Just Been Through the VC Process: I Love to Be Transparent, but Wondering How Much is Smart to Share vs. Keep Private


6

Over the last 3 months, I've had more than 40 phone calls with partners at well-known VC firms, dozens of in-person meetings, follow-on meetings and partner meetings. We're nearing the end of the process and I'm wondering how much is smart to share.

As background, I wrote this post - http://www.seomoz.org/blog/my-startup-experience-vc-entrepreneurship-selfanalysis-the-road-ahead - which describes why we went out for funding and gives a good sense of the transparency I typically like to have. Transparency is also a core value for my company and I feel fairly confident that sharing the experience of going up and down Sand Hill Road would add quite a bit for aspiring entrepreneurs and those curious about the VC environment (particularly the current climate).

Specifically, I'm wondering if it's wise to share:

  • Names of the firms (or even partners) that I talked to
  • Specifics about why folks were or weren't interested
  • Criticisms they gave
  • Sharing our investor deck (perhaps not entirely, but in parts) along with advice on how I'd improve it (after giving the pitch so many times)
  • Details of our situation (amount sought, pre-money valuation, etc.)

On one side, I recognize that problems might arise from sharing too much, but it also seems likely (and we've always had positive experiences) that it could provide benefits and even garner additional value for future endeavors.

Looking forward to all of your thoughts - thanks!

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asked Oct 11 '09 at 02:59
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Randfish
1,001 points
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5 Answers


6

I'm a big believer in transparency myself and we're pretty transparent at HubSpot.

Having said that, one piece of advice would be to me mindful of the fact that there are two parties impacted when you share certain information about your discussions -- your company, and the VCs.

So, I'd suggest that sharing details on a particular VC's analysis or outlook on your company might not be something you want to do. Not because you're trying to hide anything, but because it's considered somewhat bad form.

Also, transparency is one thing, but that doesn't mean you need to reveal all your cards. After all, at some level (perhaps multiple levels), it's a negotiation. If you think it helps the process, by all means share -- but don't feel an obligation to do so.

answered Oct 12 '09 at 05:56
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Dharmesh Shah
2,860 points

5

The advice would be invaluable, so from a selfish point of view I'd say "tell all."

However, the fact is that all the information you exchanged with them is confidential, and I'm willing to bet it says so on documents, especially term sheets, LOIs, etc.

Here's a metric: Are you scared that they will discover that you were transparent? Would they be cross if you mentioned them by name?

In other words, if it feels wrong, if you're embarrassed, if you'll feel like you should hide something, then it's wrong. Otherwise it's probably not wrong.

Another point: Ask them. Say "I'm going to write about this and this, is that OK?" I know, easier to ask forgiveness than permission, but this would put you in the clear.

answered Oct 11 '09 at 05:42
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Jason
16,231 points

3

i love your site btw, and have been following it for some time - take whatever i write with a grain of salt, as our startup has only raised funds via angels.

i think it's okay to write about the names of firms and partners you've spoken to... as long as their specific comments and their offers/ term sheets etc aren't directly linked to them... that is, write about each as separate and discrete pieces of information.

i think it would be useful for others in the seo space to learn which firms and partners were interested in seo, and there is value for both the community at large, as well as the VCs themselves.

i think there is value for the entrepreneur community to learn about term sheets, criticisms, reasons for no interest, etc, but without attributing the offer and comments to the specific VCs, doing so may not be seen favorably by the VC community as a whole, and there is little value anyways in doing so for another entrepreneur - they just need the meat, they don't need to know where it came from.

i think everything else that you'd like to share is fair game.

congrats on your current successes, good luck as you figure out this next stage for your company!

best,

s

answered Oct 11 '09 at 03:11
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Subbu A
31 points

2

Who do you want to share this information with?

Internally with your employees, you can pretty much be as transparent as you want.

Externally, you can use a site like http://thefunded.com if you want to help your fellow entrepreneurs have an efficient fund-raising experience.

Anything else, I would only share high-level information. For instance, which funds you pitch is not particularly confidential. Think of Bessemer's anti-portfolio: "we passed on Google". You can write the same kinds of stories: "Bessemer are idiots for passing on us". But detailed terms would be confidential.

answered Oct 12 '09 at 13:30
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Alain Raynaud
10,927 points
  • Good point on thefunded.com. That would be the place to share your thoughts. They do a good job of keeping the sources private. – Jarie Bolander 9 years ago

1

I just read this link: http://www.freddestin.com/blog/2009/11/three-things-you-should-never-tell-a-vc-when-fundraising.html and found it contains very interesting material regarding your question. Check it out.

Hope it helps

answered Dec 18 '09 at 10:15
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Newyuppie
441 points

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