As an entrepreneur, I always hated fund raising — I hated not being in control of situations, I hated being at the mercy of markets and other peoples’ schedules. It’s a hard thing to take, and a very vulnerable feeling, especially when you’re used to running your own company and being mostly in control (more or less). I always was particularly frustrated when VCs would go dark for a week or two, not responding to something or not delivering on something I thought we had agreed on. So since becoming a VC myself, I’ve been trying really hard to be responsive and transparent.
Well, these past couple of weeks, I became that guy I’ve been frustrated with so often in the past. I dropped a couple of things I was supposed to do with entrepreneurs and they were very frustrated themselves with me — justifiably so. I think I’m mostly caught up on the things that I owe folks, but know that this is an area that I need to — and want to — pay attention to so I can minimize it in the future.
For whatever it’s worth, I now understand why investors can sometimes become non-responsive for a while. [It’s worth noting I’m not talking about the type of non-responsive that some people use instead of saying “no” to entrepreneurs — that type of behavior is a real problem, and not something that I personally think is ever really okay. I’m talking about disappearing for a few days when you’ve got a next step to plan, and then coming back later to follow up.]
This time around, with me, what happened is this: a couple of investments closed, a couple of investments got announced, a couple of companies I’m involved with went through financing conversations, and a couple of boards I’m on went through particularly meaningful discussions and decisions about the future. On top of which we had a bunch of things going on in our family life.
VC life is paced a little differently than operating, in my experience. It’s a lot of meetings with a wide diversity of entities. Entrepreneurs, recruits, recruiters, other investors, PR folks, etc etc. And just like operators, you try to do as much as you possibly can each week. Because of the external-focused nature of so much of VC work, that means a lot of meetings, and your schedule can get sort of jammed up. Which means you also end up scheduling a fair amount of meetings several weeks or more in advance — which means that you try hard not to move them, since people have been so patient with you in setting them up in the first place.
So you’ve got this normal base meeting load, which can get a little packed — and then you’ve got between 4 and 10 or more organizations who depend on you from time to time for significant involvement and decisions at the board level.
So you build your schedule so that when 1 or 2 of those organizations needs attention in a week, you can accommodate on top of that base meeting load. But when 4 or 5 or 6 company biorhythms line up so that you’re critical path on all of them at once, things get a little hairy. And when you add the other commitments of being a parent, child, spouse and friend, the communication load can just overwhelm you.
Which is what happened to me these past 2 weeks. I think I’m mostly on the road to being caught up now, but am bummed I caused a few folks (especially entrepreneurs) to become frustrated with me. As an investor & partner I need to get better about it, and think I’m learning and adjusting to things pretty quickly now.
One piece of advice I would offer though: if you feel like someone’s gone dark — me or another investor — just drop them a note asking what’s up. Generally that’s all the prodding I need to (at least) let you know more clearly what’s going on.