Questions startup Founders should ask Angel Investors and VC’s, but rarely do

I am always amazed that perhaps only 1 in 50 Founders interview their potential angel investors or VCs properly. This is a two-way deal.

Here are a bunch of questions you should ask.

  • how many investments has the firm/angel done in the last six months?
    [and if a VC firm or angel network] how many have you yourself lead internally in the last 6 months?
  • …and are you currently investing today? if YES what cheque size?
  • are there any terms or costs or quirks i should know about that deviate outside of industry norms for this deal size? e.g. if they split legal costs, no interest charges etc
  • when were the last 3, how much, what were they, what % did they take
    do you make your own decision to invest or do you wait for other investors to invest first and follow? * see footnote
  • [and if a VC firm or angel network] who makes the decision in the fund?
  • [and if a VC firm or angel network] is there an investment committee, when does it meet?
  • where does most of your dealflow come from?
  • what is your follow on cheque size, how many of your portfolio have they followed on to and how many do you expect to?
  • how long did the last investment take from first contact to money in bank?
  • [if you are raising on a note] when was the last investment you did on a convertible note?
  • [and if a VC firm or angel network] who do you view as your nearest competitor?
  • [if an angel] who do you really admire as an angel investor, and why?
  • [if a VC] which other VC firm do you really admire/which partners, and why?
  • [if a VC firm or angel group] who is the senior partner in your firm who knows this sector best?
  • what are the metrics you are looking at in this particular sector?**
  • ..and does he or she have the authority to make the decision to invest?
  • what are the next steps from your POV?
  • what value can you [and your firm] add to our business over the next year?

These should be asked in the first meeting or call.

And if the call is with a VC firm’s Associate, use this initial call to keep the bulk of the focus on them, after of course doing an enthralling but brief sell of your own proposition. This decreases an Associates success in data-mining your business for their market database or — occasionally — them doing DD prior to a competitor investment. At the end of the call ask when you can have a meeting with the General Partner they mentioned earlier.

Please add in the comments any I’ve missed, which I’m sure I may have.

Footnotes

** hat tip Heather Russell for this one

* this is important as ‘you need a lead investor’ or just general procrastination is something many investors fall back on and frustrate Founders, either because they are genuinely lemmings or because they’ve not got the courtesy to say no. Founders must remember that there is often little downside to waiting as an investor — every day feels like de-risking and why slam a door in a Founders face with a big fat “No” when an investor might be wrong and miss out on the next Google? ..at least that is some investors thinking. In fact the ONLY real pressure a Founder can bring to bear is FOMO or a price increase; that means you should properly prepare, get all your docs and DD ready, pre-qualify your target investors (and make sure you have enough of them!) get warm intros by hook or by crook and then cram all these meetings into a short a time as possible and push all the lemmings to a close; momentum is everything. Oh, and re-read this: http://paulgraham.com/fr.html