Category Archives: Venture Capital

What is Venture Rate of Return?

Entrepreneurs usually ask me why VC’s take so much of their company when they are only providing money and the entrepreneurs themselves are doing all the work.

Its very simple actually. VC’s and other professional investors raise money from other people (usually funds and high net worth individuals) who are expecting a return on their investment.

Right now in India, fixed deposit rates hover around 10%. That means each year you are getting 10% return on your money as a “safe investor”. Real estate investing over the last 20 years has returned in India (not all but many) close to 15%. Granted both these are fairly “not very liquid” investment classes.

Venture investing though is less liquid. Until the companies “exit” they dont return any money to the investors.

So if you as an investor are willing to take a risk, you expect a higher rate of return. Some other asset classes return higher than real estate, but they would be more risky.

The term Venture rate of return is the % of money the investment will yield annually over a period of time in a venture fund. Used to be that period of time was 7 years, now it is close to 10 years.

Lets say for sake of discussion the rate of return you expect as an investor in a fund is 25%. It seems reasonable given the risk.

That means, the VC has to return 25% each year on money raised.

Lets say that the VC raises a $10 million fund. In year one that fund has to be “worth” $12.5 Million, $15.65 Million in year two and so on until in Year 7 when it has to be worth $47 Million and in Year 10 it has to be worth (and return) $93 Million.

So the $10 Million raised has to return 9.3 times its value over 10 years.

VC’s have operating costs as well so they take 2% of the fund every year as a management fee for say 4 years. That means they have $9.2 Million to invest and $93 Million to return over 10 years.

Ten Times the Money raised.

Now this money should not be in paper alone. It has to be funds returned to the investor. Which brings us to the “exit”.

If startups dont “exit” – go public or get bought, then the funds dont get their money back and everyone is unhappy.

Unhappy since VC’s wont make the return they have to for their investors and the investors in turn will stop putting money in VC funds, which means fewer startups will get funded.

What does this have to do with % ownership for VC’s? They have to own a significant % of your company so when the company exists, they can provide that return to their investors.

If you are a VC and you are investing the $10 Million in 10 companies (its not as simple as put $1 Million in each company BTW), you need to have at least 2-3 companies “exit” because 7-9 will close and die. Startups have a very slim chance of success. Success in this case is providing an exit.

Success, however for an entrepreneur is a growing, thriving business. That’s the dichotomy and a discussion for a later post.

Here is a spreadsheet for a review.

Fund Raised  $  10,000,000
Management Fees 2%
Year 1 Mgmt fee  $        200,000
Year 2 Mgmt fee  $        200,000
Year 3 Mgmt fee  $        200,000
year 4 Mgmt fee  $        200,000
Total Management fee  $        800,000
Total available to invest  $    9,200,000
Expected Annual return 25%
Fund Value Fund Return
Year 1  $  12,500,000
Year 2  $  15,625,000
Year 3  $  19,531,250
Year 4  $  24,414,063
Year 5  $  30,517,578 3.05
Year 6  $  38,146,973 3.81
Year 7  $  47,683,716 4.77
Year 8  $  59,604,645 5.96
Year 9  $  74,505,806 7.45
Year 10  $  93,132,257 9.31

Commitment delivery percentage – an indicator of future success of startups?

Here’s an interesting new term for entrepreneurs to be aware of – Commitment delivery percentage. I dont know for sure but I think in a year from now, most startups will start to follow this metric more seriously than others. Some investors are already claiming this metric to be the #1 indicator of future success of startups.

At the Microsoft Accelerator in Bangalore, there are 11 companies in our current batch (Sep to Dec). Every week I send our reports to all our mentors with the weekly commitments that startups have signed up for and how many of them have met their commitments.

Since startup discipline is something I am very passionate about, it goes without saying that I track everything at the accelerator.

Commitments fall into 2 buckets – product and customer. Overall we focus on 3 areas in the accelerator – Product development, Customer development and Revenue development, but initially revenue development is largely ignored since most folks are building MVP and getting early adopters.

Each of these 2 buckets of commitments is not something the startup comes up with alone in a vacuum.  I typically discuss the commitments at our weekly all hands and it is a fairly public affair. While some teams try to lower the bar for their commitments, most are aggressive with what they commit to.

Product commitments are delivery of new set of features, versions or changes per a customer / early adopters requirement. Since many companies have mobile or web applications, most startups at the accelerator become customers of other startups so the feedback loop is quick and immediate.

Customer commitments are a combination of # downloads (if mobile app), or active users, engaged users or user feedback. Since I fundamentally believe that nothing’s possible without customer’s (who have a problem) at a startup, most companies have customer commitments from the first week. During the early days it was mostly meeting customers to get feedback and showing mockups, wireframes, etc.

The weekly report I send out to all mentors (currently over 70 folks) are to people who are committed to helping these startups and are engaged with them every week, either making introductions or reviewing progress and trying their product.

As with most reports, I can tell quickly who has read the report and who has not. On average 30 mentors (less than 50%) read the reports each week. They dont take more than 5 min to read and review.

Most of the investor mentors were reading the reports (of the 13 investor mentors, 8 were diligent and even asking questions every week to clarify certain points).

Over breakfast and a few lunch meetings I had a chance to get & give some feedback to some of our mentors. One question most people asked me was:

What % of commitments were being met and which companies were best at meeting commitments?

The answer is a surprising 70% of commitments were being met consistently and 63% of companies were consistently (with 1-2 exceptions per company max) exceeding their commitments on both product and customer traction.

Most seed-stage investors in India have a revenue requirement (not all, but most) so I was surprised they were the most aggressive in asking me questions about commitments. Seems to me, thanks to the early visibility, investors, were willing to make earlier bets, but needed some sense of the team’s performance.

What better way to judge performance than see the team making commitments weekly and delivering on them?

Investors have mentioned to me the in their experience the #1 indicator of a venture funded startups’ success is crisp execution and if they are going after a large market, then fantastic execution makes a good team great.

So how can we help more companies get on this instead of just Microsoft Accelerator companies?

We plan to release a version of our startup connection system (internally called The Borg) to all Indian companies by mid January 2013. With this solution all companies (who opt to do so) can make their commitments and report them to over 250 seed and early stage investors, mentors and advisers. And yes, its free to all startups.

The next experiment is to see in June of 2013 if the improved visibility into a startup’s execution increases the chances of funding for entrepreneurs. We are currently tracking that as well, and will be able to report in an automated fashion.

What should a series A funding process look like? Step 5: due diligence and transfer of money to the bank

Please read series A funding plan and strategy, the first step of the process – the introduction to an investor, the 2nd step – first meeting and follow up, step 3 – present to the partnership, step 4 – Negotiations and Legal Discussion and now the final step: the due diligence and money transfer.

After the investor offers your a term sheet, they will mention that the final money transfer is subject to clearing their “due diligence”. Anecdotal evidence from 4 people in my VC network suggests nearly 10%-15% of companies which get a term sheet do not clear the due diligence. That’s a very high number.

What is a due diligence?

Its examination of the facts stated by you to ascertain if they were true.

The due diligence checklist (sample: pdf file), typically consists of anywhere from 10-15 (short) list of items to 10-20 pages of items. The items include your incorporation paperwork, tax and regulatory compliance, IP rights ascertainment, contracts signed, customer verification, and a host of other items.

Everything you mentioned in your presentations before (including customers you signed, revenue you currently are booking, etc.) will have to be verified.

Typically if you are a small startup doing little revenue, this might take 2-3 weeks, but if you are a larger entity it might take a month or more. Usually it is done in parallel with the term sheet negotiation, and will take up (in India) 1/2 time for that period of any individual. It consists of bringing together multiple documents and paperwork that you may have missed, filed or recorded.

This is one of the main reasons why fund raising becomes a full time job for one of the cofounders. I would also recommend you giving a heads-up to your Chartered Accountant or your lawyer so they can help you with these, but realize you (or someone you assign) will have to project manage this entire task.

Most investors (both in the US and India) prefer to transfer money in full to your account once the paperwork has been signed. Sometimes as part of the negotiation, you might get specific milestones that you might have to hit for more money to come to your bank. That’s typically called investing in installments or “tranche“.

Within 1-2 weeks of your final negotiation, you will be expected to put a “90 day” and a full year financial model and plan. You will be expected to hit these metrics (preferably go above and beyond). You should also expect a monthly (at the minimum) review of the key metrics (revenue, customers, hiring, etc.).

What might go wrong and how to fix it?

1. Your are missing certain items in your due diligence list. The key is to warn early. Tell your investors you are either missing or have lost or dont have a few items. You will be given time to get those fixed or in some cases they might waive it – it depends on the nature of that item.

2. There are some discrepancies between what you mentioned during your initial presentations and the documents you submit. That happens more often that most investors like and is probably the cause of most of the term sheets being rescinded. My personal suggestion is to be totally transparent and upfront with your investors before the due diligence so you can avoid this situation.

3. Some of the items in the due diligence dont apply to you, or they dont make sense or you dont like to share them. If they dont apply, ignore them and communicate. If they dont make sense, learn. You dont have a choice but to share everything with the investor.

If you like this post, please consider submitting to Hacker News.

What should a series A funding process look like? Step 4: Negotiations and Legal Discussion

Please read series A funding plan and strategy, the first step of the process – the introduction to an investor, the second step – first meeting and follow up, step 3 – present to the partnership and now onto Step 4 – Negotiations and Legal Discussion.

Congratulations, you have achieved what nearly 95% of startups (anecdotal evidence) wont end up doing – getting to a “term sheet” discussion with an institutional investor. After your first VC meeting, usually this step happens about 3-4 weeks later in India and a week or two in the US.

Typically most VC’s and their associate / principal will make a trip to your office between this period. They will want to meet the team, check out your offices and make sure that you are a “real company”. My personal experience shows that you should use your “lack of funds and frugality” to your advantage. Dont try and have them meet you at someone else’s office (has happened once) or try and spruce up your office (keep it clean, but dont go overboard).

Question I get is usually “I am working out of my home / garage”, should I invite them there? Let the investor know that you work out of home and they will usually ask you what your plans are post funding. Most will decline to come to your home, but if you wish you can ask them to meet at a coffee shop near your home / garage.

Most investors like the frugal quotient in startup founders.That shows that you focus on hiring the right folks and building the right product instead of “AC offices” and plush “Aeron Chairs“.

Your investor champion will typically call you with a short message in which she will say the firm is pretty excited about your opportunity and would like to offer a term sheet. She will invite you for a discussion on valuation and quantum of funds, at their office typically, with their associate and/or principal – let me call them “investment professional” or IvP from now on.

The IvP would have done quite a bit of work by this time to review your financial projections and assumptions. They will have also called a few potential customers, a few existing customers, some industry experts and a few of your friends and past acquaintances (yes, this happens in US and India) to get more information about you, the market, customers and other trends.

The negotiations are never one meeting. It will take typically 2-3 (or more) weeks to discuss between you, lawyers at both parties and the IvP. In your first meeting with the investors, they should state clearly why they are investing in your company – we like the market, we think the team is good, we think you can make it big, etc. They should also give you feedback on what needs work – you need to revisit your assumptions on hiring costs, the revenue projections are aggressive, your channel strategy is something they can help with etc.

Then they will give you two numbers of your term sheet – the valuation and the investment. They will say something to the effect “We are willing to invest $1 Million at a pre-money valuation of $3 Million”. Or they might say “We are looking to invest $1 Million for 40% of your company”.

You should be aware of these terms: pre-money valuation, investment quantum and post-money valuation, ownership %.

post-money valuation = pre-money valuation + investment

ownership % (for money invested) = investment / post money valuation – this is also the amount you “dilute“.

So in example 1: If they are investing $1MM at pre-money of $3MM, then your post money Valuation is $4 MM. So the company is valued at $4MM after funding. Since they put $1 MM, they will get 1/4 or 25% of the company.

In example 2: They are investing $1MM and are looking for 40% of the company. Which means the post money valuation is $2.5M and the pre-money is $1.5 MM.

How they come up with these valuation numbers is a series of posts in itself, but suffice to say its part art, part science and largely a function of market conditions (supply / demand). If you have multiple investors competing for your deal, you might get a higher valuation if your company is *hot*. If the investors you are talking to are the only ones who are still interested, and you need the money, be prepared to dilute more.

After this meeting they will let you, the IvP, their lawyers and your lawyers hammer out the other “terms”. The term sheet (pdf file) will have many other conditions and clauses. I wont cover them all, they require a series of posts in themselves and enough people have written about them.

The most important terms are: liquidation preferences, anti-dilution, full ratchet, drag-along, tag-along (called co-sale in the US), ROFR (Right of first refusal) and board representation.

Keep in mind that your company will pay for your legal fees, and also the investors lawyers. You need two sets of lawyers so each party can protect their interests.

Most investors will say most of these terms are non-negotiable, but depending on the deal they will negotiate with you – through the lawyers, obviously. Realize that the lawyers really are the go-between. They wont do or ask for anything the investor really does not want. So, its pointless blaming the lawyers (they are a few errant ones, but they are largely service providers who do as they are told).

What might go wrong and how to fix it?

1. You dont like the valuation or you would like more money (investment amount). That’s negotiable and depends on the deal dynamic. Some investors low-ball and others will give you “fair valuation” Its rare that an investor will over-bid – (A16Z is an exception). Let them know your expectations and be prepared to defend why you think your valuation metric is the right one.

2. They term sheet is loaded with investor-friendly (anti-founder) clauses. Some of those are negotiable as well. I would advice you to pick your battles. Choose 2-3 items you consider very important to you and only negotiate those. The investors typically will do that as well. Most likely you’ll meet in the middle.

3. The lawyers take up endless time splitting hairs. In India, legal advisers will work on a fixed fee for the transaction model, but in the US that’s rare. So in India the incentive by the lawyer is to protect the parties interests but spend as little time as possible so they can bill at a higher rate. In the US though, the incentive is to take the “right amount of time”. Be aware though, that lawyers only do as they are told. Either your investor is telling them some terms are non-negotiable or your are telling your lawyer some issues cannot be compromised. Either ways, get on the call, and fix things proactively.

If you like this post, please consider submitting to Hacker News.

What should a series A funding process look like? Step 3: presenting to the partnership

You have a series A funding plan and strategy, the first step of the process, the introduction to an investor, the second step the first meeting and follow up, now its step 3 is to present to the partnership.

Most times this step is hard to get to. Getting to this step means the key partner who is “sponsoring your startup” believes in it enough to get your company in front of the other partners. Most investor firms have 3-5 partners who (should) have the same # of companies they fund and same amount of funds to deploy. So if the fund is $500 Million and has 5 partners, then each person has to deploy $100 Million to get best returns. The partner sponsoring your company has to convince other partners why he’e excited about investing in your company.

In the US I have been asked to present to the entire partnership 2 times (they will then discuss it between closed doors among themselves), but in India, the way it works is that the partner presents your case to her partnership. So, instead of you telling the story about your company, you have to arm the partner with the best story so she can convince others in the partnership. Other partners can say no, but that’s rare is my experience. Usually your champion has been sharing details about your company with others early in the cycle so they are typically aware of the company, and now are trying to look at the deal in its entirety and look for any last minute reasons to say no.

To get to this point, though, is a series of multiple steps, follow-ups and constant progress updates. There is no “one thing” that you can do to get here. After your first meeting with the investor, follow up on the action items they suggest and ask the right questions of them so you can do the due diligence on them as well.

One of the most important parts (besides following up and providing frequent progress udpdates – weekly) of the process is the type and kind of questions you ask of the investor.

Smart questions and they realize you are trying to evaluate them as much as they are you. No questions and they will think you are a novice.

Here are a few questions to consider, which you can tailor to your situation:

1. How much time do you spend with portfolio companies and how often? Will give you a sense of their involvement. Some investors like to invest and only attend board meetings, whereas others will also provide valuable advice and connections.

2. What are the biggest challenges to scaling our company that you foresee? Will let you know their thinking around amount of money they think you will need eventually.

3. Which of your portfolio company CEO’s can I talk to, so I can learn from their experience? Make sure you also speak to other portfolio companies who they dont mention, so you get a well rounded perspective.

4. Will you be able to lead our round, or will you expect me to find a lead investor? Most firms will lead your round if they are excited, but some seem to prefer to co-invest and let others take the lead. If the firm you are talking to does not lead, then you will have to spend a lot of time trying to get another lead investor.

5. How long will it take from the time your partnership says yes to the time of finishing the paperwork and completing the money transfer? They will mention “on average it take X weeks / months” which will give you a sense of the negotiation process you have to endure.

Typically the partner meetings are on Monday, so if you hear back on Monday or Tuesday all’s good. Later than that means, there are typically more questions that came up, so you things might go sideways for some time.

What might go wrong and how to fix it?

1. Your investors “goes cold” on you after they present to the partnership (happens more often that I’d like). Remember that admin you started building a relationship with in step 1? Leverage her to find a time to speak to your investor – either when she’s on the way to the airport someday or in between meetings.

2. Your investor “needs more time” since they have some concerns. Get the list of specific concerns. Not generic stuff like “we dont like the market”, since nothing’s changed in the market since they started talking to you (assuming its not long). Try and see if those concerns are valid and addressable. If they are not, cut your losses, move on. Keep them informed or progress via a monthly email update, but realize trying to engage again is going to suck up a lot of your time for an unknown outcome.

3. Investor needs “more data“. Understand what data they need and which parts of it falls into the “due diligence” and which parts of it are truly needed to make a decision to offer a term sheet.

4. Investor does not say a firm yes or firm no. This is the biggest problem. Most Indian investors are fairly straightforward and will give you a quick 2 week (from start to finish) no. But the yes might take longer. The trouble is the quicker you push, the more likely you’ll get a no. US investors for most part (institutional) have a hard time saying no. Usually their “yes, but” means not yet. My suggestion is to focus on building your product during this time and get enough other work going on to ensure you dont keep waiting for the phone call from the investor.

If you like this post, please consider submitting to Hacker News.

What should a series A funding process look like? Step 2: The first meeting and follow up

Once you have a series A funding plan and strategy and also the first step of the process, the introduction to an investor, the next step is to prepare for the first meeting and follow up.

Since you got an email from the investors admin, I’d recommend meeting investors either on Thursday or Friday.   Typically the admin will give you 30 minutes or 1 hour. Plan to finish presenting your pitch in 1/2 your allocated time to leave room for Q&A and a discussion on next steps. I dont recommend taking anyone else for your initial meeting, since its exploratory for both parties.

Typically the email from the investor will request you to “send me something so I can review”. From my experience its better you dont actually send your pitch deck via email, but your ONE page summary. Include detailed profiles of yourself in that one page (5 sentence per founder, with previous *accomplishments*).

Here’s a money tip: Include a link to your LinkedIn profile (not facebook or twitter please) at the bottom of the email with the attachment to your one page summary. [Side note: Make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated]. Make it easy for them to find out about who they are going to meet with.

Another money tip: When they click on your LinkedIn profile try to have at least 3 “mutual connections” with that investor. That seems to be a magic number (yeah, I know these may be lame tips, but bear with me).

Prepare for the presentation and show up about 5-10 minutes early (not half hour). Try to pitch your deck to 2-3 others in your company and let them ask you multiple questions.

You should have a overview presentation of about 15 (7 if its a 30 min meeting) slides for this meeting. The average person takes about 2-3 minutes per slide (depending on content), so you will have 30 minutes to present.

There are 2 strategies you can adopt on your pitch deck: Either you go deep on content (the slides should speak for themselves) or moderate (you are needed for the slides, else they are “content free”). There are pros and cons to both approach.

Content deep: Usually used by technical founders, these tend to focus on sufficient detail so that the investor gets a handle of the pitch The pros are: even if you suddenly develop cold feet (rare, but hey that happens) the slides convey your message. The cons: What’s the point of having you in the presentation?

Content moderate: My preferred approach. As you might have heard, investors are people, who invest in people. The pros are: You are in control of the presentation and are able to add “color commentary and provide lots of stories”. The cons: You might forget some very important points you wanted to cover, but those should have been on your pitch deck in the first place.

Here is a possible list of slides and a suggested order (tweak as appropriate).

1. Your background and your co founders: Try to answer these questions in this slide: Are you credible? What makes you unique to solve the problem you are going to solve?

Money tip: Dont use your background slide to only talk about yourself. Use your background to create “connections” with the investors. If you have (smartly) done some background, you will figure out some way to be a Kevin Bacon. Example: I know you invested in <portfolio company> and we recently hired a UX designer from there.

2. The problem you are trying to solve: Stick to 3 real use cases and make sure you have more detailed knowledge of your customer / user. Tell multiple stories here and use 5 minutes of your time on this slide. Why? Most people believe if you understand the problem clearly, you likely have a solution for it.

3. What is your traction? Show them that you are solving the problem already and address the question: So what if this is a problem? Are people buying? Are users signing up?

4. Your estimate of the market – preferably top-down and bottom up. Try to address the skepticism – is this worth the investors time? Money tip: If you market is < $1 Billion for US and < $250 Million in India, dont go to institutional investors. Dont waste your time, because it wont excite them. If you dont know the size of the market, dont make wild-ass guesses. Just say you are doing market analysis in your first meeting. It makes your pitch more credible. Ask the investor for their approach towards market sizing.

5. Your product: Address the question: Do you understand how the problem can be uniquely solved by you?

6. What’s unique about the way you solved the problem? Address the question: Do you have sustainable advantage or unfair competitive advantage over others.This might also be a place to address any unique technology challenges you have overcome.

7. How are you going to acquire customers? What approaches might help you best to acquire customers in a scalable fashion? What distribution mechanisms will you use to get multiple customers in very short time?

8. Competitive landscape. The best way to show this is a two-by-two matrix. Be real.

— If this is a 30 min meeting, you should be done by now.

9. How do you plan to make money (if you dont have financials) Or how are you making money right now?

10. The ask: How much money are you looking to raise and what are you going to do with that money?


Slides 11-15 are for your product screen shots, since SNAFU’s happen all the time and you wont get Internet connectivity (or it will be a really slow connection), when you need it.

Use the last few minutes for Q&A and follow up. Have at least 3 questions about how they can help you get further and what improvements would they suggest to your product.

The easy follow-up asks: Ask for introductions to 2-3 of their portfolio companies so you can get a few customers. If you are a consumer internet company, ask them to use the product and let you know their thoughts. Suggest a list of questions they asked that can be the agenda for the next meeting.

Money tip: If you ask “What is the next step”? most will answer “Let me think about this for 2-3 days and get back to you”?. That’s lame.

You should suggest a next step. Examples:

a) Why dont I meet these people you recommend and lets chat on 29th August?.

b) Why dont you come by our office and meet the rest of the team so you get a feel for our culture?

What might go wrong and how to fix it?

1. You turn up really late for the presentation or you get lost trying to find the office. Apologize, try to use the shortened time, but most of all, pray that their previous meeting overran.

2. The investor turns up late for your meeting. If this is your top tier investor, you have not much option, but I know most of them will give you appropriate time if they are late. You can also have 2-3 more “asks” if they are late. If this is not your top investor, be courteous, shorten your pitch, and move on. Life’s too short for people who dont value your time.

3. Investor asks you a ton of questions for which you were either not prepared or do not have answers for. Be honest, say you dont know (its okay to not know) and suggest a follow up on your part to prepare and send him answers and meet again when you are ready.

4. Your “live demo” does not work. Go back and read what slides 11-15 are for.

If you like this post, please consider following me on twitter.

What should a series A funding process look like? Step 1: The introduction

Once you have a series A funding plan and strategy the next step is to have a defined process to make it easy to scale.

Most developer CEO’s dont quite like the word “process” – which usually means repetitive and bureaucratic. In this post I’ll try and outline how you can use process to scale and not lose your mind when dealing with investors.

There are 5 important parts of a series A funding process:

1. The introduction and initial call. Since your plan has already given you a spreadsheet with the target investors and possible connections, this step in the process is to either email (or call as appropriate) your connections with a request to introduce you to the investor.

I recommend that you do a quick 15 min brief to your connection about your company so they know what your company is doing and why the connection you are requesting is a good fit as an investor. I would recommend a short 40-100 word email with your elevator pitch, which can be forwarded to their investor connection.

I would recommend not more than 10 firms in your list (5-7 is ideal). 3 of them which are your top targets, 3 that have not an investment in the space, but have expressed an interest, and finally 4 who are likely to be move slowly.

Usually in India, most investors respond in 3 days and in the US, the top investors in 1-2 days after you have been introduced via a warm contact. Of course there are exceptions, and it might take longer. If they respond faster, you have a connection that’s very highly regarded by the investor.

Ideally you should email all connections in a day or two and get introductions within 3 days from start.

After your connection has sent and email (ideally she has copied you on the introduction), expect a couple of days to get an email back. Usually the response to your email will be an note to you (with their admin copied) to schedule time to meet. Dont ignore the admin, because she will be a big help in steps 3 and 4 when things get slow or responses are delayed.

Elizabeth’s approach was to get meetings to completely book her schedule in 2-3 weeks, which might work for the US, but for India, I’d recommend spacing meetings out a bit so you can a) iterate your deck and positioning based on the feedback you receive, b) get some time to think and follow up with investors and c) give yourself time for traffic and travel (unlike US where most investors in the bay area are in Sand Hill road, in India, they are all over the map).

Spacing things out a bit also ensures you’ll get time to work on the action items they give you. Example: please go meet this person who I know is an expert in the space, or please send an email so I can connect you to a potential customer who is in our portfolio.

Nothing pleases investors more than you taking their advice, acting on it, and showing that you are diligent and value their input. Its the best way to build a relationship.

Setup the follow up meeting, ideally on Wed or Thur – why? Mondays are partner meetings so most people are busy all day. If you meet on Thursday or Friday there’s more chance of your deal being brought to the “partner radar” fresh the next Monday.

What might go wrong and how to fix it?

1. Your connection might not respond to your email. Follow up with a gentle reminder via email (if your connection is a good friend, call her)

2. The connection may take 4-5 days to send your email and may sent it to a influencer (associate) but not a partner. That’s okay, just make sure you meet the associate and try and see if you can get the partner to join – “Hey I met <partner> at <this event> and I’d love to follow up with him on my company”, might work.

3. The connection sends an email but the investor does not respond. Try twitter (most US VC’s are on twitter, but a few Indian VC’s are as well). Best approach is to get a second connection who can also put a word in for you. Calls rarely work if email did not, so try another connection.Try your legal firm’s partner as a person to connect you as well.

4. The investor says they are not investing in the space or they dont like market you are working on. Try and get an alternate investor who they think might be a better fit. “I understand <investor>, would it be possible to suggest someone who might be a fit?”

5. The investor says they are busy for the next few weeks / months (either because of their board meeting schedule or they are raising their own fund). See if you can meet them at the airport when they have a little down time. Dont laugh, this has worked for me several times in SFO. In India, investors attend many events, so suggest you meet there.

If you like this post, please consider submitting to Hacker News.


In the next set of posts I will cover the next 4 steps in the process including:

2. The first meeting & followup.

3. The presentation to the “partnership”.

4. The negotiations and legal discussions.

5. The due diligence and transfer of money to the bank.