Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Talk With Everyone


Reading Mark Suster's excellent post, "Why You Need To Take 50 Coffee Meetings" brought to mind one of my personal corollaries: Talk with everyone.

I'm a relatively small-time investor. It's a documented fact, and I don't try to hide it. But that means that I need to deliver value beyond money if I'm going to convince entrepreneurs to accept my money.

One of the ways I do this is by being more accessible than richer, more glamorous investors. A friend asks that I speak with someone? I always say yes. Someone writes me a clever cold email? I take a meeting.

When you're in my position, the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world don't seek you out...unless you meet them before they become "Mark Zuckerberg."

Every mogul or rockstar entrepreneur started off as an uncool kid who was stuck on the outside looking in. I'm not smart enough to figure out just based on an email who's going to be important in the future. So I meet everyone, and treat everyone with respect.

To cap my downside, I try to push all my introductory calls to my commute along 101. This means that I'm not taking time away from real work, and that even the worst call is bounded by the length of my drive.

I talk with hundreds of entrepreneurs per year. The vast majority of the time, I'll probably never work with them. But at least I've given myself that many more chances to discover the next great company.

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7 comments:

Lindsey said...

Am not an entrepreneur but if I was I can't imagine someone I'd rather have as an investor, supporter, advisor, and friend than you. xo

Paul said...

I've said many time, I appreciate your friendship - and you have truly been a friend. We met more years ago than I can remember - at a website matching entrepreneur wannabes with serious investor types - Adviser something or another (not even sure if that site still exist) - and what you say here is 100% correct for anyone who wants to know. You've never once failed to listen, probe, ask, challenge, and think through something I've sent your way. We have agreed, disagreed, and at times agreed to disagree.

Have we made millions together like I'd hoped? Nope. But we will in due course I believe - and it's precisely because you've keep your door open, check your email, and take the time to respond.

You are Zuckerberg to me, and a lot of other people.

(PS. Thanks for not charging me $600 an hour minus the one minute free! haha)

Chris said...

Lindsey, Paul:

Thanks for the kind words.

P.S.: Paul, the site was Advisor Garage. It looks a lot different than it used to, so I suspect your hunch about its downfall is correct.

Paul said...

oh yeah, Advisor Garage. dang, that's going a ways back in Internet history. And you're right, that place looks nothing like it did. Completely different everything.

Derek Andersen said...

I can attest to this being true - and at least to me it is refreshing and does set you apart. Please don't stop doing it. Your immediate responses to me have been very beneficial. Thanks!

Constantin said...

Good advice!

Being accessible for the small guys is really cool. I also believe the big investors cannot actually meet everyone because they're being assaulted with too many requests.

Are looking only for start-up that can be BIG or are you also looking for small businesses than can be profitable in a very narrow niche?

Thanks!

Chris said...

Constantin,

My general policy is to talk with anyone interesting, regardless of their business. But I will only invest in businesses that have the potential to deliver VC-scale returns.