One of entrepreneurs’ favorite pastimes is complaining about venture capitalists (VCs). (Incidentally, I’m fairly sure the reverse holds true for VCs, but I won’t put words in their mouths.) Although some of this is understandable (raising money is extremely hard and can be a frustrating process), I’ve often thought it’s in bad taste and just plain stupid.
I agree with Jeff Bussbang — too many entrepreneurs play the VC blame game. This is when an entrepreneur complains about a VC’s incompetence, because they didn’t agree to fund the entrepreneur’s startup. I understand the frustration, and you can be sure all VCs aren’t created equal, but the more you play the blame game, and openly complain about VCs while still trying to raise money from them the harder you’ll find it.
For starters, you’ll get bitter. And that bitterness will show through during presentations. You don’t want to be in a negative frame of mind when pitching VCs.
On top of that, you never know when word will get out of your immediate circles and get back to the venture capitalists. You might share your frustrations with a handful of people, and they tell a few more people and so on. This is especially risky in smaller communities. Why take that chance?
As well, venture capitalists do speak to one another. They interact as much as entrepreneurs in a community are interacting, and word travels fast.
Finally, VCs do put a lot of credence on the individuals they choose to invest in. You can debate the importance of “you” in the equation (in comparison to your idea, intellectual property, etc.) determining whether a venture capitalist will invest or not, but it’s always high up on the priority list. If a VC doesn’t believe in you they’re not going to invest. Why risk sullying your own reputation by bashing the very people you need to find ways of working with?
It might be cool – as the radical entrepreneur, out there “beating the man” – to diss VCs, but it’s not worth it. This is especially true if you’re a first-time CEO in the process of raising money. Worse, if you’re a first-time CEO about to go raise money and you’re already dissing VCs based on what others have told you!
Albert Lai, a serial entrepreneur with multiple successes under his belt, speaks his mind frequently about the Canadian Venture Capital Industry. He was recently quoted in a Canadian Business magazine article entitled, Venture Gap which looks at the difficult state of the Canadian VC industry. Albert makes a lot of good points, and few people have come out and argued with the article, but he doesn’t go after any specific VC. And Albert’s also gone through the fundraising process numerous times in Canada. Most importantly, Albert has the ability to go to Silicon Valley and raise the money there. It makes it easier for him to speak publicly here. Not everyone has that opportunity.
We need people like Albert Lai speaking out about the startup and VC industries, and advocating change & improvement. And if you’ve ever heard Albert speak publicly, he does so brilliantly. But you shouldn’t be so emboldened by folks like Albert, or naive, to think that it’s smart and beneficial to complain about VCs and investors, assuming it won’t have a negative impact on your ability to raise money. It will. So be careful.