– Mark Suster is a former serial entrepreneur and a partner at Los Angeles-based venture capital firm GRP Partners. This article originally appeared on his blog “Both Sides of the Table”. The views expressed are his own. –
Everyone seems to be in such a rush to get shacked up these days.
In normal times investors will look for “traction” before investing. We want to make sure we’re in love. This sometimes frustrates entrepreneurs who just want to “get back to running the business.” But if you understand it you’ll see that it’s perfectly rational and it should also influence how you form relationships with investors. And remember, if we get married you’re stuck with us, too.
The first time I meet you, you are a single data point. A dot. I have no reference point from which to judge whether you were higher on the y-axis three months ago, or lower. Because I have no observation points from the past, I have no sense for where you will be in the future. Thus, it’s very hard to make a commitment to fund you.
For this reason I tell entrepreneurs the following: meet your potential investors early. Tell them you’re not raising money yet, but that you will be in the next six months or so. Tell them you really like them so you want them to have an early view (which is what all investor’s want). When you’re with them lower the bar by telling them, “we haven’t shipped product yet, we have lots of decisions still to make, but we’d like to show you our prototype” or obviously if you’re more advanced, show what you have and what your roadmap looks like.
Most importantly tell them what you plan to achieve by the next time you see them. Hopefully by then you’ve made good progress. You’ll be able to give them an update on key hires, pilot customers, key tech innovations – whatever. Keep these interactions low-key and short. Quick coffees, whatever. Swing by their offices to make it easy for them to say yes and promise not to take up more than 30 minutes for the update (and stick to it).