I have had the incredible opportunity to work with New Stack Ventures as a venture colleague, and after buying investment opportunities, shadowing conversations with founders and even leading a couple of my own conversations, I have learned some lessons that can resonate with starting founders. which raises capital.
Responsive founders make a difference
The first and probably most important lesson I have learned during my time as a colleague is this: responsive founders really make a difference in whether they raise capital or not.
I have sent several emails and LinkedIn messages to really exciting companies, hoping to get in touch for a call and ask about their raise. And I look back and see that many of these outreach messages were left unread. I have also had conversations with really exciting companies where the founder never follows up and the idea of moving on to the next step disappears.
On the back of the forgetful founder, I have also witnessed extremely attentive founders: founders who send follow-up messages when they do not receive an immediate response, respond to their emails within an hour, and go beyond sending pitch decks and executive summaries (even if they are not question). This kind of founder personas excites me with his enthusiasm and zeal to make a deal. Their sensitivity to the investment process highlights how they are likely to run their businesses.
At the end of the day, many founders may say they are hustlers and go-getters, but I think the founders show me through their actions in the investment process.
Great founders are great storytellers
When I get in touch with founders in initial conversations (after back and forth, hopefully responsive email exchanges), what I look forward to most is hearing their stories. I want to know your story. I want to know what you did before you started (and how it helped prepare you), how you thought about your idea, how you validated your assumptions, how you grew your business and … everything in between (but everything in less than five minutes).
Great founders are great storytellers. The great storytellers I have come across invite me to their corporate travels and make me really care about their success.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the founder who gives short answers and shows no real connection to their work (gives the feeling that this is just a new start for them) leaves me independent of them and their business.
Venture capitalists are more available than you think
Maybe I gave away this point when I said I sent several emails and LinkedIn messages to the founders (which sounds a bit desperate), but VC is much more accessible than you might think. Before working with New Stack Ventures, I had the perception that VCs were extremely difficult to reach, exceptionally busy and a little scary. And although one of the latter two characteristics is still true, I can say with certainty that VC is not difficult to reach.
I can not speak for everyone in venture capital, but I know that the VCs I work with will respond to founders who notify them. Putting yourself out there, as a founder, can lead to advice (which is good for your business), a new connection in the industry (which is good for your network) and even an investment (which is good for the future of your start). In the end, VCs spend hundreds of hours looking for a bootable startup that will change the game, and your startup may be the gem they’re looking for.
So be bold, be sensitive and tell your story to all VCs who will listen. I’m listening.
Note: I was inspired to write this piece by The Full Ratchet’s tips for fundraising entrepreneurs, I thought I would share.
Christa Westheimer is a Rice University student and CEO of Rice Ventures. She is a current venture fellow at Chicago-based New Stack Ventures.