Asking About the Founding Story

A year ago I posted about when I meet with entrepreneurs for the first time that I like to ask about the founding story, the plot of how the idea for the company was generated and how the principals in it came together. These intangible details of a founding story accurately portray a startup as a unique coalescence of real people, not just a valuable aggregation of human and technological capital.

I wanted to add that I believe that learning the founding story also helps us as VCs evaluate and better understand entrepreneurial teams in situations where we haven’t had prior experience working together. It faciliates VCs learning more about the company along many dimensions, as it sheds light on subtle cues about a team’s core and the values. And it provides perspective around the original thesis upon which the company was established. In understanding a startup’s narrative, we can better ascertain where blind spots could be in the team’s perspective. If there have been bumps along the way, what has the company held onto and what has evolved? How open are people to change and feedback from the original idea, while staying true to the essence of the fundamental thesis? (If the company is too new to have faced major obstacles, that fact exposes a lot as well.) In other words, learning the founding story is an attempt to proxy having had directly watched a startup grow over time. With a greater perspective of a company’s heritage, the more informed an investment decision VCs can make.

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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