I’ve spent a lot of time fundraising for Chewse. And the question that good VCs always ask at the end of a first meeting is,
“What questions do you have for me?”
This part of the discussion is supposed to be an opportunity to get to know the investor more, and to dive deeper into areas that could make or break a future relationship.
But the questions I used to ask were about fund size, available follow-on financing, and decision maker capacity (which I could have researched beforehand). Honestly, I was pretty focused on getting them to the next meeting. Plus, I was so exhausted from a whole day of pitches that I hadn’t prepped for this part at all.
Asking questions of your potential investor is an important opportunity to get to know them and build the foundation for a potentially amazing relationship. Don’t waste it. Plan ahead for that section. It’s golden.
A new question has cropped up that is now my first question to ask:
“What percentage of your portfolio CEOs are women?”
To be clear, the intent here is not to put anyone on the defensive. The intent is to see how investors tackle a question they aren’t asked a lot. And to get them thinking.
Thinking about diversity and how it impacts teams they invest in.
Thinking about an issue that is widely discussed in the press, but rarely discussed in the creation or management of a fund.
In that moment of surprise and thought, you learn a great deal about your potential investor by what comes next.
Of the 14 professional investors I asked, only 1 knew the percentage of women founders in their portfolio. But I had nuanced, enlightening discussions with a handful more of them about how they approach diversity in their funds. Important discussions that ultimately helped me decide who I wanted to work with.
This lack of knowledge doesn’t make anyone a bad investor. But it bubbles to the surface an uncomfortable issue that, with time and discussion, shouldn’t be uncomfortable. Diversity should be a topic that invites discussion — and right now it’s up to founders to ask the questions to get there.
Whether you’re a woman or man, think about asking this question. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot more than if you asked a VC about their average investment size.