VCs: Sort out your UX

I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but I think, even in the VC world, basic decency should apply.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but after 1 or 2 meetings it should be pretty clear if the company fits your appetite or not — so after 4 meetings the ‘sorry, too early stage’ or ‘let’s speak again in 6 months’ emails are plain out of order.

I could be wrong, but leading an entrepreneur on to share the company’s data and their time, when you have no capability or intention to invest, just so you can build or validate your thesis in the space, is pretty low.

Could be the Northern chip on my shoulder, but being inconsiderate about someone’s travel time and cost into London when you’re setting meetings is bad form. And cancelling on the day? Jeez

There’s also the “termsheet with you by the end of the week” thing — when you’re still waiting 2 weeks later. It could arrive any day, right?

Ooh, I almost forgot the ‘switch’ — where you’re scheduled to meet a partner, but they bump you to an associate at the last minute because ‘something came up, sorry’.

Maybe I’m over-sensitive to the “which other investors are you talking to?” question, but honestly there are very few cases where it’s relevant to share that until quite late in the process.

I’m talking about top tier funds…

Like the one who after 3 meetings sent their partner for a site visit for a Series B deal, who spent his entire meeting questioning whether there was any real point in the company, after not even bothering to read the data-pack prepared for him on his train journey up.

Or the one who took a growth deal to pitch in their investment committee alongside 2 of their competitors without even hinting that was the case beforehand.

And the one who just did the “we’re super-excited about the company and want to follow at this round with [insert 10% of expected amount here]” thing.

So you’re going to say entrepreneurs should be more savvy to this? That they don’t need to share data and time if they don’t want to? That they should be a better judge of whether investors are really interested or not?

Get real. VCs created the capital-addiction.

These things matter for a million reasons. Not least that a culture of [see above, label appropriately] is going to encourage and reinforce that behaviour, not just from VCs, but from the whole ecosystem — costing us time, money and trust. And that’s stupid.

I’m trying to say it matters because it’s not power-play, it’s money for equity and equity for money. We’re not going to build awesome companies in an environment where founders and VCs can’t be equals.

It’s not difficult, all founders want is for you to be:

  • transparent about your where they are in your decision making process, so they can make judgement calls accordingly
  • considerate of the fact you’re living of management fees while they’re raising money to pay their employees and keep their company alive. 
    That means upfront about if you actually have an appetite to invest
  • understanding that while an entrepreneur is talking to you, they’re not doing other things — that’s the same opportunity cost as you face
  • super-good at constructive feedback. If you ‘add so much value’ to a company post-money, then don’t leave it at “yeah, that’s interesting, we’ll get back to you”
  • sensitive to the fact that while building a long-term relationship with a company pre-investment is important, it’s not good use of an entrepreneur’s time to do that during a fundraising if you’re not considering that round

There are notable exceptions to the above, and it’s wrong to tar everyone with the same crowbar. I’d name them, but they shouldn’t be exceptions to the norm.

So let me also pull out some of the positive highlight’s I’ve seen in the venture world over the past 6 months:

  • first meeting to Series A term sheet in 4 weeks and 3 meetings — super-solid decision making, energetic deal process, open and transparent dialogue
  • getting to no in 30 mins and spending another 30 mins strategising with the company – very classy
  • paying for the company’s product, rather than taking it as a gifted trial – not essential, but nice touch

If an entrepreneur has to jump through so many hoops to fit your model, maybe it’s time they could expect the same from you?