One of the many advantages of raising venture capital is that, as a portfolio company, you have access to the firm’s network. In other words, you can now ask experienced founders and operators as many questions as you’d like.
But what if you haven’t raised funding yet? What if you’re in the earliest of stages and you still have plenty of questions for the venture community? That’s where we come in.
Last year, we sourced a handful of questions from the Chicago startup community, such as what are the most important slides in a pitch deck and should I use a broker, and asked three local VCs to tackle them. Here are the first next three questions in the series.
We’re a startup with good traction and solid GTM, but something every VC seems to push us back on is – we have six founders. Does that concern you? (Answered by Ty Findley, Sr. Associate at GE Ventures)
Unfortunately, six founders are simply too many. Two, maybe three, co-founders with very complimentary skill sets is ideal. Beyond two to three a couple of key issues come to mind, among many others. First, who is calling the shots? Startups need to move quickly, and with that many voices around the table, decisions can take much longer than they should for an early stage company; your board certainly will take issue with this. Second, with that many founders the dilution of company ownership is an immediate concern. Early stage investing requires long-term planning to keep management team incentives carefully aligned with their investors, and if you have already split the ownership 6 ways, an investor will be very concerned that the right incentive is in place during the tough times every startup will go through.
How much does the quality of our angel/seed investors impact your decision to invest in a startup, if at all? (Answered by Binoy Bhansali, Associate at Sandbox Industries)
Angel investors: Can only be a cherry on top, never really a negative unless they sit on the board. If they sit on the board, we would spend some time with them to understand how they think and why they would be helpful to the company / why they should sit on the board.
Seed investors: Again, there are very few reasons why specific seed investors would deter an investment. If they are seed investors that we know and have worked with in the past, it could slightly help an investment thesis, especially if that seed investor sits on the board. If they do sit on the board, we would spend some time with them to understand how they think and why they would be helpful to the company / why they should sit on the board.
Angel/seed investors would not be in the top 5 or so things that we look at when evaluating a deal.
Outside of investing in startups with diverse founders, how do you make sure that your portfolio companies are as committed to increasing diversity in tech as you are? What’s the role of a VC in tackling this issue? (Answered by Samara Meija Hernandez, Senior Associate at MATH Venture Partners)
It needs to start with the limited partners that invest in venture funds. As they look for new investments or at their current portfolio it’s important to ask diversity in breakdown of partners, the investment team, promotions, and how they are investing in diverse founders. In turn, this will drive priority at the fund level into their portfolio. VCs can have guidelines to help increase diversity and inclusion with their portfolio companies. Even better would be to “do the work for them” and do things like create a pipeline of underrepresented groups looking for startup jobs. VCs also can diversify their network by partnering with local organizations already helping underrepresented groups and actively mentoring.
None of this will happen in a meaningful way until the top of the funnel begins to prioritize this – not until LPs begin to ask about diversity in their investments are VCs going to look at diversity as a “nice to have” as opposed to a “need to have.”
(Image: From Left to Right, Ty Findley, Binoy Bhansali, Samara Meija Hernandez)