Dear Associate / Analyst,
I know I took a big stab at you and went public with it. I know you are trying to do your job, but the way you are going about it right now sucks big time. If you are wasting the time of an entrepreneur – and especially one in my fold and care – well, you can expect more coming your way.
That said, I know its pointless to be critical instead of being helpful. So here are some tips to be awesome in what you do:
1. Introduce yourself with your title
You represent the firm, but what you do there will set expectations right with the entrepreneurs. Most Firms have a lousy habit of not even updating their current website, so an Introduction saying “Hi, I am So-and-so, an Associate with XYZ firm and I work closely with Partner Mr. X on Deals related to a,b,c sectors” would make it a better intro.
2. Be Clear
Please do not make claims about funding and all. We know the power you have is only to get names in a pipeline. Not even the principals have power to make that claim, so be very clear why you are reaching out to a startup. “To get the startup in your list of startups to watch” aka the dealflow. Entrepreneurs are racing against all the odds set against them, letting them know that this is a relationship building excercise, not a funding excercise, will also give them the opportunity to prioritize accordingly.
3. Think twice, thrice before asking teams to work on a document
I have met startups who sit and slog making market projections and research – well, thats kinda your job, isnt it? – and in trying to make business plans with five year projections. Hint: the startup still doesn’t have a product, they don’t have a customer and they dont know who might pay for it. That’s a hell of a lot of variables, and what you are asking them to produce is nothing short of writing fiction. Let us do more realism and less fiction, please?
4. Be hands on.
And by that we mean, be useful. If you love tech, what we really really lack in India are guys who can look at a product and give feedback. If you sign up, give the product a try, recommend it to a few users, get them to try and send the team an email with genuine usability, functionality and customer feedback, guess what? its two birds in one stone – you don’t have to ask questions about who uses the product anymore because tada! you yourself know, and you also get on the good side of startups and the advisors / accelerators who are helping them.
5. Can you get them customers?
If you are talking to a startup that has its beta / product launched, can you push it internally within your team and your portfolio and get them to adopt it? You might have to build a system where your portfolio entrepreneurs get a single point/vote in the companies you are looking at (Tell them Y Combinator does stuff like that, internally to sell it) - which helps in two ways, a) You get an entrepreneur’s perspective that can really help startups and b) if they are solving a real problem, they might get paying customers.
6. Add Meaningful Value.
You know that there are only four layers in a VC firm, and you are at a dead end job if you are not an entrepreneur because its not easy becoming a partner, climbing up the associate route. You know what will put you up there? Proving that you can work with entrepreneurs, can be a second head, and have a mind to do that. So be selfish. I have been blown away by the value add some of the associates and principals like Anshoo of Lightspeed, Anand Daniel of Accel do for companies – so much so that I ask teams to talk to them. See, how it works?
All of this gets you on the good books of entrepreneurs, startups and folks like me. If you are an awesome associate/analyst, I’d love to meet you sometime and lets do this work together. We are all on the same side of the table.
Do Entrepreneurs really Care? Here’s a requote of a quote from Kris Nair’s blogpost, of Sampad from Instamojo:
I hardly see an investor saying that:
Hey, I used your product and it’s awesome / awful / sucked etc and I think you can do this or that from his/her experience which can help the founder achieve little bit more on reach, retention or revenue metric of the company.
You know where to start to build moat – almost always its starts with doing what most others wouldn’t care doing or looking at. Be an awesome associate – don’t suck.