Why (it seems like) all VCs are assholes

There’s one school of thought that tries to paint VCs as the enemy of the entrepreneur.  The VC-haters cite a litany of evidence, ranging from the tendency of VCs to turf out founders to the pressure they put on startups to scale prematurely.

There is no doubt that VCs–like the rest of us–make mistakes.  But the VC-haters are cherry-picking their evidence.  It’s rare for VCs to fire founders who are successful, and I’ve yet to see a VC put a literal gun to an entrepreneur’s head to scale up.  Back at my first company, I was pressured to grow faster, but it’s my own fault for going along with advice that I didn’t really trust.

Here’s the real reason it seems like all VCs are assholes: They say no 99% of the time.  They have to, if they want to make money.

I am a humble angel investor, and I probably see about 500 pitches a year.  I invest tiny amounts of money in a small number of startups each year, which means I have to say no more than 99% of the time.

Now just imagine the plight of a real VC, who sees 5,000 pitches a year, and has to decide whether or not to invest millions of dollars.

It’s not easy to say no to so many smart, persuasive, charismatic founders.  But it’s how the model works.  And if you’re an investor, you have to find some way to deal with the emotional fallout of being Dr. No.

Naive entrepreneurs might think that VCs delight in saying no.  Far from it.  It’s much more fun to say yes, and to bask in the gratitude and regard of the entrepreneur.

Most of the behavior that entrepreneurs hate, like the tendency to avoid a firm “no,” are the result of liking the entrepreneur too much.  We probably give more benefit of the doubt than is strictly good for us.  Of course, the experienced investor knows that a firm “No,” along with a clearly articulated reason why, is the kindest way to help an entrepreneur.

You don’t need to feel sorry for VCs–after all, they are getting paid large quantities of money to have their ass kissed all day–but you’ll be better off mentally if you understand their situation and let go of any hard feelings.

1 thought on “Why (it seems like) all VCs are assholes

  1. Anonymous

    I WISH VC's said "no". That's one of the things that makes them a-holes, is that they *don't* say no.

    They string you along, saying maybe, pretending like they're interested, when really they're just waiting to see if another VC firm decides to be interested, at which case they want in on the round. They're like lemmings.

    If they would say "no" within one week of pitching them, it would go a long way towards making them less a-holes.

    Further, lets be honest, VCs are abusive, they do not have additional knowledge, but they think they do.

    There is the fundamental conflict of interest between the two parties. VCs want the portfolio to be successful, while the entrepreneur wants their company to be successful.

    VCs force entrepreneurs to spend VC money on other portfolio companies products, even though it's not in the entrepreneur's best interest (seen this first hand.)

    Frankly, if you've worked for startups for any significant period of time, or been in startups at all, you know there are thousands of reasons that VCs are a-holes.

    It's not that we're VC haters. It's that the VC industry is broken.

    Your lack of understanding of this, indicates you have not spent much time working with startups, and your prejudice is unfortunate.

    Because the reality is, VCs being a-holes is a business opportunity to you.

    But so long as you just decide people are jealous of hearing "no", or "haters" you're going to remain blind to it.

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