Just Say No.

I’ve been following the new online tech news source Xconomy for a few weeks now. Thus far I’m impressed with their content and continue to pay attention. Xconomy has a writer named simply “Venture Insider” who is apparently a VC who wishes to remain nameless. Presumably he or she will be writing regular columns about the world of tech investing.

Venture Insider’s first (as best I can tell) article is entitled Entrepreneurs are Not Hors D’oeuvres and Other Random Thoughts . On the whole, it is a rational, helpful piece for VCs and entrepreneurs alike, stressing that the social mores of general social interaction shouldn’t be tossed to the wind when entrepreneurs are dealing with venture capitalists (and vice-versa). However, I must take issue with the closing advice of the article:

Finally, to entrepreneurs: if the venture firm doesn’t follow up or return e-mails after a meeting where they seemed really interested, then they’re just not that into you. Most of us are uncomfortable with conflict and would prefer to just avoid having to say no. Think of how you act when a service provider comes in to tell you about legal or IT support services that you don’t really want. You are polite and say “how interesting” and “let’s definitely follow up”—this is just human nature. If someone is actually interested it can be measured by responsiveness and follow-up.

First, as Venture Insider and most other people know well, time is the only valuable resource on planet Earth. Although various VCs have written about how hard it is to say no, I’ve always found the arguments to be weak. If you as a VC have requested a meeting with a team, and both you and they have invested material time for that meeting, the courtesy of a response is, at a minimum, appropriate. It’s not like it was a random bizplan shoved under the door.

Second, for the same reason, shame on the folks who behave like the picture Venture Insider paints with sales people. Is this what things have come to in the world – that “no” is un-utterable?

I have better advice for everybody: don’t yank each others’ chains, okay? “No” is a valid answer to many of life’s myriad questions.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Saying No. « Myriad Missives

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