, 21 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
As a founder, meeting with a VC can be intimidating. It can seem like the VC has all the power, your dream's future at stake.

Yet, it doesn't have to be this way; pitching can be respectful and mutually useful, even if it's a no.

Here's a Simple Guide to Being an Empathetic VC:
1) Offer constructive feedback.

In one of the first meetings for our seed round, a highly-respected seed VC (who passed on us and probably doesn't even remember this) asked what our go-to-market plan was.

We thought for a minute and said "well, I guess build it and sell it?”
Without being disrespectful, he gave us gentle but clear feedback in the moment that our answer wasn't actually a go-to-market plan, and offered a framework for how we might think about one.

Though he doesn't know it, that small kernel of advice took root.
We took a few days, thought deeply about our point-of-view, and revamped our pitch deck and story. We now understood why investors had passed on us.

The very next week, with this newer thinking, "no" meetings started to turn to "yes" and were able to start growing the company.
A little bit of tough, direct, but respectfully-given advice in that early seed pitch meeting changed the trajectory of our company.

Use your expertise to help and guide founders, even if it won't directly benefit you in the moment.
2) Don't ghost the founders!

If it's a "no" just say it.

Especially in early rounds, if a VC likes a deal you'll know quickly.

Like within hours, maybe even in the meeting itself. @roybahat offered to write us a check on the spot (hold him to this, future founders!)
But other times, we waited on pins and needles. A day. A week! What do they think of us? How did we do?

We're still waiting excitedly to hear the results of several pitch meetings we did with VCs when raising our Series A in 2015. (We didn't pitch these firms again.)
If it's a no, just tell the founders it's a no. Even better, say why. Call them. Email them. Offer to tell them why—the real reason why.

It's better to be direct and help them understand why you passed (which can be helpful) than a dismissive “let’s keep super close on this.”
On the founder side, hear the "no" and learn from it. You probably won't be successful arguing back the point, saying "no, our go-to-market is awesome!"

If the VC doesn't get you, then they don't. If there's something to learn from it, hear it. If there's not, then move on.
3) Be generous with your advice.

Pay it forward; give generously of your experience and expertise to the founders spending time with you. Seek out founders who otherwise wouldn't have access to you and help them.

Even a little direct guidance can mean the world.
Very early in our journey, VCs like @stevesi and @tomrikert went out of their way to meet with us and give us feedback for nothing more than karma.

It made a huge difference to us as first-time founders, even just helping us to figure out the rules of how the game is played.
We were so lucky to have had access to such people; many founders aren't so fortunate.

Find these founders, help them, advise them, even if it's not the right thing for you fund them. (And then fund some of them, especially ones who wouldn't have had access to you otherwise!)
4) Avoid fast-exploding term sheets.

I totally understand, from the VC point-of-view, exploding term sheets make sense. No one wants their deal shopped, the term sheet shown to another potential investor to get matching (or better) terms. Founders that do that suck.
But if we are looking to join up in a business relationship that will last for many years, let's start it with mutual respect and trust.

Term sheets that explode in 48 hours don't allow founders to make a good decision, and they often make a choice everyone later regrets.
The #1 piece of advice I give to founders about VCs is "choose the people, not the terms."

That's not to say that you shouldn't compete for great terms, but in the end adding quality human beings to your company is incredibly important and will outpace an extra $5M of valuation.
In each round, we've had investors who patiently waited out our process, without the hard sell or pressure to sign. In each round, these have been the firms we've chosen.

If you have to 🔥 the term sheet, 2 weeks is empathetic. 1 week is semi-reasonable. Less than that is 😢.
5) Allow yourself to be human with founders.

I remember how much it meant to us when @aileenlee called to tell us that she wanted to lead our seed round and said (about the financial terms) "this is the awkward part, sorry, even I get nervous talking about this stuff.”
We were like, oh, this is a real person on the other end of the line.

In the end, this interaction was one of the reasons we chose to work with Aileen (and still have her on our board); she is authentic and real and human. She sees us as more than just fast revenue growth.
It means so much to go beyond the posturing and negotiation and diligence.

Be open and honest, share with founders how your process works (and what's good and bad about it), what you're thinking, what you're worried about in the deal.

This builds irreplaceable trust.
In the end, there's always going to be an inherent power imbalance between VCs and founders. I think everyone can own that this is the case.

But even these few simple things can create a radically more empathetic environment for founders. Be human, kind, helpful, and generous.
Thanks for all the great VCs who have helped us on our journey so far; those mentioned above, also @kentgoldman @gordonritter @StaceyCurry @jakesaper and many many others.

If you need money from quality people, you know where to ask 👆🏼👆🏼👆🏼
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Jensen Harris
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!