As a founder, my ears prick up when I hear startups described as “deals”.
I ran startups for much of my career, and poured my heart and soul and every ounce of waking energy into building these companies – which at times, felt like an effort against insurmountable odds.
Now as an investor in early-stage founders, it’s important for me to remember what it’s like to be a founder – a woman or man truly “in the arena”. Building better products than larger competitors, with much smaller teams. Hiring world class execs from much larger companies. Doing more with less, and playing a multi-move chess game to defy the odds.
I did not go into venture capital to focus on being a “capital allocator.” Sure, making wise investment decisions, at fair valuations, with reasonable ownership levels is critical to a venture firm’s success. But even more so is seeing eye-to-eye with founders, helping them build a business from $1M in revenue to a defensible market-leader at massive scale.
This means truly partnering with founders – whether it’s being there for phone calls day or night, leaning in to recruiting and fundraising needs, helping bridge a company that’s running into road bumps, or just having an open ear for a founder who needs to vent or share challenges.
Sure, there are investors that conduct a 1-2 day diligence process, write checks and sit back and watch. They do deals. They track valuations. They’re capital allocators managing a concentrated early-stage tech portfolio.
But that’s not why I got into this business.
Your startup is not a “deal” to me.
If you’re looking to work with an investor who will be completely on the sidelines – whether you sink or swim – there’s nothing inherently right or wrong in that approach.
But for me, having been on both sides of the table, I believe your odds of success, and happiness in running your startup, is maximized by partnering with venture investors who view you as a company builder, view themselves as a partner (not a deal-maker), and work alongside you over many years to build something great.