Ballou Pont Party
Originally uploaded by fredwilson.

I got my start in the venture business with a summer job in 1986.

Back then the way you got in to see a VC was you sent (via mail) a business plan. It was read (often by me) and if it met with approval, you got invited in to pitch.

There were ways to bypass that process. If you knew someone who knew a partner at the firm, you could increase your chances of a meeting, but it still often required a business plan review.

To be honest, not that much has changed in the 22 years since then.

VCs are still notoriously hard to get to see. And there is a good reason for the protective barriers that VCs set up. There are an order of magnitude more entrepreneurs than there are VCs. If VCs were totally accessible, they’d be overrun with entrepreneurs.

That’s one of the reasons I started this blog. Though I can’t meet with a hundred entrepreneurs today, I can write something that a hundred entrepreneurs might read today. And we can have a discussion about it in the comments or via email (with disqus its the same thing except its public for all to see).

That kind of accessibility has been very eye opening to me. Entrepreneurs want access and we have to find a way to give it to them. The old approach of erecting barriers is no good for them and its not good for us either.

I was so happy to hear Saul Klein’s reason for starting 0pen Coffee when I met him the other day. He wanted to provide access in an easy way for him and entrepreneurs. He picked a place where he’d have coffee every thursday morning. It worked, big time

Last night I went to a party on a bridge over the Seine hosted by Ballou PR. There were about 30 to 50 entrepreneurs there (and at least one all the way from NYC!). That’s a picture of the event at the start of this post, and yes those are my kids laughing at me taking a picture on the upper right.

Collette Ballou warned me that entrepreneurs would be lined up to talk to me all evening. That was fine with me and it wasn’t really like that. It was a party and I tried to talk to everyone I could.

It was access plain and simple. Will we invest in any of the companies I met last night? Who knows? But I met a bunch of people who wanted to meet me. It was great.

I know VCs who go to invitation only conferences. I refuse to do that. I’d prefer to go to a hacker meetup.

Its about access, not walls. That’s what we as industry need to work on.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    Tremendous post Fred. Yes, negotiating accessibility is key and figuring out new ways for VCs to get in touch with entrepreneurs and vice versa is very important. But of course — that’s what the web does best, bringing together people who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten in touch. That’s why it’s so exciting.I was sorry I missed the pont party, I was working late that night.

  2. alexksso

    Yep yesterday was a nice party (although air was getting a bit too fresh by the end) – too bad my meeting finished at 9 and you were already gone 😉 biiiig disappointment – come back soon !

  3. Jackson Miller

    Fred, I do appreciate the access you give us entrepreneurs via your blog. It it definitely a great resource for us. It also has given me some ideas about what I want in a VC other than just money.We have a tremendous tech environment brewing in Nashville. There are some efforts to get VCs and entrepreneurs to the same events and I think it is working.As an entrepreneur it gives me the opportunity to build relationships with people who have very valuable experience (VCs, previous entrepreneurs, etc). Meeting a VC for the first time during a 30 minute pitch session isn’t very helpful to me other than the possibility of landing some funding; it can create a ton of unanswered questions. Whereas building a relationship with a VC has allowed me to get great advice and help while raising an angel round (and guess who will get called first for Series B).I hope that VCs who choose to provide access find that it helps them do better deals. That way the access will continue.

  4. avertiz

    Great post. I’ve been an avid reader for some time but not much of a commenter. This post is so compelling for so many reasons that I just have to comment. First off, the notion of open access itself is a wonderful thing. Not only should the VC world follow through with such a commitment but also every single company that has any need for customer interaction.I want to share two quick stories….I’ve always been an entrepreneur of one sort or another. More recently I’ve flirted with the idea of seeking VC money for a few ideas/projects however I’ve always gone back to good ‘ol bootstrapping and it has worked so far.A few months ago I was going around trying to get some feedback on a new venture I had planned. I didn’t want to jump head first into the VC world so I tried to connect with a few people I knew and bounce some ideas. One of them was a guy who I went to high school with (I knew him but not a “friend”) who now works at a NYC VC firm (somewhat high level). I caught him on LinkedIn and sent him a request thinking I could start that way and float some ideas by the guy. A prompt response comes back telling me that he doesn’t connect through LinkedIn unless the person has some sort of working relationship with him (I’m paraphrasing a bit). Well, that was the end of that lead.A few days later I was twittering about Xobni, how much I love it but how it was killing my primary computer. I had to uninstall it (put it back in a few weeks later). A few hours later I get a Direct Twitter from Jeff Bonforte (CEO of Xobni) asking if there is anything he can help with. Now here is a guy, ex Yahoo VP, CEO of a startup who has immediately made himself accessible to a customer. Kudos to Jeff.I’m all for ripping down the walls and it is a refreshing sight to read such a straightforward declaration from you. If only people would understand that building a business is not about insulating yourself, it is about providing access to your customers and partners. The days of CEOs working in Ivory Towers and insular corner offices are over. A CEO (a VC or any executive team for that matter) needs to be accessible to employees, to customers, to partners and everyone else.Thanks for the refreshing thoughts Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks. If you ever decide not to bootstrap, please come talk to meFred

  5. Kenosha_Kid

    Fred, great musical selection today. I am listening to Johnny’s beautiful and haunting rendition of Depeche Mode as I read through your blog and its resulting comments. Was that particular selection intentional?

    1. fredwilson

      No, totally accidental. Maybe it was karma

  6. Damon Cali

    We, as entrepreneurs, need to reciprocate. Every company has a blog, it seems. But how many are as open as Fred is with their thoughts and provide the same access as he does? It’s one thing to talk about your products. What you need is to provide a window into your mind. I’m currently bootstrapping a web company, and am trying to tell the story as openly as possible. (See my link for the blog). Do I need money right now? No. Will I in the future? Maybe. Will it help my case if investors can see my blog and “get to know me” in the same way that I “know” Fred (we’ve never met). Absolutely.

  7. Jeff

    Good call Fred. Interesting that venture capital hasn’t evolved much more in the past 20 years. You would think that the technological advancement over the past 20+ years would of influenced some revolutions. It still comes down to the basic fundamental however, starting with reviewing a business concept within the business plan….

  8. MartinEdic

    i think there is something important going on here that extends beyond your own personal attempts to be more accessible. We’re raising a round and finding that it is not that hard to get in to talk to people- a lot easier than the last time I tried anyway. It may be the place we’re in (social media measurement) or the fact that the founders have a relative success in their history. Regardless I’m finding that there is an attempt to shed the ‘know-it-all’ rep that many VCs were surrounded by, deservedly or not.I sure hope this is true. The one caveat for entrepreneurs is: do your homework. If people like Fred (and Brad and Rick S., etc) are going to be generous with their time, be prepared. Read the blogs!

  9. markslater

    well its not just the VC business that needs to change with the recalibration of the supply demand equation that has resulted from emergence of the demand sides voice.I was working on an M & A deal of a piece of technology in football (soccer) – we ended up doing a whole load more than the M & A – and are on the verge of releasing the product in 2 weeks. the relevance of this, is that we are considering a marketing strategy around tweeting prominent ex players, and industry notables. In our case, a co-investor is a former player called Kenny dalglish – the notion of having him tweet his activities for a period (30 days) and having people follow him is of brand interest to us – and we are considering an organized approach where other players that we are sponsoring, agree to participate in a program that has them expose their daily lives and thoughts for a period of time. I question the interest this will generate, but then again i am sure twitter folks did when launching – and look now (OT its hard to predict what interests people!).My point here, is that as these barriers breakdown, so do the rules of engagement for people on the supply side of the equation -who are used to enjoying how the imbalance favors them.Its happening, or going to happen everywhere – in a great deal of industries who face the consumer.

    1. fredwilson

      Great stuff!

  10. Dhru Purohit

    They did a great job with Ning.This one is pretty sweet too:Israeli VCs, entrepreneurs connecthttp://israeltechnology.nin…

  11. Jason Preston

    Fred I think you’re absolutely right that it’s about access not barriers. I think you’ve been ahead of the curve on this as well as many other changes that the internet has brought.I think you’re lucky that you’re wired for the internet. I know a lot of people who would much prefer walls.

  12. adityac

    We are having a hacker meetup (news.yc) in W’burg this weekend — too bad you’re not around!

  13. Karen E

    Aw, c’mon, how cute is it that your kids are laughing at you in the photo? What is lo-o-o-o-ove anyway, does anybody love anybody anyway?

  14. Dan Weinreb

    I went to the Boston “Open Coffee” meeting the week before last and it was lots of fun. People talked about their business ideas, and also just the usual technology stuff (Have you used X software, and does it work well?, etc.) The guys were sharp and friendly. There were only two investors there, one VC guy who apparently shows up frequently, and myself (Common Angels). Anyone looking for seed-stage investments could do a lot worse than show up at one of these meetings.