Source: Kim Reisman, OpenView Partners
Is there a chance that your company will take institutional capital at some point? If the answer is yes, you need to consider how to best manage communication with potential investors. In this two-part post, I hope to relay some tips and best practices for communicating with VCs in a way that is simultaneously efficient, strategic, and effective.
I suspect that some founders hold a perception that putting time and effort into keeping VCs in the loop is a poor use of resources versus more immediately important tasks (acquiring customers, managing a business, building product, etc).
While I understand why this misconception exists, I would argue that creating a strategy for communication with VCs will help ensure your eventual partnership with a firm is the best fit and will save you both time and effort in the long run. Additionally, communicating a positive image of yourself and your business to a group of generally well-connected people may also yield other benefits, such as introductions to potential partners, employees, and clients.
The good news is that taking a more active approach in tracking communication with VCs does not require a hefty amount of time, money, or effort, and doing so will actually help you avoid losing focus on day-to-day business operations during a capital raise. In fact, a fundraising effort is most likely to pull focus when founders don’t put thought and foresight into continuous communication with investors and are forced to hastily establish relationships and communicate their goals with VCs at the 11th hour.
So, as you consider a strategy for marketing to VCs, I want to highlight a couple of best practices that, in my experience, have been helpful to both OpenView (and other potential investors, I assume) and founders of companies that are both actively and passively fundraising.
1) Have a Purposeful Conversation — and Take Notes
Whether you are actively raising money or passively establishing relationships, having a basic agenda and jotting down a few notes when you take a call or a meeting with a VC is critical to saving time in the future. Here are a few things to consider writing down during the conversation:
- Name and position of contact at the firm.
- Investment profile – sectors and stages at which the firm invests (and why).
- Is the firm value-additive beyond capital?
- Where are they located? Perhaps an in-person meeting can be arranged if you’re planning a trip to their area.
- Do they typically take a board seat?
- Do they only participate as a lead investor in a round?
- What are some of their portfolio companies in your space? Do you know someone at one of these companies?
- What is the firm’s interest level in your business — both today and down the road?
Taking notes and engaging in deliberate fact-finding should not add a significant time commitment to your chats with investors and will serve you well in a few ways.
- Most obviously, you will save time by avoiding a long overview of a firm’s profile if you decide to have follow-up conversations in the future.
- Additionally, if someone reaches out from the firm in the future and your business no longer fits their criteria (ex: they do seed stage investments and you need a Series B), you have that information before you schedule a second call.
- Lastly, communicating with VCs in this way will make a good impression on the firm when you remember specifics from a previous interaction.
After a conversation, take a few seconds to dump your notes in a spreadsheet and update the repository each time you have an introductory or follow-up conversation with a firm. When you and your board decide that it’s time to raise money, I guarantee that you’ll thank yourself for taking the time to ask deliberate questions, keep track of the answers, and store this information in an accessible way.
While it’s tempting to just work with the investor that happens to be top of mind when you’re raising money, making an information-driven decision based on a wide pool of potential partners will optimize fit.
2) Designate a Point Person
Continuing with the trend of staying organized, I advise designating one person to take introductory/follow-up calls with interested investors — typically a CEO or a CFO. This point person should also be responsible for aggregating information from other team members when they have off-the-cuff or informal interactions with investors, and tracking this in a central repository (the spreadsheet I mentioned above is a great option!).
Again, remember that putting a note in a spreadsheet is not a time-consuming task and having the information will serve you in the long run.
Those are just two tips that will help improve your communication with VCs and allow you to make a more informed decision when you decide to raise institutional capital. Stay tuned for the second half of this post, which will cover more dos and don’t’s for communicating with VCs.
About Scale Finance
Scale Finance LLC (www.scalefinance.com) provides contract CFO services, Controller solutions, and support in raising capital, or executing M&A transactions, to entrepreneurial companies. The firm specializes in cost-effective financial reporting, budgeting & forecasting, implementing controls, complex modeling, business valuations, and other financial management, and provides strategic help for companies raising growth capital or considering M&A/recapitalization opportunities. Most of the firm’s clients are growing technology, healthcare, business services, consumer, and industrial companies at various stages of development from start-up to tens of millions in annual revenue. Scale Finance LLC has offices throughout the southeast including Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, Greensboro, Wilmington, Washington D.C. and South Florida with a team of more than 30 professionals serving more than 100 companies throughout the region.