How Startup Founders and CEO’s Rate the Top VC’s in SV

Someone shared the latest YouGov Entrepreneurs Poll with me recently and the findings are very interesting.

They interviewed a select group of founders about their experiences working with different VC’s and asked them about what they wanted from their VC and what they were actually getting from them. Here are some of the key findings:

A VC’s network is one of the key factors. For founders, the most important consideration when deciding which VC firm/partner to work with is that investor’s network. This is kind of obvious, given the number of connections the average VC has. Founders want high level access to potential customers, partners, key hires and contacts in new and foreign markets.

After network, industry knowledge and ability to lead future rounds were the most important factors. It’s again obvious that you want your investor to have deep knowledge about your sector so that they can provide high level strategic advice. But more importantly, having a VC that can support the company in future rounds is incredibly important. It’s not only helpful for a founder when they are raising their next round to have an existing investor putting in new money to give a new investor the extra confidence to commit. It is also helpful in economic downturns when money is less readily available (RIP Good Times?), when you need a bridge or when you want to raise an internal round faster than you could by going out to the market to raise from a new fund.

What wasn’t so obvious were the following findings:

“VC as a platform” isn’t something that entrepreneurs are looking for. I know personally from speaking with founders that its a bonus to be able to have support during a design sprint or to have access to a PR/Comms exec, but having access to a full suite of support isn’t necessary for someone building a company in their own way (although if I had to guess I would say recruiting would still be the number one must have if VC’s did provide a formal service).

Operating experience is overvalued. This was the most interesting finding to me. This comes at the bottom of the list next to mentorship/coaching from the VC. Some of the best VC’s never started a company and never worked at a startup. Most of these folks actually got into VC early in their career and learned the tricks of the trade and got good at picking winners. The bad ones got weeded out. But there are some pretty epic former entrepreneurs turned VC’s who go against this logic.

Now if you split out the answers from founders on their first startup vs. those with several startups under the belt, the results become even more interesting. Network is still at the top of the list from both sets of founders, but it is less important for a serial entrepreneur. This makes sense – if you have a network already established then you will rely less on your investor’s. Credibility is also much more highly rated by first time entrepreneurs vs. the serials. I presume it is much less important getting a brand name fund than it is getting the right deal from the right partner who buys into your vision as an entrepreneur.

But the biggest difference between first time entrepreneurs and serial entrepreneurs is wanting a VC with the ability to invest into future rounds. This so clearly demonstrates the experience as well as battle scars that serial entrepreneurs have from starting multiple companies in different economic cycles. For them, having someone who can cough up more cash to help the business through bad times and good is a huge asset to have in their VC.