Last week I attended Always On at Stanford University, a great conference on Web and technology. There was a broad mix of attendees: venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, technologists, media, etc.
I met a number interesting companies, including goChongo and ThinkFree. I also watched a great panel discussion on venture capital with Roger McNamee (Elevation), Erik Straser (MDV), Paul Deninger (Jefferies) and Bill Gurley (Benchmark).
It was an interesting debate, at times somewhat heated, and very informative. I would have preferred if they had focused more specifically on startups and early stage funding. Paul Kedrosky nailed it when he wrote, “It is an entertaining wander through technology, innovation, and capital markets — even if I wished they’d shut up about SarbOx already.”
Sarbanes-Oxley is simply not on the radar of most (if any) startups. And I’m not sure it has to be.
Of particular interest for startups was the discussion of M&A activity, and how the bulk of mid-sized deals are disappearing – in the $50 million to $200 million range. The most common deals these days are the smaller ones or the bigger ones. General consensus amongst the VC panel was that companies shouldn’t build themselves to flip in a short time, they better be prepared for a longer haul.
Personally, I see a ton of M&A activity, but what most of us non-VCs don’t see are the deals that didn’t happen.
Meanwhile, I’m strolling through the crowds at AlwaysOn when I see a VC I want to speak to. He’s someone I’ve spoken to before, so this was just a quick follow-up. More a “thank you for the advice” than anything.
We’re barely 10 seconds into our conversation when a large, sweaty fellow waddles up close and starts pitching. He barely introduces himself, he just launches into the pitch. And it’s not a very good one either.
The VC is already looking into space. He’s so disinterested a blind bat could notice. Not the guy pitching. He just keeps on trucking.
I jump in for half a second to wish the VC well and move on. I have no clue how it ended. I’d guess that the VC interrupted the guy pretty quickly and ran for the hills.
I wonder how often that happens to VCs?
Quite a bit, I’d bet. Granted, it’s part of the business. And I’m sure they’re used to it, but just for a moment I felt the VC’s pain. Pitching venture capitalists isn’t easy. But there are some basics of human communication that are fairly obvious, and some basics of how to approach people – in general – that you shouldn’t mess with.
- Interrupting other people is rude.
- Launching into a pitch is rude.
- Droning on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on is rude. And stupid.
The basic rules of engagement and communication should always apply, even if you’re pitching venture capitalists. Be clear. Be concise. Be precise. Be nice. Use common sense. Of course common sense isn’t particularly common, but that’s a story for another day…