Saturday, July 06, 2013

Why (it seems like) all VCs are assholes

There's one school of thought that tries to paint VCs as the enemy of the entrepreneur.  The VC-haters cite a litany of evidence, ranging from the tendency of VCs to turf out founders to the pressure they put on startups to scale prematurely.

There is no doubt that VCs--like the rest of us--make mistakes.  But the VC-haters are cherry-picking their evidence.  It's rare for VCs to fire founders who are successful, and I've yet to see a VC put a literal gun to an entrepreneur's head to scale up.  Back at my first company, I was pressured to grow faster, but it's my own fault for going along with advice that I didn't really trust.

Here's the real reason it seems like all VCs are assholes: They say no 99% of the time.  They have to, if they want to make money.

I am a humble angel investor, and I probably see about 500 pitches a year.  I invest tiny amounts of money in a small number of startups each year, which means I have to say no more than 99% of the time.

Now just imagine the plight of a real VC, who sees 5,000 pitches a year, and has to decide whether or not to invest millions of dollars.

It's not easy to say no to so many smart, persuasive, charismatic founders.  But it's how the model works.  And if you're an investor, you have to find some way to deal with the emotional fallout of being Dr. No.

Naive entrepreneurs might think that VCs delight in saying no.  Far from it.  It's much more fun to say yes, and to bask in the gratitude and regard of the entrepreneur.

Most of the behavior that entrepreneurs hate, like the tendency to avoid a firm "no," are the result of liking the entrepreneur too much.  We probably give more benefit of the doubt than is strictly good for us.  Of course, the experienced investor knows that a firm "No," along with a clearly articulated reason why, is the kindest way to help an entrepreneur.

You don't need to feel sorry for VCs--after all, they are getting paid large quantities of money to have their ass kissed all day--but you'll be better off mentally if you understand their situation and let go of any hard feelings.

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