For the last two weeks I have been talking with a particular venture capitalist seeking funding for a new project. It’s my first time doing so and I’m learning a bit as I go. As you may or may not know, it’s quite difficult to get in front of a venture capital partner with access to a $225 million fund. In this particular instance, this VC hears so many pitches every day, week and month it’s ridiculous and given the fact that his fund only makes 12 investments per year, the odds of getting funding from him are pretty astronomical.
We’d been exchanging emails for the past couple of weeks and I was doing everything I could to actually get some face time with him. I’ll show you that email exchange looked like later in this post for your inspiration. When I did finally catch up with him in person I learned quite a bit about how his screening process actually works. He told me that out of the thousands of good ideas he hears, he tries to weed through them within 60 seconds to determine whether or not it’s an idea that is part of the top 100 that his firm will consider seriously.
I didn’t walk away from the conversation with a funding offer, but I did walk away feeling pretty good. I realized that my product wasn’t a great fit for his firm (as I had originally thought) and I realized that that was okay. I didn’t expect the first person I talked to to fund me right on the spot. Nothing about being an entrepreneur is easy, especially the first time around (I have bootstrapped 2 previous companies but have never gone after actual funding). What I did walk away with was a greater knowledge of what I need to do next and a valuable offer from the VC to make some important introductions elsewhere.
To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to see through barriers. So many menacing problems you face will turn out to be mere illusions when you actually test them for weaknesses. When something seems impossible, you’ve got to press on. Especially when talking to investors. They aren’t just investing in your idea. They are investing in you and you’ve got to show them that you can solve problems with creativity and persistence. Take things one at a time. Little successes can add up to something bigger and if you break it down to smaller tasks you won’t get overwhelmed. Above all else, never, ever, ever give up. If giving up seems even remotely like an option to you, quite while you’re ahead because you’re not going to have the drive needed to see it through to the end.
Here are the highlights from my email conversation with this VC. I’ve taken out a bunch of stuff you aren’t allow to see yet, but you can get the gist of it. Notice my persistence. This thread picks up after I had first explained my project. Most people probably would have given up after the first reply:
VC: Chris – it’s a neat idea but I don’t think it’s something we’d be interested in exploring an investment in.
CM: Thanks for getting back so quickly. I know you’re busy. Can I get 5 minutes to show you what it looks like in person and explain/answer any questions that you have? I noticed you didn’t give a specific answer as to why it’s not something you’d be interested in exploring an investment in (which makes me want to be persistent!). Unless it competes directly with your portfolio, I’d love to spend a few brief minutes showing it off and explaining the concept a bit better.
VC: We aren’t interested in stuff at the top of the “track / manage real time social data” stack. Instead, we’ve focused one level down.
CM: That’s actually perfect! Conversation edited here where I explain how I thought my product fit in that “level down” he was talking about. Let me buy you a coffee. If you’re not totally convinced I’ll move on and be out of your hair!
VC: I’d be happy to make intros to any of the companies you’ve listed in case it’s useful to you. However, I view XXXX as a byproduct of what you are doing. I’m generally not interested in XXXX as the core business.
CM: Wow, that would be great when the time is right. I appreciate that. Conversation edited again where I explain once again why I think we should work together. Maybe we could chat briefly at XXXX?
VC: Sure – grab me at XXXX.