All VC Firms’ Processes are Different

“What is your process?”

It’s an easy question to ask, but only a few entrepreneurs do.

Allen Morgan has written a great series of posts advising entrepreneur’s on their first meeting with a VC. And as he explains,

“The goal of your first meeting with a VC IS NOT to get a funding commitment. The goal of your first meeting IS to get a second meeting.”

But then what?

What is the process for a venture capital firm to progress from a successful initial meeting with a company to putting a term sheet on the table?

There isn’t an easy answer – it truly varies from firm to firm. At the heart, venture capital firms are comprised of a number of unique individual partners. Given that different firms have a number of different partners, that sometimes firms have geographical spread among its partners, and that every firms’ partners have different personalities, every firms’ decision-making process is going to be different. The organization of a partnership and its corresponding structure is going to reflect the unique situation that these group of individuals face.

For example, I know of one firm that formally assigns both an “advocate” partner and a “skeptic” partner to evaluate a potential investment. Others will consider an investment less formally. Some will write diligent investment memorandums based on specific, itemized checklists to ensure that all basis have been covered. Others rely on more of an intuitive approach to evaluation. Some have regularly-scheduled investment meetings, while others will convene when a deal is “hot.” Some firms have a formal voting process, while others are consensus-driven.

Because of these differences, both the types of questions asked of an entrepreneur and when they are asked are going to differ from firm to firm – and what these questions signal to the entrepreneur can also differ. Asking about the process may not result in a full revelation of what goes on behind the curtain, but it should yield some insights to guide the entrepreneur along the way.

“What is your process?” It doesn’t hurt to ask.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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