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VCs: stop the false dichotomies

What is with VCs and their false dichotomy when giving feedback about a company asking for funding:

  • Say nothing about the team
  • Be an asshole about how worthless the team is and their mothers should have had an abortion.

VCs seem to be a sound system with two settings for volume: “mute” or “max (a-hole)”. We live in an analog world. Lets try a little moderation.

How about this VCs? If you perceive the problem as the team, give feedback that is:

  • specific
  • actionable
  • non-personal (not impersonal)

Example dialog:


I like the concept. However, I don’t have confidence that the team as it exists can execute successful. My reasons are because:

  1. executing requires a deeper knowledge of neurosurgery. I need founders or a board of advisers with this expertise
  2. the team seems to be overweighted with business-types and underweighted in technology
  3. in order to sell into the companies you are targeting you will need a C-level person with the needed credibility
  4. you were disorganized for this meeting which makes me question your ability to manage a company.

If these barriers change, we may be interested in this company.

Possible response from the entrepreneur:

Thank you for this feedback.

  1. We have felt that is gap in neurosurgery is not as significant as you apparently do because we have 20 surgeons in other specialities. Perhaps if we refocused our product away from the neurosurgery aspects, it would be a better match to our skills? Perhaps you have some suggestion about who we should approach?
  2. We agree. Joe and Paul are helping us get started but they plan on returning to school once their time is no longer needed. Currently we are using all the help we can get.
  3. Perhaps. Right now, we have not yet found that person. My goal is to grow with the company. I have discussed this with the team. The agreement we have is that if I cannot get 1 customer within 6 months, the CEO role will be transitioned to another. Currently we are actively looking for advisers and a COO person that could act as a potential replacement support for me. However, who could imagine that Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerburg could manage the responsibilities that they now have?
  4. Thank you for that feedback. I did not realize that I gave that impression. If you talk to the rest of the team I think you would find that their opinion is different. Would be willing to do that?

Notice that the entrepreneur is not just agreeing with the VC. And the VC may be unsatisfied with the entrepreneur’s response. The VC may not wish to proceed further no matter what. But at least the feedback is out there in a cordial matter.

Posted in amplafi, rants, starting a company.

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