached Rick again later on in the evening and asked for his comments, he summarized the three most important things in a pitch for me:

  • the pain you are solving,
  • how you solved it,
  • and your value

“value to who?” I asked. “to customers, of course”.
so i missed most of them all three
“and if VC is interested, he will ask you to tell more. if not, he will ask you to contact him later”
so i belong to the lucky ones latter.

The funny thing is, I have heard the exact three points before. From Jacqui Murphy, also a VC, equally welcoming, not in a battlefield.

I feel a great deal more confident for the coming pitch to my Summer Company advisors now. Thank you to Shel, Rick, Jeremy and Tom for your help and kind thoughts.

and um.. oh, before I forget:
to Albert, Rick and Shel has a message for you =)



1. Rick Segal - March 8, 2006

Hi Tim,
Actually when I said contact me later, I meant it. Contact me later because we have some other travel investments that we are working on and there are a number of folks I’d like to introduce you to that might be interested in working to further refine you idea, maybe team up, etc.

I think you did a pretty good job considering the noise and everything. Guy would have said, well done! Email me your contact information and I’ll hook you up with some other travel start ups.


2. More from the Toronto Bloggers Dinner -- Alec Saunders .LOG - March 8, 2006

[…] Timothy Li – Trying Out My New BB Gun.  Tim is a student, who contacted Shel and I last week to ask if he could participate.  This is his account of pitching Rick Segal on his idea for a travel venture.  […]

3. Rob Clark - March 9, 2006

Hi Tim – great to have met you.

I have to say you did far better than I likely would have under the same circumstances. Whereas you went into ‘fight’ mode and hoisted your BB Gun, I fear my brain would have gone directly into ‘flight’ mode (cue sound of door slamming and car racing away) leaving my body to stand there uselessly spouting and sputtering jibberish whilst the spirit of Guy Kawasaki shakes his head at me muttering “The horror. The horror.”

4. Tim - March 9, 2006

Oh you guys are too kind. :)
Rob, your imagery immediately made me laugh.

to Rick, I will most certainly fire off the email to you right away. Thank you for suggesting travelpod and travelblog to me. I started to apply the thinkings outlined in ‘wtf 2.0’ and will dig deeper into these two.

5. Thomas - March 9, 2006

Ah you did well enough, sure the business model may still need a little rounding out, but your delivery was full of charm. I think you’ll go far.

You weren’t looking but I, in fact, captured a part of the moment:
The Pitch

poor guy, you look outnumbered ;)

6. Tim - March 12, 2006

hi Tom,
good to hear from you. great shot. I especially like everyone’s demanding expressions.

Your suggestions at dinner really made me think. I look forward to chat with you again.

7. shel israel - April 11, 2006

I actually don’t recall what made me say, “this is perfect, Tim,” but I think it’s because I was playing a role in helping the Toronto blogging community grow and self-nurture. Bringing you to an investor who is wise enough to follow people, not companies and ideas not forecasts felt perfect to me. I enjoyed the moment immensely. You did a damned credible job of accomplishing what needs to be accomplished in semi-social situations. You got an investor to say: “Tell me more!”

8. Timothy Li - April 13, 2006

Hi Shel, I have been benefiting from that evening ever since. Thank you so much.

The other important voice in my story – Guy Kawasaki’s VC firm has recently opened office in Montreal, this is great news for the Canadian tech community.

9. Column 2 : Toronto bloggers dinner wrapup - July 5, 2007

[…] a comment to my blog, so I checked out his blog and almost fell off my chair laughing at his retelling of a conversation where I was present. I passed it on to Rick Segal (coincidentally, the only person at the event who […]

10. mf3qor - May 17, 2009

Hello, Very nice site. Universe help us, dont worry man.

11. sandrar - September 10, 2009

Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

12. Chris P. - September 27, 2009

Honestly don’t know what the point of this old post was ’cause I couldn’t get past that first WRONG definition of a BB gun. “little plastic balls”? Hardly. Those are only Airsoft BBs. The original BBs, were made of lead shot. Little METAL balls. Those eventually evolved into steel. Still little METAL balls. I curse the invention of airsoft guns because it’s created a generation of people who think that “BBs” refers only to those little plastic balls.

Ever seen A Christmas Story? Ralphie didn’t shoot himself in the glasses with a plastic airsoft BB. That was a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, which shot METAL BBs, hence the concern over shooting his eye out. And young children CAN and HAVE been seriously injured/killed by those BBs, as well as lead pellets shot by similar airguns.

Maybe a little research is in order. It’s (almost) never too late to learn something.

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