Over the last 18-24 months, as we were working to evaluate the product-market fit of an early stage venture capital firm focused on emerging ecosystems, we met with several entrepreneurs. The goal was to gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their respective ecosystems and determine how we could best solve their problems.
Lately, as we've become more public about our intentions to invest, I've noticed some founders who approach us don't feel comfortable being completely clear in their intentions for meeting. I'm unsure if this due to the current atmosphere in these ecosystems, if we aren't doing a good enough job in expressing our desire to help founders to the best of our ability, or I am naive and should always expect to be pitched.
Regardless, I strive to tailor the circumstances of the meeting to the appropriate levels, and to quote Jason Calacanis, when it comes to meeting founders “there's nothing I love more.”
The reason I do this is that I want to be known for always having time for founders. People tell me, “I know you're really busy, I don't want to keep you.” But it's my job to meet with founders. There is nothing I love more. - @jason
If I know your intentions for our meeting, it allows me to optimize the time we spend together by adjusting three important aspects to any encounter.
1) Setting - If we are meeting as an opportunity for both of us to expand our network, I'm more likely to suggest lunch or a coffee due to the more relaxed nature of the conversation. However, if we've agreed to a pitch meeting our conference room is preferred. First and foremost, the founder now has the choice of how they'd like to present their deck, if at all, and they don't have to do so on a laptop screen at an awkward angle inside of a loud coffee shop. Secondly, it provides me the opportunity to take better notes and in turn offer much better feedback regardless of our investment decision.
2) Preparation - I am a huge fan of Cal Newport's Deep Work and Greg McKeown's Essentialism which means I've learned to immensely value other's time as well as my own. If we are meeting as a casual get to know you, I'll do some light research on you so that I am able to anticipate your needs and how I can help. However, my preparations for pitch meetings are often much more in-depth and take up large portions of my day. It's crucial to me founders leave those meetings feeling as though they got something other than another opportunity to pitch and if I'm surprised by the pitch I won't be able to be adequately prepared.
3) Time Allotment - This one might be a little more counter-intuitive. If our meeting is a more casual, networking style encounter, I'm more likely to be strict with my time. Whereas during the more formal pitch meeting, I'll put a 30-minute buffer on the back-end to allow us to go over. The last thing I want to do is rush out of what is a vital conversation for both parties.
I hope this list encourages founders to feel as though they can be open with their intentions in meeting with me moving forward. The best part of my job is meeting with people who are on the front lines building businesses that could potentially change a major part of our lives. Running a business is often a 24/7/365 endeavor, and my goal is to ensure I don't waste a minute of an already precious resource....your time.