“What is it with founders who think it’s only worth talking to partners?”. I got a mail from Saul Klein at Local Globe the other day wondering about this tenacious myth, and since it’s one of those many posts that’s been lying in wait in a corner of my brain, I figured I’d have a go at dispelling it.
Let’s be clear : of course it would be great if you or your beloved angel investor had a 10-year relationship with me and you could be assured of a cozy 90-minute session in front of a whiteboard complete with Belgian chocolates and a glass of bordeaux. No question.
However the oft-repeated advice that “the only meeting worth having is a partner level meeting” (even when hilariously expressed) is in my view completely misguided. A younger member of the team at a VC firm can and often will be your strongest advocate and offers a credible way into a partnership.
Meet Luciana Lixandru. When I landed at Accel in September 2014, she was pacing the hallways with a fat set of slides under her arm that read “Deliveroo unit economics”. She quickly got me to meet Will Shu. I remember “leaning” into that first meeting until I was literally half-way across the table, after which the both of us vigorously pursued the investment opportunity in face of some pretty tense competition. “Team Food” made that one happen.
Or Meet Pia d’Iribarne, until recently our “youngest” associate. She runs her own network of contacts in France and surfaces interesting opportunities all the time that we carefully consider as a group. In fact, she played an instrumental role in getting two of our recent investments into the partnership and over the line (Shift Technology and Selency, the latter by the way with the above-mentioned Luciana as lead). I could go on like this for a while with similar tales involving Laura, Andrei, Seth or the amazing set of Accel Associate Alumni, all of which are partners at other firms today, but you get the point.
Younger, yes. Junior? No.
What may not be obvious from the outside is that, in early stage venture funds, we really don’t have any “junior” people. We have people with brains the size of Trump’s ego whose judgement we trust and whose opinion we value. We take extreme care when we hire them. On top of that, as the saying goes, “VC is a young person’s game”, so you tell me: who else is better placed to predict what the future might hold? To put it differently: how many general partners at top VC firms do you think are regular Snap users?
What you might gain by embracing a younger member of the team is a highly motivated talent who will help you get investment, work alongside you for years to come and be your greatest champion. And, perhaps, write the check for your next company.
So the next time a well-intentioned silver-haired advisor tells you to insist on a “partner meeting or nothing”, take a minute to re-consider. It’s not because you cannot get to Saul in the first meeting that you can’t get a check from LocalGlobe.