What Are the Most Ridiculous Things VCs Have Said to You?
Q: What are the most ridiculous things VCs have said to you? What is the funniest slow "no" that you've heard? Or the dumbest advice?
Status: 6 months into launch, $3m in Revenue
Setting: Phone conversation with one of the biggest VC brands in Silicon Valley, pitching a $25m Series A
Attribution: From one of the Managing General Partners:
"We’d love to invest, but you would need to move your company – or at least your headquarters – to Silicon Valley, ideally within a few blocks of our office. I don’t want to travel to board meetings."
The rest of the story: I wasn’t willing to split up the company and disrupt my life/family just to get a sexy VC brand on board and make life easy for him. I moved on and kept pitching.
Status: 12 months into launch, $6m in Revenue
Setting: The first board meeting after closing a $25m Series A
Attribution: From one of the two board members from the NYC VC that led the round:
"Now that you have us on your team, you never have to worry about raising capital. We will fund whatever you need. Given that, you need to move a lot faster. You need to open offices around the world and you need 500 employees. Then we can IPO."
The rest of the story: Two months later this same lead VC and board member committed to leading another $50m round, but then pulled out. I got a term sheet from another VC and brought it to the board for approval, but he told me to turn it down (it was from a competitor) and that he would lead after all. One month later, he again pulled out. We found another lead and finally got a $45m deal done, but it was quite a ride.
Status: Planning stage
Setting: Had already had two day-long meetings with an Austin-based VC for the seed funding. We were on a conference call and they were presenting their Term Sheet for $10m of funding, which looked nothing like we had discussed, nor were the terms what they had indicated the Term Sheet would include. They emailed me the Term Sheet five minutes before our scheduled call.
Attribution: From the Managing General Partner of the firm in a profanity-laced rant when I told him the Term Sheet didn’t reflect the deal terms we had discussed:
"You’ve been playing in the minor leagues up until now. We are the major leagues and the 900-pound gorilla in Texas. This is the deal we are offering, so take it or leave it. By the way, it would be the biggest mistake of your career if you turn us down. You would regret that the rest of your life."
The rest of the story: I turned them down only to have him swear at me profusely about what an idiot I was for saying no. I calmly told him that he had provided me all of the input I needed for my decision and that I did not need more time to think about it. I got seed funding from another firm that was very friendly to work with.
Status: $500k of seed funding in place (see above), ready to fully launch
Setting: Pitching a Boston-based VC to co-invest with my seed investor in a $5m Series A
Attribution: From the Managing General Partner of the firm:
"I don’t like it that you have equity in a couple of other startups. I don’t want you to have any other upside except for this deal – I basically want to own you financially."
The rest of the story: I ended the meeting and left. My next pitch was a few blocks away to another Boston VC firm that went well with very friendly partners that ended up investing.
Lessons learned: Life is short and startups are stressful. Taking money from a VC is like a five to ten year marriage with lots of ups and downs and you don’t want to be married to idiots or jerks.