What happens when you get a bunch of founders into a virtual room to talk about company building? Canaan Partner Michael Gilroy wanted to find out. He recently called on the founders of Bellhops, CircleUp, Embroker, Kustomer, Ladder, ScaleFactor and Tari to convene over Twitter to discuss their experiences in navigating the VC pitch process and building a company from the ground up.
We’ll be sharing clips of their conversation in a series of posts — emojis, gifs and all. Here’s today’s Q&A:
Michael Gilroy: What was the worst pass excuse you’ve ever received from a VC? Any advice to VCs for when they do end up passing on a deal?
Luke Marklin, CEO of @BellhopsMoving: When you hear “Timing just isn’t right,” you know they’re clearly not shooting you straight. Critical feedback is a gift when you’re raising bc it’s the only way you fill holes in your pitch. @AndrewChen at @a16z was extremely thoughtful & thorough with follow up.
Dan Teree, co-founder of @tari & @tari_labs: I am a fan of this old chestnut: “I’m sure we’re going to regret passing on your opportunity [but we’ve decided to pass nonetheless].” But hey, creating that “regret” is the job of successful founders! #toldyouso
Ryan Caldbeck, CEO & co-founder of @CircleUp: Worst excuse: "I just don't understand consumer products." (Wait - did you understand taxis better when you invested into Lyft?) Advice: be direct, upfront and DO NOT GHOST.
Hale: “I’m really busy right now, can we meet in [x] weeks” What?! Nope. Then got upset I didn’t tell them we received a term sheet…classic.
Kurt Rathmann, CEO & founder of @scalefactor: One VC got hung up on a small detail of the business that we weren’t attached to. Others passed so they could invest in competitors. The best thing VCs can do is give honest feedback and let us go quickly so that we can focus elsewhere.
Gilroy: Last VC question — For founders raising for the very first time, what’s one piece of advice you’d offer?
Hale: Find three friends (or friends of friends) who have done it before. Give the pitch. Take 100% of their feedback - without pushback — update your slides, repeat. Take the weekend, polish, then pitch way. Nothing beats the real thing.
Birnbaum: Take your time, build it right. Focus on execution. Make sure customers LOVE your product. The rest will follow.
Caldbeck: Find cohort of founders that can be vulnerable and open with you. Talk with them about the journey. Will help stay mentally healthy.
Teree: Practice your pitch in front of the smartest people you know first. Uncover the objections and be prepared to be challenged.
Doody: Good seed investors know your biz will pivot/change a bunch over the next 12-18 months. They have to identify w/ problem you're solving, but they're investing in YOU far more than the co. They have to believe you're the team who'll go through hell and come out on the other side
Luke Marklin, CEO of @BellhopsMoving: 1. Know your company in and out — every single number. 2. BUT also know it’s more than just numbers. Know your story are and wear some of your heart on your sleeve. 3. Practice. 4. No matter how much you plan, remember your first few meetings are warm-ups. There will be a few fumbles.
Gilroy: love this. you're one of the best in the biz with #1!
Rathmann: It’s a relationship you have to maintain, just like any other. It takes time, follow-up, and transparency. If possible, always set up a meeting in-person.
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