One of the most basic errors in pitching a VC rears its head again

February 27, 2017

A lot has been written on why entrepreneurs who are pitching for VC funding should aim for endorsed introductions rather than sending unsolicited emails as strangers. I’ve even crafted some guidelines for entrepreneurs in How To Pitch Me (connect via one of my portfolio companies, engage with me on my blog, approach me at a conference even, etc.).

The other day I experienced the antithesis of this wisdom. An entrepreneur whom I did not know — I’ll call him “Jean-Michel” (not his real name) — sent me his pitch deck. I noticed that his background included a long stint at the same company where one of my VC partners had worked years ago. So I asked my partner if he had ever heard of Jean-Michel. My partner’s response astonished me.

First, yes, not only had my partner heard of Jean-Michel, but they had even worked together directly at one point. Additionally, his recollection of their short collaboration had been positive. Finally, my partner was completely unaware of Jean-Michel’s new entrepreneurial aspirations and current project.

So Jean-Michel already had a favorable, pre-existing business relationship with someone in our VC fund, but instead tried pitching me unsolicited, “over the transom” as a total stranger.

This incident led me to the following reservations about Jean-Michel:

  1. Jean-Michel missed an opportunity to increase his odds of a warm reception with our firm. If he’s not capable of stacking the odds in his favor during a fundraising process, how will he perform when pitching to clients, partners, and new recruits?
  2. Perhaps Jean-Michel wasn’t aware that his former colleague was now my current partner at our fund (after all, some years had elapsed since they had worked together). However, this means that Jean-Michel did not even spend 30 seconds to review our fund’s website.
  3. Alternatively, perhaps Jean-Michel was aware of my partner’s presence but deliberately chose to circumvent him. This deception underscores a naïveté that my partner and I wouldn’t talk with each other, leaving me scratching my head and leaving my partner a tad annoyed.

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posted in venture capital by mark bivens

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