The Panel Pile Up

I really hate doing panels but I did two of them yesterday for my friends Diana Rhoten and Dave Winer. As panels go, they were fine, in fact both were pretty entertaining.

After both of them, I experienced the "panel pile up" where people line up to pitch me their ideas and companies. Anyone who has done a panel, certainly anyone in the venture business, knows what I am talking about.

I really want to be accessible to entrepreneurs and their ideas and pitches and I tend to be very patient in these situations. But they are hard for me for a few reasons. When there are a dozen or more people lined up to pitch me, I have to cut off each and every person because they are holding up everyone else in line. And sometimes the next panel has to start and we have to take the line outside. Then more people join the line and it can get worse. It's often loud and it is hard to hear. And I am often a bit tired after being on stage for an hour trying to be entertaining and informative. Bottom line is it is not an ideal pitching opportunity for anyone certainly not me.

I have a suggestion for entrepreneurs in this situation that should make this better for everyone. Limit your pitch in this situation to sixty seconds. Communicate three things and ask for one more. The three things are your name and your company, what you are working on, and why you want to meet with me (money, advice, whatever) and then ask if I would do that. If it is something that fits in our investment sectors or if it something I can help with, I will almost always take the meeting. 

I think I am going to start enforcing the sixty second rule in these situations. It should make these panel pile ups better for me and I think it will make it better for everyone.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. bfeld

    Outstanding advice Fred. Also, drop the business card exchange in this situation – it takes another 15 seconds and I can’t do anything with the 72 cards I end up with at the end of the day. Send an email instead, remind me where we met, and reiterate whatever questions linger.

    1. fredwilson

      it is funny you mention the business card exchangei no longer carry business cards. my email is fred at usv dot com so i justgive it to everyone verballyi came home with close to fifty business cards yesterday and looked at themand shook my head

      1. bfeld

        Yeah – I just throw them away at this point.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          I figured you’d recycle them.

          1. Dan Sweet

            lol, nice.

        2. Tereza

          Hey Brad — do me a favor and throw out the smokin’ card with my name on it from your Tuesday pile. LOL.There’s this woman that looks just like me going around town giving out cards. Sheesh! I’ve never met her, but I wish she’d stop. She’s soooooo annoying.

          1. bfeld

            Hah! All you ever need to do is email me at [email protected] and – as a result of the magic of Gist – I’ll have you in my address book.—– Reply message —–

          2. Tereza

            My plan is to go through my new BFF, Celia Feld. 🙂

          3. bfeld

            She works it well!

        3. Matt A. Myers

          I keep mine in a various piles. You never know what resource or partnership possibility could exist for you depending on the project you’re working on.. I’d say it’s different depending on what your goals and future plans are, and for a VC with very specific guidelines for what they invest inI’m sure there are a lot of entrepreneurs attempting to just reach out to everyone possible, and the more transparent and visible a VC is, well, the more people will contact them … so Fred should be flattered he gets so many. because he’s doing his job well. :PMind you, I don’t get 50 cards a day so I can see it being a pain … Managing all of that would be a fun challenge to me though, but I imagine Fred has more exciting things to do.

        4. Paul Kedrosky

          I give them to my kids who white out the names and use them for their secret spy agency. $0.25 per mystery solved.

        5. ShanaC

          Err- recycling?

        6. Ned

          I redistribute them into restaurant and coffee shop drawing fish bowls, particularly when traveling to remote locations.

      2. Dan Lewis

        You should look into When you meet someone for the second or third time (after one of these things, especially), you’re less likely to remember them than they are to remember you — and by a lot. That’s OK, but at some point, if you can mitigate it, maybe you should.

      3. jasoncalacanis

        stopped carrying business cards a years ago….. i mean, firstname at… or @jason on twitter. you can’t remember that why are we trading cards?!i haven’t asked for a business card in years… if i want to remember you i write down your name/take a note on my blackberry to find you.asking for a business card is a tell.

        1. kenberger

          but for the attendee, it is super convenient to come home with the cards and iterate through for follow-up. And it’s much quicker to grab each card than to remove oneself socially to operate a smartphone.OTOH, *giving* your biz card to a panelist/VIP/etc is ludicrous. Just puts them in the awkward position of accumulating trash, since there’s no polite way to refuse a card. And *that’s* the tell.IMO, having bizcards to give out (and *only* when asked) is a worthwhile courtesy. Unless you’re someone who’s achieved Fred’s status where you *should* keep some form of hurdle up– I know Fred won’t like reading that, on some level, but it’s just smart.

        2. ShanaC

          Actually, I like writing notes about people on the back. Or maybe I tend to pull a Gaping Void. I carry charcoal around, you know…

      4. Paul Kedrosky

        I stopped carrying biz cards a few years ago as well. How hard is it to find me? Why do you want a piece of paper with my name on it? If it’s because you think you’ll forget who I was then you didn’t want to talk to me very badly in the first place, did you.

        1. Rocky Agrawal

          my favorite are cards from real estate agents. 99% of them have pictures of the agent on them. i never understood that.

          1. Paul Kedrosky

            Right. Oh, you’re _that_ interchangeable real estate agent. I thoughtyou were the _other_ interchangeable real estate agent.

          2. BobFirestone

            It’s so you can pick the hot one.

          3. Dave Pinsen


          4. Tereza

            Cheesy, perhaps.However I have seen data on this and analyzed this market.For people who are essentially independent contractors in their local area and their clientele are people they see in the supermarket, it works.

      5. daryn

        Of course meeting Fred Wilson or Brad Feld is a big deal, and most people interested in following up with you won’t forget your name or email address :)I don’t carry business cards mainly because I never bother have them made, and in the past, whenever I’ve handed them out, I’d get a lot of unqualified linkedin invites and solicitations from service providers rather than meaningful contacts. If you remember how to spell my name, my contact info is easy ([email protected], or @daryn on twitter)Or, if I really want to make sure we followup, I’ll have you send me (or I’ll send you) a quick email right then from my phone…

      6. Fred T

        I agree. One great thing I liked with this non-existent exchange is: after not even swapping business cards, the investor from FLOODGATE remembered our meeting out of all the hustle and bustle. Clearly, I was impressed by that.

      7. paramendra

        I don’t even get mobbed, and I carry a business card that has only my first name – Paramendra – on it. “That is my name on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Gmail.” I say. Almost noone gets back. They ask for the card because, well, that is what you are supposed to do. Or maybe some of them follow me on Twitter. I don’t know.Business cards are so passe.

        1. Tereza

          I always carry a business card, and always will.As my mother said, “Terezko, no one ever remembers our name. But no one forgets it.”Without a card they will never be able to spell me to reach me.

    2. paulhart

      I was thinking about business cards too. Surely an entrepreneur should be prepared for the mass of people that will mob a “celebrity” VC. Part of that preparation should include having the key details written on the back of the card.Front of card: corporate tombstone info. Back of card: value proposition etc. Follow it up with an email regardless.Oh, and as the one initiating the conversation, I likely don’t *need* the VC’s card, I should be able to figure their deets out independently.

  2. Dan Sweet

    Fred, I think you should do the stopwatch on a lanyard thing. And if people aren’t stopping you could maybe add a whistle–though that could start to get a little Sue Sylvester. Unfortunately, many of the smartest people aren’t the most socially adept. People act like this kind of stuff is mean, but you are really doing everyone a favor so I say go for it.

  3. Harry DeMott

    Just as you occasionally have meet-ups or “office hours” – why not just do a breakout session afterward for 30 minutes. That way, you avoid the pile up – you clear the room – and you get only those that really want to sit down and chat.

  4. Seth Godin

    I think it’s even simpler.If you need to troll post-panel in order to succeed with your idea or business, you’re already doing something wrong and you’re already clueless about how to navigate through the influence jungle.The same way big publishers don’t read through the slush pile of books that come in without an agent. If you’re not good enough to get an agent, you’re not good enough for the editor to waste her time.It’s a self-disqualifying moment. They should paint a big red circle around the table, and any stranger who walks into it to pitch uninvited is instantly categorized as not being fundable.Sad but true.

    1. LIAD

      Perhaps true but a tad harsh nonetheless

    2. Aviah Laor

      Apparently you didn’t read Cinderella.

    3. Matt A. Myers

      I agree with everything here, except for … “They should paint a big red circle around the table, and any stranger who walks into it to pitch uninvited is instantly categorized as not being fundable.”For most it should be more of an opportunity to start to be noticed. Name, company name, basic idea. You’ll more likely to have your follow-up emails and such listened to then, or ignored if the person isn’t interested.I would also say it wouldn’t be a waste of time either because some VCs may know someone who’d be interested. I’m not sure how common referrals are in VC-land though?I like the 60 second limit rule. Clearly you’ll need more time later to get the details to find out if the person really knows what they’re doing, if they’d be a valuable asset, and has good ideas. Hopefully they know lots about the VC they’re approaching too so they know they’re a probable fit; Might as well not waste your time or theirs.

    4. Andrew J Scott

      Wow, really quite surprised to read that Seth. I know what you’re getting at of course .. but there is a learning curve, especially for start-up entrepreneurs. Just because someone has yet to be agile enough to navigate their way to a personal intro to a VC, or get the perfect email and deck to get a response, does not mean they should not introduce themselves.Actually, on the contrary, I passionately believe there isn’t anything better than face to face contact. Often these meetings are opportunistic, off the back of perhaps an interest a VC has expressed while doing the panel, or perhaps the entrepreneur has never heard of that particular VC. Possible in the U.S, there are 100’s. Easy in Europe or the UK as VCs keep a lower profile and cross-country it is inevitably harder.The idea not to encourage personal communication – albeit effective, polite and concise, is anathema to me. Many first time entrepreneurs I meet have a long way to go to get the perfect pitch, but they learn fast. Just because someone has that process to polish, does not mean their actual idea, is not awesome.

      1. Seth Godin

        Sure. I didn’t say entrepreneurs shouldn’t meet panelists, say hi, shake their hands, respond to their points.All I said was that your business is too precious for you to be betting your funding on your ability to blurt out fifteen seconds of wisdom while surrounded by a dozen others trying to do the same thing. It’s not needed any more… there are tons of useful ways to earn the right to the attention of a VC. Elbowing people out of the way at the end of a panel is not one of them.

        1. Tereza

          Can you shake their hand from outside the red circle?

          1. Dave Pinsen

            If not, you can always prostrate yourself from there.

          2. ShanaC

            I don’t prostrate myself…too much dirt

          3. Tereza

            Yeah, right! I paid for the book, and paid to attend the conference….and now I’m supposed to prostrate, too.What a racket. Even I, a fairly shameless networker, must draw the line somewhere.I gotta get out of this convo and get some work done. It’s just too annoying.

        2. LIFTr

          The comments from people picking a fight with Seth and Fred are akin to a young art critic that has never painted.

          1. Tereza

            JLM is CEO of a public company. Charlie is a seasoned serial entrepreneur.Young art critics?

        3. paramendra

          Solid point. Say hello. Ask an intelligent question while the person is on the panel, or ask later, something relevant to what the panelist talked about. That will get you some attention. Also, if you as an entrepreneur can’t figure out what a VC’s “thesis” is, you are knocking on the wrong door. Fred has his vertical, and he will NOT invest outside of it. That is one of the things that makes him such a great, bankable VC. If you have not figured that out, you are not going to earn his respect as a VC. But if you are in his vertical, show up at his blog, get to know him and his thought process, show up for his MeetUp. And make peace if you are not one of the two or so startups he invests in any one year. The exchange with him will still help you, and if it didn’t, you did not approach it the right way. For me the primary thing about Fred is that he is an active VC who is a blogger. I appreciate that “access” to him that his blog provides to me. He knows who I am. I am that guy who shows up at his blog.

          1. fredwilson

            good analogy Paramendra. leave a short and sharp comment. that mostly works better than a long tomb

        4. fredwilson

          that’s exactly why the sixty second rule is so helpful to everyone. it forces the entrepreneur to simply “say hi, shake their hand, and make a positive impression” you can’t do much more than that post-panel anyway and those who try to do more hurt themselves

    5. PhilipSugar

      Couldn’t have said better.Its not just funding, its trying to pitch any idea. If you don’t know the person, then is not the time to get to know them.You can craft a well worded message based on what they said and get it to them later

    6. Tereza

      Awww, Seth, I love your work and am an avowed Linchpin disciple. But that’s way too harsh.In this age of shipping early, continuous deployment and ‘pivots’ — we have to jump in and DO the jungle, not study it from the outside.We will make mistakes. The key is do we learn from them and figure out the rules the jungle as we go….or do we make the stupid mistakes over and over again.For some of us, those panels are the only first entry point we initially know of onto this scene. I’m a 39-year old mom from Westchester with killer relevant experience but as of 2 years ago had zero network overlap with the NYC startup scene. I built it from scratch, at countless cloying panels and events. Generally, I don’t do events anymore because now I know the jungle a lot better. (I blogged about my experience here: that big red circle — if that’s what you need to do for this interaction in this moment, then fine. I get it.But if it means you’re disqualifying someone in perpetuity, then I say, your loss.

      1. Aviah Laor

        That’s a brave comment.I remember a mug with the saying: “It isn’t easy to admit you are 30. It takes courage, it takes confident, it takes 3-4 years”. Back than (12 years ago) it seemed harsh! 30!

      2. JLM

        We are the jungle. Me, I’m Agent Orange.

        1. Tereza

          You Agent Orange. Me Jane.

      3. Mike

        I thought about replying to Seth along the same lines, but since you managed to express my thoughts more directly and with a little more panache than I’m capable of I’ll simply defer to you. +1

      4. Mark Essel

        Solid T, you do us proud. Walking back to pier 39, had a 5.5-6hr walk with Michelle across SF shore over Golden Gate and back today. Simply marvelous

        1. Dave Pinsen

          “San Francisco Bay, past pier 39…” Have a nice day, Mark.

    7. Elie Seidman

      Very much agreed.

    8. RichardF

      I think you should put that word for word on your blog Seth.

      1. Tereza

        I disagree. Seth’s blog — which generally I very much enjoy — does not allow for reader comments.On that platform, that post without room for reader reactions and 2-way dialog, is a turnoff and inconsistent with the lion’s share of his messaging.The only avenue I have to reach Seth in person if I wanted to (and I’ve considered it) would be to accost him after a panel or pay several thousand dollars for one of his forums. (I’m focusing the cash I have on my product, so that’s an absolute no)And yet I’ve purchased, recommended and gifted Seth’s books to countless people.Come to think of it, I purchased, (enjoyed) and recommended Jeff Bussgang’s book too.So…something’s wrong here.Be gracious, guys. We’re your fan base.

        1. RichardF

          I agree Tereza it is a complete turn off.

        2. ShanaC

          I actually don’t mind the lack of comments. This might be because there are huge issues with the way discussions can shift information as opposed to polls. In certain situations, discussions can cause hidden profiles of certain facts/opinions and cause the wrong ones to be centered forwards, as well as cause groups to slowly become more radicalized towards a given position.It’s extremely important to me to keep a variety of good channels of information flowing. The question is how. Seth has one method. Very hard to say what to do…

        3. kidmercury

          brutal but valid diss tereza. comments off is a major liability and a highly suspect move IMHO.

    9. bussgang

      Seth – while I agree with you in general about the influence jungle, the only situation where your rule doesn’t apply is at universities. When students approach me cold after panels or talks, I am always more sympathetic and open-minded as they haven’t yet had the time to build those influence relationships.

      1. Tereza

        When that investor is an out-of-towner, that’s a similar scenario. Lack of geographic proximity reduces the touchpoints we have via our personal network.Outside of blog commenting, a New Yorker doesn’t have access to Brad unless he’s flown in for one of these panels, or the entrepreneur buys a ticket to Boulder. Lotta money when you’re bootstrapping.So when Brad is in town, he is like flypaper. We are the flies.

      2. Fred T

        Very true, Seth. The situation varies in every setting. How about connecting with VC’s at an event afterparty? I know someone mentioned that on his blog. @arrington? @msuster?

      3. ShanaC

        I’m only saying this because I would be walking this weekend (I’m skipping)- add new graduates for the first year or two as well. I see a ton of my friends struggling as we all figure that out.

      4. fredwilson

        jeff – thanks for stopping by and sharing some of your wisdom. what do you think of the 60 second rule? i am sure you have this same issue all the time

        1. bussgang

          I love it. I don’t know how to make it consistently actionable without seeming rude other than keep smiling and nodding and look for the next in line! I gave a talk yesterday on the future on innovation (see for the slides – I copied your Goog CTO advertising $ slide) and employed it reasonably politely I think.–> If you want to check out my book on VC and entrepreneurship, calledMastering the VC Game, see——————————Jeffrey J. BussgangFlybridge Capital Partners500 Boylston Street, 18th floorBoston, MA 02116E: [email protected]: 617 307-9295F: 617 307-9293Blog: http://www.seeingbothsides.comTwitter:

          1. Tereza

            Just smile, lean foward and say, “Nice to meet you. There’s a crowd so I’m givin’ ya 60 seconds. We can follow up later”.

    10. Mordy Kaplinsky

      Seth,With all due respect to your comment, nearly every great company was started by a first timer. Rarely do you see a repeat success by a once successful entrepreneur, and when it is the usual reason is because they were co-opted for their experience and “brand value”.The young gun looking to start their first project with the passion of a lion and nothing phase them, is the heart and soul of the successful new business. That said they need to be coached by people that have skin in their game but at the same time not looking to take advantage of the young idealist. This is the purpose of a good VC, as it is not just the money but also the experience and advice.If a VC wants to be approachable to these passionate people they need to direct a path that is easy for the founder to navigate, without requiring introductory networking. I believe this is what Fred is trying to do, and it is my understanding that this is the role Christina is meant to play at USV.

      1. fredwilson

        mordy – you have it right. it is my job (and brad’s, albert’s, and christina’s) to be accessiblebut seth is also right that this particular approach is a very low probability approach and signals something to an investor that is not particularly postitive

    11. JLM

      Wow, it’s easy to see how VCs enjoy such a great reputation for being approachable, friendly, affable and warm folks? Fabulous folks!Hubris much?The most powerful people in the world are those able to extend kindness not communicate smugness.I wonder if it would be offensive if a chap noted that another chap was a homely looking bald headed guy, with big glasses and Dumbo ears? Would that offend one much?As much as smugly stepping on the toes of some earnest naif by sniffing and observing — “…you’re already clueless…”?Take a risk, step outside of your own insecurity and give some chump a chance to get lucky.Oh, yeah, get over yourself!

      1. kidmercury

        lol well i actually agree with seth but +1 to JLM for best comment that takes this beef to a new level. lol thanks JLM! 😀

        1. Mark Essel


      2. David Semeria

        Great stuff, JLM

    12. jasoncalacanis

      Correct… if you’re an entrepreneur worth investing you will find a way to get to angels, VCs, their previous investments, their lawyers, etc.You should research your targets and come up with a strategy to connect with their circle, get them to buy in and then have three people tell your target about you.

      1. RichardF

        Great advice and would make a good blog post.

      2. ShanaC

        This sounds akin to something I grew up with called “Shidduch Dating” -aka being set up formally or semi-formally by a matchmaker, family friend, or friend.A large, large chunk of people I know are finding that it causes incorrect information signaling.The on-paper qualities given to people end up having nothing to do with what would make someone a good date or a good marriage partner. Further it is causing “immediate sameness” as people conform to some sort of “expected norm of what girl/guy should do/be” and a slowly increasing rise in divorces as well.Difference in VC- you can’t divorce. You all might want to figure out alternative markets of assessing information beyond what you recommend- effectively gossip. It probably will kill some of the fast follow issues that seem to plague a lot of VC and its returns right now…

        1. jasoncalacanis

          That is why I started…. i get the folks that are bad at networking to funnel into that. 90% are off the grid…. so I get first shot and the up and comers. 🙂

          1. ShanaC

            🙂 I still think this is like awkward ways you meet yourwife/husband/significant other. The best model is the best ways we have tomeet others to date.As odd as this sounds- lets pretend the ad is true (1/5relationships are started online). Why shouldn’t similar sorts of methodshappen with startups?

          2. kidmercury

            IMHO i think you would benefit immensely from having a niche soc net for openangelforum. it would allow for a much richer experience, more meaningful networking, and a better tool to filter entrepreneurs. wordpress is a bit limited in this regard as it is meant to be a blog and not a community CMS. i will put together a more extensive proposal that will address all your concerns and send to you shortly.

        2. fredwilson

          divorces happen all the time in VC, but the entrepreneur rarely gets to keep the house and the kidsi don’t say that with any joy btw. like all divorces, they are horrible.

      3. paramendra

        Good advice. And admired your $1000 donation to Charity:Water at Disrupt.

    13. kidmercury

      love it or hate it, one thing is true: seth godin has stolen the show today in fredland. in that regard, props must be given.

      1. paramendra

        Seth is the top business blogger on the planet. For him to show up here shows we got a great online community going on, and you, Kid, are a major character in that play.

        1. kidmercury

          damn paramendra can’t believe you are saying seth is the best bar none and thus better than fred. quite bold of you to make such a controversial statement — right here in fredland no less. damn.personally i think seth brings an A game, but when you disable comments on your blog….pfft. blogging is a community game, if you kick the community away you basically lose the game IMHO.

      2. fredwilson

        well, i wasn’t able to engage yesterday. i had three board meetings back to back.but i am happy to take a back seat to my friend his comment or not, he is the consummate blog star

    14. Kevin Li

      What you said might be true 99% of the time. If entrepreneurs are like normal people, they’d quit pitching a VC after a panel. But they won’t. They are dreamers. Even 1% of chance is too big to be ignored and they will do what ever it takes. That’s why the Reddit guys took a 7 hour train ride to Harvard just to listen to Paul Graham. Yes, you can call us idiots, but we call ourselves entrepreneurs.

      1. kidmercury

        i agree with the spirit of your point, kevin, but just as entrepreneurs are dreamers, they are also people with a lot of work to do and limited resources. i think seth may be referring to whether or not panel-stalking is an effective use of such resources — or if it is a signal to investors that the entrepreneurs are not efficient enough in their endeavors.

    15. Dave Pinsen

      “If you need to troll post-panel in order to succeed with your idea or business, you’re already doing something wrong and you’re already clueless about how to navigate through the influence jungle.”Sounds harsh, but then it might also be true of those who troll in the comment sections of blogs like this. How many commenters here have wanted to do business with Fred in some capacity? How many have? Consider Fred’s new associate Christina. I bet a few regular commenters here applied for that job, but the person who landed it didn’t spend much time commenting here, as far as I can remember. Or consider Gretchen Ruben, whose book Fred promoted in a blog post around the new year. She didn’t spend much time commenting here either. Instead, she had her husband (the son of the former Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO, and former Citigroup Consigliere Robert Rubin) help her set up a lunch meeting for her with Fred, if memory serves.”It’s a self-disqualifying moment.”Should it be, though? All things equal, I can see why you’d want an entrepreneur who is good at “navigating the influence jungle”. But what if the one who invents a better mousetrap isn’t good at navigating that jungle — what if he’s just good at building better mousetraps?

      1. Tereza

        Bravo Dave.And another thing. Others (or the same) dismiss frequent commenters….”Don’t these people have a day job?”It is so ungracious, and trust me, some of us are taking note. We are trying to create personal brands, to build something out of nothing. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.It’s called the Golden Rule and they teach it in Kindergarten, not Wharton.In my first job, which was in sales, by boss repeatedly told us — be really nice and helpful every chance you get, especially when times are good. Because you never, ever know when the sh*t is going to hit the fan and you need to go to them for as favor. But at some point when you least expect it it will hit the fan. And being gracious is your insurance policy.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”Always excellent advice. I do wonder to what extent Web 2.0/Social Media has been fueled by early adopters who aspire to be successful entrepreneurs in the space. If they start getting discouraged and dropping out, what happens?More generally, I would think it would be in the interest of folks like Seth Godin to “keep hope alive”. How many copies of his books are purchased by those who hope they’ll be able to use them (or at least refer to them) to get ahead? If they read that they would disqualify themselves in Seth’s eyes by approaching him after a panel discussion, they might lose some of that hope.”We are trying to create personal brands”I’m a little skeptical about the concept of online brands. Don’t get me wrong — it should be obvious to anyone reading your comments, for example, that you are highly intelligent, a great writer, and have accrued some impressive business as well as life experiences. But will your potential investors or partners care about your blog comments? I don’t know.

          1. Tereza

            You raise an interesting distinction Dave. I don’t think online brands will matter to everyone. But they will for some. And for some people they’re the preferred channel for people to approach them. Today was an exceptional day, but essentially we had Fred, Seth, Brad, Jason in on a conversation that we were part of. If any of them read my comments they’ll either like them, which benefits me, or they won’t, which hurts me, but in any case it simply accelerates a opinion they’d eventually draw. So why the hell not speed it up.I can say that for me, personally, I’ve benefited from: (1) a fairly large number of new relationships that came to me directly as a result of my commenting or blogging, (2) relationships that already existed but were deepened because we got to know each other better through online interaction. Also because I live in an isolated place but am a social animal, online forums (mostly AVC) are a highly efficient, effective and green way to create certain new relationships. I probably achieved the same amount in 4 months of commenting as 2 years of in-person networking. Physical events are highly inefficient. For me there is 3.5 hours of traveling downtime and babysitter OT, about $100.So I don’t think online brands are a panacea, but they are an increasingly critical ingredient to our personal branding brew.

          2. ShanaC

            Tereza- one day I would love to read your book on how to effectively network. That’s all.

          3. Tereza

            Not sure I’ve figured it all out, Shayna, but i’m trying and i appreciate that.I would say, though, in support of my initial point — that you will learn more by doing it than by reading about it! There is muscle memory involved. Like a sport, you must practice.

          4. paramendra

            “I probably achieved the same amount in 4 months of commenting as 2 years of in-person networking. Physical events are highly inefficient. For me there is 3.5 hours of traveling downtime and babysitter OT, about $100.”Great point T. The AVC community is a great one to be part of, and it is very real. I got to meet Fred in person for the first time this past Sunday. And I have met Shana a few times over months. Both of them shook my hand and it was obvious they were building upon our earlier online interactions. It is very real.I have better conversations at the AVC comments sections than at the NY Tech MeetUp after parties. And those I really admire. There is socializing, networking, information sharing, intellectual chewing gum, educating and getting educated. I greatly value this community, and it is not just about Fred, who is a great guy. I don’t think that is “apple polishing” to say that. He is a good person. And he also happens to be accomplished. Howard Dean knows me, so does Fred Wilson. It is like that.I am not sucking up to Nate (@innonate) when I am showing up for the NY Tech MeetUp. I think all the regular commenters are way past the star struck phase, if they ever were in it, when it comes to Fred. And I think Fred appreciates that. He is on record saying he gets way more out of his blog comments than from his Facebook account.

          5. Donna Brewington White

            T- As always, your eloquence is stunning. I’m with you on this!(What a day on AVC — the “notables” showing up and then the regulars at their classic best. JLM has me in stitches. Hey, doesn’t this feel like the party where the host greets you at the door, sees that everyone is having a good time, and slips out? Where’s Fred?)(Or, perhaps it’s more like the host who slips out when the brawl begins. Got a big feisty today. Love it.)

          6. fredwilson

            so true donna and it happened on a day i could not contributecoincidence or contributing factor?

          7. RichardF

            Disqus should have a “hot topic going on right now” alert. AVC was on fire yesterday

          8. Tereza

            Totally! We were En Fuego.Props to Daniel Ha and Disqus BTW. I’m loving seeing the who’s behind the Likes again, and also the text of previous responses in the Disqus emails. Great work, guys!

          9. Donna Brewington White

            +1 — Disqus!

          10. Mark Essel

            It looks like we chat whether or not you are tied up. Just need 2 to get started and the asyncronous messages stoke the flames of our discussions a little longer.

      2. paramendra

        Participating in the comments sections here is not about getting on the good side of Fred. Almost noone here is seeking to do business with Fred. It is a community around a blog. People show up here to meet each other. It is a great community. Certainly the one I visit more often than most.

        1. Tereza

          Paramendra, I respectfully say…..are you kidding me?Fred needs to fill pipeline. We need to find money. This happens to be an extremely useful and fun forum in a broader sense and when I don’t need money I’ll continue, for these other reasons.There is a natural tension that people want to impress Fred. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s a fabulous thing. It forces better behavior and richer participation. It means something’s happening among this crowd.Look at TechCrunch. No one needs anything, commenters are not purpose- driven, on edge to improve and advance their reputations. They’re anonymous and snitty. Same for every other traditional online publication. No one needs anything so lacking that tension it falls apart.It irks me when people are criticized for having “an agenda”. Agendas make the world go ’round.

      3. fredwilson

        of course you are right at some level davebut let’s take tereza as an examplei had no idea who she was a year agonow i think of her as a friendi met her and her partner, listened to their pitch, gave them some advice, and have intro’d them to an angel investor or two. and i will continue to help her because she’s great.that is true of you, kid, paramendra, and everyone else who “trolls in these comments”i use trolls in the nicest sense of the word

        1. Tereza

          Awwww…Group hug!LOLBTW it’s bears saying it was so utterly freaking scary to write my first comment.I think it was a Like I got on a joke during the Cone of Silence convo that made all the difference in the world to me. Kind of an invitation.

        2. Dave Pinsen

          That was nice of you to offer some advice and intros to Tereza. She’s one of the good ones. I hope it works out for her.________________________________

          1. Tereza

            Hey Dave I meant to thank you much earlier for saying this. It’s very generous of you to say and I appreciate it.

          2. Dave Pinsen

            No problem, Tereza.Hey, if you don’t mind, I could use a minute of your time. I’ll shoot you an e-mail with a small, time-sensitive favor request.________________________________

        3. Dave Pinsen

          Fred, my friend:It would have been awesome if you had mentioned Portfolio Armor (my hedging app that you demoed earlier this year) in your post on hedging today. If you had (and if you’d given me a heads up about it ahead of time) I could have set you up with 50% recurring affiliate referral fees — much higher than whatever paltry percentage Amazon gave you on Gretchen Rubin’s book.

          1. fredwilson

            yeahi was focused on the MBA Mondays things and not thinking about anything elsesorry about that

          2. Dave Pinsen

            Well it’s not too late if you’d like to become an affiliate and mention it in a future post.________________________________

    16. ShanaC

      I think figuring out influence is a skill. It takes time and practice. If you are having problems, actually a post like Fred’s is somewhat helpful.Over time, one figures out how this all works. I think the end goal is to teach others what you perhaps know…

    17. Fred T

      Thanks Seth. As how getting into that circle all goes, it definitely comes down to one word to get your foot in: referral. And sincerely, i’m still working on it.

    18. paramendra

      Oh, the tribe of would be entrepreneurs.

    19. Mark Essel

      Better yet let your product market for you through folks that use and love it. I’ve bugged Fred with emails in the past. The next time we meet it will be because he discovers a product or tool I help develop and wants to know more about it.

      1. Tereza

        The key to great marking is you still need to stick your product in places so that your folks can “discover” them.

    20. Naveed Lalani

      I’m loving this blog more and more, amazing the caliber of replies. It’s like quora in blog form:)As you said, sad but true. Cream rises to the top. And those that have cream, and know the funnel to send it down to, will get their meeting regardless.Even if you get a meeting with the method that the post suggested, more than likely there will be a small bias (hey cool idea, what’s the business?). If you get a meeting through trusted channels, it’ll be a different conversation (hey cool business, how can I help?).I might be totally oblivious here and can probably figure it out with some google, but faster to ask: who is JLM?

    21. fredwilson

      you took a lot of heat for this comment seth but the truth is that the chances of a post-panel pitch turning into an investment is negligibleit’s theoretically possible, but a very low probabibility approach

      1. ChrisM

        Hi Fred, I think we all agree that the 60-second rule is the way to go, it still allows people to make the first contact despite being young and bullish and having no network, it doesn’t disqualify them for trying to make that contact.I believe the heat was a result of Seth’s dissing all enthusiastic young entrepreneurs who try to use panel meetings to get in touch with VC’s and as marking them as clueless and their projects useless.

    22. Ardith

      Not pretentious much, are you, Seth? A bit removed from the trenches these days? Entrepreneurs or writers without agents automatically not worthy. Interesting logic.

  5. LIAD

    Neither the entrepreneur nor the investor come off looking good after these kind of interactions.The investor appears aloof and uninterested and entrepreneur flustered and desperate.It’s a lose lose interaction but perhaps still better than no interaction at all

    1. Brad Dickason

      Agree completely. I’m not an investor but I recently spoke at GDC for about 30 minutes then did a 30 minute Q&A. Afterwards, a bunch of people came up and asked me questions. I had it in me to speak with all of them and was excited about it, but my brain turned to mush when they actually said anything more than “That was great thanks so much!”I’m not an idiot, but talking for an hour just drains you. I can’t imagine Fred listening to people after one of these and actually giving coherent responses, much less remembering a whole pitch.

    2. fredwilson

      LIAD – you did it right at Techcrunch Disrupt. first of all, i knew you by name and reputation from this community. i was psyched to meet you. then you made it quick, and left a great impression. well done.

  6. Samuel Ian Rosen

    Do you find that the quality of “post panel pile up” is on par with people who pitch you via email or are introduced by friends? I wouldn’t assume so.Also, the worst part about panel pile up is the post panel line up in the hall — I find it extremely rude to the next panelists, that standing in the hall to speak with someone is more important than the people on stage. If i were the moderator or conference organizer, I’d be cutting that off immediately as well.

  7. Jay

    One of the biggest reasons this occurs is because entrepreneurs have to wear different investor’s hats at different panels. The norm, so far was that you stand in the line and meet and with the panelists to talk about their points.I was on a panel about a couple of weeks back. This is what I did – I asked for a show of hands before the panel got started about how many folks would want to meet me after the event. And a whole bunch of hands went up in the air. I asked the host to pass a “role-call” sheet and I asked them to write their name and email, the idea/product/site and the stage they were in – and I promised them a response in 2 days. I could see the audience getting a bit sad and I asked them why they would want to stand in a line to meet me and they said, that was the “norm”….And change is difficult @ times but as Gandhi said – “change is the only constant”…

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I like this idea, but a lot of entrepreneurs are craving attention (some form of reward for their efforts), and primarily for continued motivation. Putting your name, email and idea on a list won’t really appeal to this. Maybe that’s a good way to weed people out, or even if they just put their name on a list, maybe that’s the ones to weed out if they don’t try harder to meet you in person? I guess it really depends on the type of relationship you’re looking for with a VC as an entrepreneur.

    2. fredwilson

      well playedi like your approach

  8. kidmercury

    damn boss, it’s like beatlemania all over again. ever need me to serve as bouncer to keep the screaming fans away, just holla.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I was going to suggest you to Fred for being his Pitch-line security, peace-keeper, and time-keeper!

      1. Aviah Laor

        good idea. the pitch will have to tell the truth.

        1. Tereza


      2. Fred T

        Like some other entrepreneur said, “VC’s, angel investors, and seed funds are the new rockstars.” Yes, I apparently paraphrased that.

    2. fredwilson

      the gift of a good laugh. thanks kid. i loved this comment

  9. RichardF

    The elevator pitch, courtesy of David Cowan…

  10. baba12

    Sixty second rule is fine, but if they get you a Hot toddy or a hot sake or a cold smooth Stoli vodka on rocks with a dash of say a Red bull to remove the tiredness or maybe a simple glass of water , maybe you may extend it to sixty four seconds :)…. I wonder if you would carry a stop watch on a fob chain and monitor it till this mindset seeps into those approaching you and others pass it along…

  11. Andrew J Scott

    I’ve had a similar thing after doing pitches about start-up do’s and dont’s, so this sounds wise for everyone. The trick might well be to say at the end of the panel, thus pre-empting the situation with something accessible like “I don’t want to sound like an ass, but if you want to speak to me afterwards then please bla bla…”

  12. Mark MacLeod

    I think you have to accept this Fred. You are very public and accessible by design. I think its bad form to complain about a logical outcome of that approach.I do agree with Seth’s comments though – people who need this forum to speak with you are in all likelihood unfundable.

    1. fredwilson

      if it came off as complaining, i fucked upwhat i wanted to do was propose some etiquette

      1. Tereza

        Fred for what it’s worth I didn’t really think of your post as whiny. I have personally noted the 60-sec rule. It’s a good one. I have room for improvement there.It surely is not fun to be on the receiving end of a pileup.Seth and Jason doused kerosene on the convo with the red painted line and “You’re a loser if….” statements. They hurt.Both are deep insiders on this scene. Some great innovation will come from outsiders. And not all outsiders are young guys in skinny jeans that live a subway ride away. Maybe one drove 3 hours and paid both for the event and a babysitter just to see you and has a totally fresh take on a huge world you know nothing about, but should. You just never know.So it pays for every single one of us to show a little humility and mercy. Each one of us is doing the best we can and getting better by the minute.Seth wrote a nice post about Shipping today. As a delusional entrepreneur I choose to interpret it as a personal signal — a digital wink — to me of apology.And if Seth wants to take me out to lunch in Westchester to win me back as a renewed, rabid fan….he’s certainly welcome to. 🙂

        1. Aaron Klein

          Love this comment, Tereza. I read this whole series of comments days after they happened and you summed it up well with this one.I have chosen to ignore my gut and given people chances several times in my career. Certainly, things turned out the way I expected most of the time. But one of those times, I ended up hiring one of the best people I’ve ever had work for me, bar none.And as for Fred, this post came off as neither whiny nor elite. I would have added relevancy to it, you just asked for brevity, and for respect for the 19 people waiting in line.

  13. Dado

    so Mr. Wilson how does one get in touch with you?

    1. ErikSchwartz

      I think you just did…

      1. paramendra

        Yep. He reads every single comment posted here.

      2. Dado

        i m not sure about that 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          if erik says it, it is sowhat can i do for you Dado

          1. Dado

            I am surprised 🙂 🙂 🙂 Didn’t really think i ll get a response.Thanks!Anyway, lets say i would like to hear you opinion on some of my ideas. You have a lot of experience and knowledge so to hear you opinion would be very useful.

    2. Fred T

      I hope this is Dado Banatao.

      1. Dado

        no 🙂

  14. David Semeria

    It’s also depressing if you’re waiting in line – there’s always some plonker going through a full iPhone demo with the person your waiting to speak to.More than once I’ve fantasized of doing an Arnie and defenestrating said plonker.I propose this should be the new default penalty for going over your 60 seconds…

    1. Aviah Laor

      The 60 seconds slot is perfect for most of the pitches. One short minute is a really cool idea, and should be more than enough for everybody.My pitch, however, is an edge case. It deserves more 🙂

      1. David Semeria

        But that’s the root of the problem!Everyone believes they’re the exception to the rule…

        1. Aviah Laor

          :)that’s was the idea

        2. Aviah Laor

          Love is blind. Our startup included.

    2. RichardF

      plonker – lmao

      1. fredwilson

        yeah, i liked that too

    3. fredwilson

      it’s an iPad demo now Davidi am serious

  15. David

    The Hatchery NYC has a similar 60 second rule… its a good focus-exercise.

  16. ChrisM

    I must say, having been on both sides of this scenario many times, I agree that the 60 seconds rule is by far the best solution for everyone. BUT I disagree with the sentiment that it is a sign of weakness in the project that they are approaching VC’s after a panel. New entrepreneurs have to create a network somehow, they should be attacking any opening they get, it shows balls and drive to put yourself out there to the established bigwigs, the same values that will be required to succeed. It is bordering on arrogant to suggest that if they do not have the network to get them closer, that their project sucks. Many an entrepreneur has her best idea before the age of 25 – and only drive will help them get it out there. As a VC, there is tremendous value in keeping in touch with all the small start-ups who are thinking up the next billion dollar idea.

    1. ShanaC

      I think we miss how we change when we age. Honestly I had a great idea when I was 22-23. I still want to do it. Parts of said idea are chaning.I think what happens as we age is we get comfortable and we stop exposing ourselves to new stuff. Thinking flexibly requires exposure to new ideas constantly.

  17. John Gant

    Why not just create a section on AVC or USV website to upload a video pitch? Require them to enter the talk, from which you were on the panel. This would allow you to filter to ‘less desirable’ pitches. If you are more interested you could contact them with their information that was submitted with the upload.

    1. kidmercury

      not only that, but a whole web-based filtering process. let the fredland community vote, weight certain votes, make entrepreneurs jump through all sorts of hoops to prove their passion and legitimacy… would even be a new revenue source

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Instead of soliciting video pitches, why not direct entrepreneurs to a page like this one Howard Lindzon links to from the “Pitch Me” link on his blog? That link relates to angel investing, but I’m guessing you could apply the same set-up for VCs. What’s cool about Howard’s AngelSoft page is how specific it is about the criteria he is looking for in a potential investment. That’s got to save time for both applicants and him.So if you buttonholed Howard after an event, instead of giving him your full elevator pitch, you could say something like this,”Hi Howard, I liked what you said about X. I’m John Gant, by the way, and my company, Gant Industries, is developing a financial web app that would be a perfect fit for StockTwits. I’m going to pitch it to you via the link on your blog later today”.

  18. leeschneider

    I generally like to simply introduce myself to the panel presenter in this case. No pitch, no requests, no nothing. Just a simple “Hello, my name is Lee Schneider. I enjoyed the panel. Good meeting you.” Never seems like the right forum to mention anything business related, especially with 20+ other people standing on your heels.However, I have to disagree with this comment by Seth Godin: “If you need to troll post-panel in order to succeed with your idea or business, you’re already doing something wrong and you’re already clueless about how to navigate through the influence jungle.”I generally like what Seth has to say, but that just seems like a “screw people starting out that don’t have a background in VC/entrepreneurship you don’t know shit from shit” type comment.

  19. Aaron Kardell

    Fred- I attended your first panel yesterday. It was entertaining, and your insight on the ed industry and what you’re looking to invest in was really informative. Much as I would’ve liked to pick your brain on the topic further, it was obvious the pile up wasn’t the right time or place to do it.Another casual observation… You clearly stated on the panel what you were looking to invest in. It appeared that some entrepreneurs immediately followed up to pitch ideas which clearly fell outside the bounds of what you had stated you were looking to invest in. So, succinct is good, but succinct and relevant is far better.

    1. Aviah Laor

      Did I say B2C? sorry. Off course it’s B2B.

    2. fredwilson

      that is so true. i thought i was very clear what i wanted to invest in. very few of the post panel pitches were even close to that

  20. Healy Jones

    Fred, it sounds like you just had a really bad post panel day. I agree that the vast majority of people who come up after a talk are usually pretty grim. But I met some great people at places like MIT after speaking. I found that students/young developers who were not pitching but instead asking for help understanding how to get a job at a startup were usually fun to speak with after panels. Ever now and then one of them would make my day – in particular if I could connect them to a portfolio company looking for someone.Also, as for business cards – I’m currently working on something that might make them pretty useful again. Maybe not as much for a VC, but certainly for anyone looking to extend their social graph, add to their blog roll/mailing list or get new sales leads into their CRM. Who knows; someday you might like them again – if no work were required to make them useful!

    1. paramendra

      The business card like the inbox is begging a reinvention.

  21. Shyam Subramanyan

    Most entrepreneurs get their wisdom from blogs (such as yours here) and live/recorded broadcast of panels. The only real reason to go to these events is to meet like-minded folks and face time with potential investors. If you do away with personal interaction, these events would be non-events. Having said that, 60 seconds sounds like a good compromise.

  22. jasoncalacanis

    This is why I don’t do panels.

    1. itamar

      But you wouldn’t fault entrepreneurs for trying right? Not sure why Seth makes such a big stink about it. Obviously if it turns into a full fledged line, you should come up with something better- it’s just a matter of tact. Which begs the next question- why do so many VC’s need to instruct everyone how to approach and speak to them? Is there really such a lack of basic etiquette?

    2. Shyam Subramanyan

      Jason, thanks for clarifying. I thought you don’t do panels because you have very little to say…

      1. brmore

        class act.

      2. JLM

        Pretty damn ……………………………………………………………………….. funny!When you hit the big time, you have to remember not to alter the karma. Karma will kill you if tinkered with. When you fail to assist others who are fellow travelers you fall into the arena of re-jiggering your karma — a very, very bad thang — to say nothing of the possibilities of messing with your ju ju or even your mo jo.Jo Jo the Voodoo Clown — of Cajun fame — will take his revenge on your karma if you break the chain of lagniappe which is the unifying force of karma. If you feel or sense a clown in your dreams, it is Jo Jo come to re-jigger your karma.

    3. brmore

      And that’s the shame. Interesting people who would otherwise contribute sideline themselves because they don’t want to suffer through “your” (generically) crappy pitch.

  23. JLM

    Every successful person in any walk of life ultimately confronts the same challenge — how does one drink from the fire hose without taking a bath?I am offended just a smidgen that a successful person would be miserly in their willingness to lend a hand to others while certainly acknowledging that it is a strain to just stand there and get bombarded beyond one’s ability to absorb information.It is akin to the dilemma that a celebrity has in signing autographs. What is the right balance between public accessibility and simple exhaustion?Be nice to everybody on the way up because you never know who you will need a boost from on the way down.

    1. paramendra

      Putting in place the right “process” is the solution.

    2. fredwilson

      as my daughter says: “word”

  24. JLM

    Here are a couple of pragmatic thoughts:Try to be the nice guy you really can be and truly are.VCs —Have an assistant provide some screening assistance by taking a biz card from your supplicants and making a couple of notations on a form designed for that purpose. When I worked for a very successful Fortune 5 CEO that is exactly what I did.Then when we got back to the office, I wrote a handwritten note to every single one of those supplicants and forwarded the CEOs biz card. This provided the personal touch which was a critical element of this CEOs success. Funny thing — he was not a very personable or friendly guy and he knew it. He compensated for it by having a damn good process.Approximately 5% of those persons ended up having some kind of meaningful business relationship w/ the CEO. Fair observation — this was a fairly well qualified group to start with but I never ceased to be surprised as to how successful it truly was.Entrepreneurs — Have a card printed at 4 x 6 with all your contact info and your elevator bullet points on the back. Put your picture on the front. We are talking less than $50 for 250 of these at Introduce yourself, give the VC two of them, shake hands and leave.

    1. kirklove

      Supplicant. Nice. ; )

    2. Geoff

      Perfect idea for entrepreneurs JLM – I was going to suggest it too – even better try and slip it to the guy who you want to meet just before the meeting!

    3. Mike

      You can actually get 250 for free at I used these guys for my cards, and definitely recommend them:…JLM, I’ll add some bullet points to the back just in case I run into your around Texas. Heading to Dallas anytime soon?

    4. fredwilson

      take an assistant to these events?that’s a lot like the advice i get with my email problems to have an assistant manage my emailif that is the cost of being me, i am not sure i want to be me

      1. Donna Brewington White

        better yet…a roadie…

  25. brmore

    Here, I’ll say it … pitching your startup during Q & A at a panel is offensive and makes you look desperate. Don’t do it.Would seem to me that if the panelists even talk to you it’s because you’re playing to their sympathies.If your idea is good enough you should be able to get/find a route without tying up time that’s not yours.

  26. David Binetti

    I think the onus is on the panel organizer to serve as (or recruit) a ‘blocker’ if the panelist so chooses. The blocker simply escorts the panelist away from the table, politely apologizing to those nearby that you and the speaker have important post-panel items to discuss and walk them to the door (or farther if necessary.) If you’re a speaker, it’s a simple request that I’m sure will be honored and resolves this situation with no hard feelings on either side.

  27. kirklove

    I can see why someone would be jacked up to meet you or pitch you at that point, but it makes so little sense to me. It’s so much easier to engage you in a much more meaningful way via your blog. That goes for others like Brad, Bijan, and Chris Dixon, or most VCs/Entrepreneurs who blog. Get to know them – their likes, their dislikes, their philosophies on investing, their firms. Learn about them by engaging with them on their blogs and hopefully they’ll get to know you a little bit in the process as well.I like to think I’m a very, very, very (repeat very) small part of this community, but as a result of being a part of this community and getting to know you a bit I would have no reservations asking for a meeting with you or five minutes of your time if the need ever arose.

    1. Jose

      No offense but you make it sound like these VC’s are gods. They are just regular people, they need new business(startups) more than a startup needs them(money is plentiful out there).

      1. kirklove

        Really? If that’s the case, then I’m a terrible writer because I was trying to say the exact opposite. There is no need to fawn over them like a groupie backstage at a rock concert. Just realize they are regular people like you say, and as such you should feel free to engage with them in a more friendly environment (i.e. their blog). I just don’t think bum rushing them at a panel is the right way that’s all.

        1. fredwilson

          the rock stars are real people too. they have wives, kids, their kids go to schools, they have houses, kitchens, bathrooms, etc

          1. kirklove

            Oh I saw the cookies Gotham Gal made last night. You’re a lucky man. 😉

          2. fredwilson

            that i am

      2. fredwilson

        that is very true Josei said that on a panel that same day…

    2. paramendra

      So true, meeting them at their blogs is so much better.

  28. Douglas Crets

    Yesterday, I talked about how they should have an iPhone app that allows a person to speak into his or her iPhone to ask questions. I think there is nothing wrong with also developing some kind of app where a person who wants to pitch you can send you a “tweet” or some kind of icon ping and you can read briefly what they want to say, or what they are pitching and say yes, or no. It’s polite, but it’s also a great way to filter and make time and pitching a variable.

  29. Jeff Clavier

    I am speaking at one or two events a week, and I get mobbed all the time. It takes me anywhere from 10 to 40 mins to get off stage or “free myself up”. Once it took me over an hour to leave the room – at a TiE Conference a couple of years ago.I consider it part of the job to meet people in the hallway, and so I try to be as efficient but gracious as possible. A sixty second pitch, a couple of short Q&As followed by “Can we continue the discussion by email?” are fine b/c I will typically be able to indicate whether I might be interested or not.It is also completely fine to introduce yourself and just mention that you will forward a plan through a mutual connection. Putting a name on a face and shaking hands is always nice.I always carry business cards, and happily give them away when asked. Why? Because it is the most efficient way of moving to the next person! Otherwise I need to spell my email address j-e-f-f (like Franck)<dot>s-o-f-t-t (yes, two t’s) e-c-h-v-c (yes, vc like venture capital)<dot>com. If you compound the ambient noise, and the French accent, it would take me way more time than handing over a business card.Very often, people will ask if I can meet them to give them feedback (“someone” said “If you want money, ask for advice”). And despite really enjoying doing it, but I am really short on time. So getting such a meeting organized through a trusted connection, like the funding pitch meeting, is often mandatory.What’s not OK is “hogging the line”, and not understanding that 2 minutes is really the maximum you have keep a conversation going, out of courtesy for the other people going. Other favorites (not) are asking me if I invest in consumer internet, if I invest at the early stage, or what I invest in. If I have been on stage, I have most likely introduced myself and explained all that. And as @Jason said in a comment, no entrepreneur should randomly pitch an investor without knowing the space, the stage and the context in which he/she invests in.Dan Primack asked a question in PE Hub this morning. Out of the thousands of people who have pitched me at conferences after a talk, how many have I invested in. You guessed the answer: zero.But I do believe in the value of serendipity: you never know where your next deal is going to come from. I can say that I met the founders of Userplane (Mike Jones, we sold the company to AOL and he is now CEO of MySpace) and Buzznet (now BuzzMedia, a 50M+ u/v’s network of properties in the entertainment space) at a conference speakers dinner 6 years ago. So here you go: it’s worth it ;).Jeff Bussgang made a very good point in the comments below: I don’t have the same level of expectations with students when I hang out at University conferences, and after class when I speak/attend courses.

    1. fredwilson

      great comment Jeff. thanks for stopping by and contributing to the conversation. i really appreciate it.

  30. ErikSchwartz

    In any human interaction you need to understand the expectations and goals. What is the goal of a post-panel chat?It should NOT be to try to close a round of funding. It should NOT even be to get meaningful feedback on your idea. The goal SHOULD be to line up a face with a name so later when you send an email (hopefully through a mutual colleague) you can say “we met briefly after you spoke at whatever…” and there’s a context. You can do that in 15 seconds.When expectations and goals are misaligned you start to tread in an area fraught with peril.

    1. fredwilson


  31. sbmiller5

    Wow, lots of great info in the post and comments…truly amazing. Here’s what I’ve learned as an aspiring entrepreneur (in transition…):1) Don’t pitch VCs after Panels2) Carrying business cards / asking for business cards is for chumps3) Panels are a waste of time – also, Panels are not a waste of timeAs an Investment Banker (you can automatically dislike this comment now) I have too much experience with stalking investors (albeit later stage investors) and I’ve found a similar experience anytime I attend conferences and want to talk a VC/PE. Here’s my typical approach: Pre-conference: Review names, get an idea of who I want to talk to and research some info on them / read their blog so I can be more informed.During Conference:1) I write down their name2) I jot a few notes on what they said / interesting points I can make that may help engage them3) I write down a characteristic that may help me find them later during the day (ie: Brad Feld, paisley shirt)I then use this information to stalk them and try to find a time to when they don’t have a line around them (not easy) and hopefully engage on a real conversation (sometime it has nothing to do with work – see pre-conference research (ie: talk to Brad Feld about Open Source or iPhone v Android)

    1. Fred T

      Of course this makes sense. As much as VC’s gracefully acknowledge your presence after the panel, they do find it much more of a “work” than “extensive leisure” on hearing out a million pitches in such a short amount of time.Like getting to know any human being, the rapport comes with getting to know the person first instead of going down to business right away.

    2. ShanaC

      Definitely some of the best advice here.

    3. paramendra

      “…(ie: Brad Feld, paisley shirt)…”LOL

    4. fredwilson

      smart, very smart

  32. gluejar

    What’s wrong with asking people not to pitch? A good entrepreneur should be able to make a good impression talking about something that isn’t their company, and should have the ability to listen.I wanted to know what you thought was so bad about the media’s coverage of science. Perhaps you can post about it.

  33. ShanaC

    It seems like the number one thing people forget in all of this is that both the VC and the entrepreneur are people.A pileup disrespects both ends of their conversation. For everyone involved- time is precious, and there are other sections of their lives at stake.If you want to go to the conference- ask about the panel. network with each other. Those people are equally fascinating too, I promise. And VCs, same goes.Other than that- remember that these people have family, sometimes children, ect, to get back to. You are wasting other’s people time.

  34. Gorilla44

    PEHub has a brief article about this post with some notes by VCs who have made deals from connections made after being approached after being on a panel – Jeff Bussgang and Mark Suster:

  35. paramendra

    Or pitch at the AVC blog in 100 words or less. If nothing else, you will be given the 9/11 truth.

    1. Tereza

      I think Brad Feld is now encouraging tweet-length pitches for Foundry Group.

      1. fredwilson

        that was written on the same day i said i would only post every other day: April 1st

        1. Tereza


  36. Ivan Kirigin

    Ironic that the time most likely to chat in person is also the worst possible time to chat. I love meeting up IRL, but I hate the awkwardness of waiting. This whole setup is really annoying for those waiting to talk to you – and those who didn’t bother.Like most things, this can be solved with software, either an app or mobile site or twitter app:from @fredwilson before hand: @waytoobusy 20 slots between 3 to 4pm today outside conference hall Athe format: @waytoobusy [count] [time] [location]from @ikirigin: f @waytoobusyfrom @ikirigin: @waytoobusy @fredwilsonDM from @waytoobusy: you have @fredwilson’s 3:35-3:38 slot [location]DM from @waytoobusy at 3:30: head out to meet with @fredwilson for your 3:35-3:38 meeting at [location]Promise a full pitch or lunch slot to whomever builds this and I’d wager it is done by next week.Paul Graham built some office hours software into It works really well. It automatically clusters time slots to minimize total time.

    1. fredwilson

      such a cool ideaif someone built it, i would use it

  37. LissIsMore

    Hmm… “Panel Pile Up”…sounds like one of those multi-car bang ups on the West Side Highway. Like you need the cop to roll by saying: “Nothing to see here. Go back to your lives, Citizens.”:-)

  38. Frank Bonsal III

    Fred: Seth and others have this right. I was at the #VCedsummit and would like to have chatted with you, if only to say hello, to make a connection in person. I actually happened on and thought about interrupting a 1:1 you were having with an entrepreneur that I respect, but I would not appreciate it if someone did this to me. Trolling, cold calling, or just plain bull-in-a-china-shop approaches are both art & science but not one that I have mastered, nor approaches that lead to longer term success or trust. Hopefully, there will be a time offline where we can engage for 10 mins. Your comments in the panel were great, BTW, and thanks for your time there. Education industry needs thoughtful, experienced investors involved.

  39. Venkat

    I’d say ANY such filtration formula is doomed eventually to make too many alpha and beta errors (letting in the undeserving, blocking the deserving). At some scale, randomized methods start working better, with a lower error rate. I don’t know if you are there yet, Fred.If you have such a formula, especially a published one, you’ll have a) people trying to optimize to the formula b) trying to break it in uh, “creative” ways by “standing out.” Do you really want the best 60 second pitch, or the best actual investment opportunity?I’d say set a low baseline (“must have a business card”) and then come up with a polite way to run a lottery. Pass a hat around during your talk and say “drop your card in if you want to talk to me, and I’ll talk to 4-5 randomly chosen ones after.” Give the random ones more time…thin slicing may work to cut off idiots quickly, but at least you give yourself room to hear out truly intriguing people.It may seem insulting to the entrepreneur to be treated like kids by a teacher, but at least you’re advertising the selection process for what it is: arbitrary, just like any of the “formula” processes is ultimately arbitrary without being advertised as such. If you did want to focus, you could say, “please don’t drop your biz card in if you are not in sectors A B and C, you’ll just annoy me.”This is the same principle that has been suggested to rationalize admissions into high-demand places like Harvard. Low baseline+lottery. At a sufficient scale, this is ultimately better than deterministic algos. I am sure you could even prove it in some sense, with no-free-lunch theorems/portfolio selection theories etc. :)For the entrepreneur side: you might as well realize just how arbitrary various gatekeeping processes around ANY sort of money are. I believe in preparing extensively and then trying to create lots of little opportunities for small “breakthrough bets.” I haven’t ever tried to personally penetrate the VC phalanx (though I claim credit for one serious assist), but I’ve followed my own advice with other similar high-demand access problems with some success 🙂

  40. spencer wendt

    Fred…no, that is not the truth. You’re tired, let me do the edit today.” Bottom line is it is not an ideal pitching opportunity for anyone certainly not me.So, be smart, don’t line up to pitch me at a public event! Are you serious? No, REALLY? You want my attention divide by 1,000 distractions behind your face? Really? You do not want my money then!Is this the BEST you can do? A drive by at a public forum? I DO NOT WANT YOUR DEAL…if that is as resourceful as you can get…no, not for me.Here’s what you do – go find someone I trust and get them to give my your biz card, or do an email intro. I have to have a screening process. I hope you’ll understand. But it’s how this business has evolved.I think I am going to start enforcing the dead deal line rule in these situations. Hand me your pitch or your card and we’re done…yeah, uh huh…forever done!

  41. Donna Brewington White

    Seems like there would be a role for someone — a talent scout of sorts — to handle the very initial interaction — and to present you with brief reports based on predetermined criteria — then managing that pipeline to be able to tap into it at the appropriate time — monitoring those that seem most promising but not quite “there” yet — similar to what we do in developing relationships with potential candidates in the hiring function.Just a thought.

  42. usb flash drive

    I about how they have an iPhone app that one person to speak in his or her iPhone allows questions should talk. I think some type of application there is nothing wrong with development, where a person who pitches you a “ping Twitter, or some sort of icon you can send and read what they say briefly, or they What are the pitching might want to say yes or no. It is humble, but also a great filter and a variable pitching way to make time.

  43. Michael B. Aronson

    Fred Id love to meet with you for 30 minutes to get some advice on our next Fund and discuss dealflow.

  44. kidmercury

    that was the weakest part of seth’s argument IMHO and thus the best point to attack for those looking for a beef. +1 to charlie for astute beefing.landing an agent has nothing to do with being a good writer. there are plenty of writers who self-publish and are a few bazillion times more talented than many writers with agents. it is the same thing with music — being signed to a major label doesn’t mean you’re better. some of the most impressive musicians i’ve seen, the kind with talent that leaves you speechless and far more creativity and capability than many major label musicians, have been street musicians or open mic performers in NYC.

  45. Dave Pinsen

    “Really? Landing an agent has anything to do with “good enough” as a writer?”It has more to do with being good at “navigating the influence jungle” (or having the connections that obviate your need to do so). Having been duped into reading Jonathan (“Safran”) Foer’s debut novel by a glowing NY Times review, I wasn’t surprised to learn later how connected Foer was (e.g., having Joyce Carol Oates as his professor at Princeton, the president of a PR firm as his mother, and a New Republic editor as his brother).

  46. jasoncalacanis

    Note: Everyone judges everyone all the time.Note2: If they says they are not judgmental that they are twice as 2-10x as judgmental as the people who admit they are.Note3: As an investor you are constantly judging every detail around a startup and their team… i notice everything from how early/late they are for a meeting, how they shake hands, how long they take to respond to a question, how fast they talk, how long their responses are… everything. I do the same when I’ve got my entrepreneur hat on and I study investors… if they check their blackberry when I’m pitching, if they are paying attention… if they fall asleep during my pitch like one of the 10 most famous VCs did when I was pitching Mahalo–ouch!Then I throw all that data away and focus like a hawk on the product… then back to the founders… then their clients…. ADD/OCD/big picture = big win

  47. JLM

    “secret club of condescending elites” — umm, is that we used to call “jerks” in the old days?Please don’t judge me! LOL

  48. kidmercury

    hey jason. on the subject of pitching i’d like to pitch you the idea of building a community for jason nation. it’ll have multiple revenue sources, and will be an effective means of filtering entrepreneurs through a badge/game play/reputation system. you are then in a position to intermediate the startup funding market. the community can pull in news feeds to bring people back will cost you nothing, we work on revenue share. i deal with hosting, accounting, and everything in between. it will require no additional work than what you already do with your mailing list (unless you want to be very hands-on, in which case that can certainly be accomodated). given your experience in blogging and social media, this should be a great opportunity for you to continue building jason nation. my presence can take whatever form you are comfortable with (so long as it does not require dishonesty or willful ignorance), so that should not be a concern for you.if you are interested, let me know. i have three prototypes i can show you to give you an idea.holla at kidmercury [at] kidmercuryblog [dot] com. let’s get this party started!

  49. JLM

    Oh, give it a rest.You sound like a 16 year old who just discoverd sex and thinks he invented it.Get over yourself.

  50. Mark Essel

    Investor question (based on your comment/methodology)How nervous are investors of missing a homerun, verses successfully identifying any feature of a potential deal that’s a flag.How many homeruns can you expect to see in a lifetime of angel investing?

  51. Dave Pinsen

    I hope you keep commenting in this mood. 🙂 There’s usually too much boring apple polishing in the comments; it’s nice to see some friction. Besides, Seth has rubbed you and others the wrong way here, and friction follows naturally from that.________________________________

  52. Donna Brewington White

    Charlie — If anyone has earned the right to “stick it” to someone every once in a while it is you. And that was still quite tame.

  53. Alex Murphy

    I think this is the best comment of the day. My vote anyway.The comments about trolling etc are just simply silly. Most (obviously not all) panelists “want” to participate in a panel to promote their business or themselves so as to meet new people that they haven’t or won’t have an opportunity to meet otherwise. It is the same reason that we go to these conferences in the first place. It is the exchange, the dialog etc that helps the attendees and the panelists sharpen their point of view.If you are looking to meet the panelist, introduce yourself, say hi, relate your idea to what they said, ask if you can call back. This gives you an opportunity to make the best first impression possible.Well said Charlie.

  54. fredwilson

    yes, that is how it should be donegreat comment charlie

  55. paramendra

    The 60 second limit might be that protocol.

  56. paramendra

    On the other hand I see an entrepreneur/investor who has maintained his excitement level.

  57. paramendra

    Now we are talking.

  58. Tereza

    Handed out a business card? DOH! -3 points.Gratuitous public tweet to someone you’ve never met before? BONUS 20 points and unsolicited angel funding! You win!!!

  59. Mark Essel

    I didn’t see the condescension in my read through of jason’s comments now, just method and rationale. Hey, we all have different styles, I’m not ready to discount anyone’s techniques if they work for them.Pitching sometimes comes across as an emotionally vulnerable position (I need money). I’d rather spin it as I see it, a partnership where one party contributes more money, the other everything else.