Fundraising Tip: Don't Send The Same Email To Two Partners At The Same VC Firm
Over the weekend I got an email from an entrepreneur wanting to come pitch his startup to USV. He copied my partner Andy on the email.
I immediately thought “I’m going to let Andy reply to this one.” But a couple days later the email still was sitting there in my inbox unreplied to. So then I thought “Andy is probably waiting for me to reply to this.”
Finally I shot Andy an email and we compared notes on it and then I replied to the email.
But it doesn’t always work out like that. I’ve seen a similar situation end with neither partner replying to the email and it goes unresponded to.
I call this situation email hot potato and entrepreneurs should avoid it by sending an email to only one partner at a VC firm, not two or more.
A good alternative is to send an email to one partner and copying an analyst at the firm as well. The analysts are the most diligent people in a VC firm about staying on top of inbound deal flow and they will often step in and reply to an email that a partner has missed or forgotten about.
The important thing here is to avoid confusing who has the responsibility to reply to the email by putting multiple responsible parties on it. While it would seem that it would increase the likelihood of getting a reply, it actually reduces it.
good tip. Here is a question on a different topic. Suppose you are an early stage fund. You have made an investment in a company that is raising rounds of capital at higher valuations and you have pro-rata rights in the round. But, because of the constraints of your fund, you can’t take advantage of the pro-rata. Those pro-rata rights are worth something. Seems like the fund should get something out of them since they are an asset, and the fund took all the early risk on the deal.
Great question.This is really relevant to Bitcoin investments I bet as they by nature will require a lot of capital over a long period of time.Was musing on this watching yesterday’s thread and thinking of small seed investors in this segment and wondering if this was by definition a larger fund’s game.
Off topic, so just email that to Fred and all the USV partners. 😉
Will get to be more prevalent with crowdfunding too. What if one of the syndicates had invested in a company like Uber? Seems silly to just give away pro-rata for free.
you can’t sell them. at least i’ve never seen it.what you can do is raise money from your LPs to take them and take a carry on themsome firms do this on a deal by deal basisother firms raise a fund to do that.we did the second and call it our Opportunity Fund
For a fund, you can lean on LPs and educate them. They can commit capital. It makes 100% total sense. What about an angel group, or a syndicate on Angel List? I can see some problems too-for example, Generic Angel List Syndicate invested in Generic company, at a 5M valuation and Generic Company is raising at a $100M now. Do you want that public on Angel List? Probably not.
well you can find someone else to take the opportunity and pay a carry
I like the point made by @pointsnfigures:disqus it seems to be your response is of the -“it has never been done so it can’t be done” ilkNot very [email protected]:disqus – you could invite investors faced by this to approach you and arbitrate the obvious inefficiency in their market – Everybody (involved) wins.
It’s more than what you suggest. I’ve tried. Many times. Maybe someone better or smarter than me can make this work. I could not and ended up creating a fund structure that was novel at the time and now dozens of top early stage VC firms have emulated.
I think what USV did was an extremely sharp business decision. Funds can do it because they can go to their LP’s and explain how it will work, and make a great business case why. Growth funds attached to funds like USV benefit the LPs. They can earn outsize returns.For an angel group, not so easy. Angels take all the early risk. They build up pro-rata. But, angels are capital constrained just like funds. How do they take advantage of what should be perceived as an asset? The same could be said for micro-VC and seed stage funds under $50M in assets.I agree with Fred that it’s a sticky problem. There are information problems, diligence problems, and probably many I am not thinking of. Hence the question that hopefully will spawn some good ideas.
Ok – then respect for not quitting – Wow bizarre resistance by the market !
Similar value imbedded in participating preferred which stripped down to its components can be seen as having in features of fixed income and equity. So it there is a 80% chance of an exit one could presumably price the fixed income, maintain equity, and use $ for other investments
Hasn’t fred talked about how they have raised later stage funds for this (only to follow on and that has a much lower management and profit sharing fee?) ? Would this solve what you are talking about. Also, could you set up a SPV (special purpose vehicle) where either your LPs or another investor buys your pro-rata?
Thinking more in terms of an angel group. I suppose on Angel.co, you could just set up another syndicate and try to fill it (assuming it was okay with the entrepreneur/company. Not as big a deal to disclose everything when you are raising a seed versus succeeding rounds)
This is true for all email.
And all communication when you start grouping people. There is a big difference between “We need to do XYZ” and “John needs to do X, Joyce needs to do Y, and I will do Z”
There’s a similar effect in the psychology of emergency situations called the “bystander effect”:From wikipedia: “The bystander effect, or bystander apathy, is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. Several variables help to explain why the bystander effect occurs. These variables include: ambiguity, cohesiveness and diffusion of responsibility.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…
i could have titled this post “the email bystander effect”
And in baseball, “the notorious pop fly”.
When learning CPR they teach you to call out individuals and assign them specific tasks in order to avoid the bystander effect. “You, call 911!” “You, get an AED!” Instead of “Someone please call 911” /Wyclef
Same in business execution. In my firm any email addressed to more then 1 person is GUARANTEED to be ignored.
Honestly, that’s why I love Email Transparency at Stripe or something similar. I think every business should have a Slack Channel as their means of contact on their website. Let’s take the info out of the email silo and make it actionable by default.
If you could deliver what you just said “make email actionable” then you would have the biggest disruption to business execution. I guess that’s what Slack is supposed to do, but to be honest, I’ve installed it and never used it in my firm.I’m so burned out from enterprise messaging apps that I just don’t have energy to try another one again. From all the buzz it sounds like I’m missing out ($billion valuation – how? why?), but didn’t get on the band wagon yet.
Slack enables collaboration technically. Or rather, it makes technical collaboration easier but it’s still a people problem. No collaboration application works without a culture of collaboration internally. What slack does better than most is give the user a ton of easy to use tools, mostly for integrations and such, and then it gets out of the way so you aren’t fighting with it while you’re trying to collaborate.ServiceNow is good for a similar reason. It gives you an ITSM tool that works, is extensible, and then just gets out of the way for the most part. Culturally, you still have to put in the people work, but technically, it makes the tech side easy so you can focus on the people side.
so how did Slack get this crazy valuation and paid users? These are only technical users? I’m totally confused, you would think they solved this major problem, but looks to me like it’s business as usual.
Slack did what you said in one of your earlier comments. They made email actionable, but instead of making actual email actionable, they replaced the discussions that happen in email and unlocked the power of that knowledge.Think of Slack as the FB Feed of enterprise communication and Email is the Private Messaging. It’s unwise to use email when you want to communicate with a more than one person, distribute knowledge, and have close to real-time comms. Slack fixes this and then builds this awesome integration model on top of that so that everything that spoke to your email box now speaks to a Slack Channel. It basically unlocks the value of enterprise communication.It’s hard to really explain it until you use it with a team and then you just watch as communication and collaboration just happen natively.
Very well said.
Read post. Immediately think of bystander effect. Read comments. Already there. Awesome.Birds of a feather flock together.
Birds of a feather flock together – right before KFC turns them into chicken tenders …
when you know the people it can workwhen do don’t, it’s a problem
I’ve learnt this: only email the VC partner with a track record of investing in your space and frames of reference for similar technologies (or at least a genuine curiosity to learn about it with you).If interested, he/she’ll champion it to the other partners so no need to double email.If not interested, the founder should just tick that VC off the list and move onto the next ones.
Emailing both the VC and an analyst/associate is the best trick I know.While the VC doesn’t always respond and that’s an acceptable behavior, if the analyst doesn’t respond, it’s like they aren’t doing their job. The VC will want to know later if the analyst has followed-up for sure.
I use this strategy as well at times.
I think it depends on the nature of the bureaucracy. There’s an entire book about this:http://smile.amazon.com/Sel…If six people in a bureaucracy get a note that appears to be relevant and significant, from a trusted source, the theory is that they need to check in with each other about who will handle, because no one wants to be the one who was ‘supposed to’.The key element, implied but missing from your post, is that none of this matters at all if the email isn’t sent with permission, if it’s spam, if it’s selfish. Too often, people with stamps or send buttons are only focused on one person, and it’s not the recipient.So, step zero: Build something worth funding. Step one: Earn the privilege to talk about it. Then step two, as above.
@Seth Godin:disqus – I have to call BS on this.Once an entrepreneur has built something worth funding they have earned the privilege to talk about it.If you think otherwise – I despair of your opposition to creativity PR Guru or not[Edited] removal of somewhat ad-hominum statement
I believe you are misinterpreting Seth’s comment, possibly by being triggered by the word ‘privilege’.I think Seth, who has written the book on permission marketing, might as well have used the word “permission”. Meaning, get permission to be in someones inbox, and then you are not spam. This has nothing to do with ‘privileged positions’ as you suggest.
Removed as noted
Meaning, get permission to be in someones inbox, and then you are not spam.I don’t read books like that and never have. Don’t intend to. Messes with the gut which has worked for me especially with cold calling. However I have sent countless emails over the years as well as cold calling without ever getting permission to do so or even laid any groundwork at all. (And I have also laid groundwork in many cases). Sometimes the groundwork is just to build familiarity for the kill later on.When Seth says  “Too often, people with stamps or send buttons are only focused on one person, and it’s not the recipient.” he is most certainly referring to not presenting in a way that shows the recipient the benefit to them as opposed to what’s in it for the sender. I feel like I am analyzing Seth as if this is some high school literature course.
I think all marketers like to think they are presenting something beneficial to the recipient. “These coupon codes could save you a lot of money if you purchase in the next 24 hours! What a deal for you!”And then they spam everyones inbox. It’s just a practice to avoid.But I agree with you and have had some good success with cold emails as well. Or at least cold emails that developed into warm relationships before I had an ask.But, I suggest you give some of Seths books a spin, they are short, and they say a healthy gut has rich diversity in its micro-biome.
I know many people like Seth’s books and that they are best selling. And I had bought two of them at some point (don’t remember but one might have been Purple Cow) and found that to me most of the material presented was obvious so I stopped reading them. (Ditto for Gary Vaynerchuk’s book…) That is not to say it doesn’t have value to others, they obviously do. Also would like to point out that many lessons in life can be learned by reverse engineering what is done by others that results in the same repeat behavior or has some telltale sign of success.
Agree re: Vaynerchuk… his books have significant diminishing returns once you get past the title.
I remember that one of the first books that I read of this genre was when I was in my 20’s and “Swim with the Sharks without getting eaten alive” was written by Harvey Mackay. And at the time that many of the things that Mackay wrote would or could be echoed by any number of businessmen with the same general success (he ran an envelope company at the time that wasn’t all that big in the industry iirc). And that I personally knew many people who were just like Mackay but didn’t write a book. Much of of the world took what he said as earth shattering of course and the book was for sure best selling. That was actually his biggest accomplishment ironically.I was right about one thing. Once the internet came along we have found out that there are many more people with interesting things to say than we had ever imagined before. https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…
>>Meaning, get permission to be in someones inbox, and then you are not spam.If you mean keep it relevant, targeted, know your audience etc, I can agree but lets not call that permission – because permission is granted before you act (hit send) – or it is a misnomer.
Hence why “Permission marketing” is a marketing term – Kinda like customer relationship management and all the other marketing BS’y phrases. Customers are not our friends nor are they ever going to be – but helping companies think like that, helps them see customers as real people with real lives vs. sales numbers and targets.
Don’t shoot the messenger. He’s right. You are too. But VCs don’t always act in the way you expect them to and how they should.
@fredwilson:disqus have read most of what Seth has written and generally respect his position (and find his style very entertaining/engaging).On this occasion either I am missing his point or he is wrong.Yes – one can find alternative paths in (call it networking) but each incremental step into new territory is always permissionlessThe permissionless step may be small but say I come and offer you a beer when I see you at a bar, engage you in lively conversation, my approach, however acceptable (or not), remains permissionless.Many young entrepreneurs I have spoken to / even helped (I hope) have worried about how to overcome this, To knock them down when they try to get up is not pretty.Cold calling is horrid – but sometimes it is necessary. It is hard enough without raising barriers even higher.”A cat can look at a queen” – call it scrappy, call it Chutzpah, avoid it if you can – but don’t deny the truth of it.
To everyone who wades into the comments: pay attention to Seth on this stuff. He’s the master of it.Thanks Seth. You are 100% correct
The comment is to short to not be ambiguous and some replies clearly show that. That is the reason some subjects are better described in book chapters as well as complete courses and more than 3 paragraphs.Plus “build something worth funding” somewhat contradicts the “all hands down” in a roomful of VC’s theory of opportunity. How many people saw bitcoin as “something worth funding”? A good Italian Restaurant by an experienced operator would never be viewed in a similar fashion.
@fredwilson:disqus If correct he has phrased it very clumsily.If an entrepreneur has completed step one “Build something worth funding”Do you believe they have earned the privilege and right to talk about it to those that will listen ?If the audience is a potential investor this is simply not spam!Their approach may be strategically/tactically flawed (many entrepreneus have much to learn – myself included) – but to question their right to try is inflamatory
Step -1: ASSEMBLE KICK-ASS AMAZING TEAM.Step 0: invent / build something useful people will pay to use.Step 1: assess VCs and put them into a matrix of potential fit for whichever stage your company is in and knowhow / execution milestones that still need to be met.Step 2: as much as possible, generate revenue so you don’t need VCs (unless they’re bringing scale expertise and networks no other party can provide).Step 3: (in tandem with step 2) share your story with users and enable them to buy into and pay towards your vision+execution.Step 4: when approached by VCs, assess whether they’re bringing PARITY VALUE to your team as much as you’re bringing ROI to them.Step 5: everyone’s happy…and you may even…become $billion business / IPO / trade sale / exit successfully.
Very true. As a VC analyst, I reply to all emails that come through. I’ve noticed that many entrepreneurs avoid sending emails to junior VC because they think it won’t get them anywhere – it’s a big mistake in my opinion. Juniors have the ambition to find the hottest deals because their name is on the line, the want to prove themselves. We look at everything diligently.Many entrepreneurs forget that junior VCs have the power to bring any deal to the partner’s attention if they want to.
avoid sending emails to junior VC because they think it won’t get them anywhereVery important principle actually that applies to many other situations.When trying to get anything done (even lodging a complaint) people make the same mistake. Time permitting it’s actually the opposite. You start at the bottom which increases your chances of hitting someone on the way up that will take care of or want to dispose of the problem or take care of things for you and most importantly for themselves.  If you start at the top and get your request rejected, you have nowhere to go. This is a strategy that has worked for me for so many years I don’t even know when I started using it. And works very well. Most important is that the lower level people often inadvertantly make mistakes or say things that they shouldn’t be saying in trying to handle the situation. As a result you can use this information higher up in the chain of command to your advantage.
Depends on the organization..more than once I had experiences where the CEO showed way more interest than the VP he asked to follow up (turf issue).
Like anything, everything “depends” on the specifics. That is why people actually have to engage in transactions over time to learn the nuance and telltale signs and act accordingly.I had a case once while I was in college where the CEO of a small company was very excited about something that I was doing and setup a meeting for me to share it with his sales VP. The sales vp took one look and said “you can’t change a salesman’s territory, worst thing that can be done sorry!”. It died there. The CEO wasn’t going to go to bat against his VP he didn’t even know enough to know what the truth was.
Yes, I’ve had similar experiences.
Common. CEO gets paid by results. VP by the hour
And CEO is never concerned about protecting his/her turf.
I’ve also found that CEOs are better time managers and respond to their inboxes better than most.I’m trying to learn from that.
Good approach, but there are some time-wasters at the bottom. Mark Suster writes more about that here, http://www.bothsidesoftheta…
I find things like that very interesting to read after being in business for so many years (and can put it into context) but I wonder how someone fresh or a few years out of college can identify the exact nuance of using analog information and advice like that and not shoot themselves in the foot in the process. We are not talking about math All of this is more art than science. This is not specific to VC deals either.
Maybe it depends on impedance between approacher and approacheeBy their nature a VC junior or otherwise is about filtering signal from noise and the desired signal is the same up and down the organisation.Contrast typical B2B sale – it may be strategic or transactional. If you tell a CEO you have a cheaper provider of pencils this week she is rightly not interested.Similarly if you tell the Head of getting stuff done you see a strategic play outside their remit they should not be interested.So conclusion – talk to people who are relevant but who have different perspective, don’t redundantly talk to multiple people who am to hold the same perspective
But what if the person at the top is the decision-maker who will determine yay or nay on your request?
Many people say only work with those at the top.This is a really short sighted view of the world. It is kind of the twitterization of business.Understand you are not going to get a decision unless it is approved by the top.If somebody has a real connection to that person at the top you are screwed.But if you only go to the top, why would I have people that work for me??? Why would it not only just be me???So yes you have to go through and more importantly with those people. You have to understand not only what is important to them but what is important to those to whom they report.I can tell you the biggest turn off I have is when somebody tries to go around a person I trust (and if I don’t trust them they don’t work for me) and try and get directly to me.
Many people say only work with those at the top.Sounds like something written in a book in the racks at the airport in paperback. (I don’t read those that’s just a guess..)It’s obvious to anyone who has been around the block that underlings control both access and approval. They do this by making it easy for a decision maker to come to a decision. As such they have great influence over what he says or does typically and who they meet with.Example is the first big deal I landed. I sucked up to the CEO’s secretary as well as the guy who worked in the mail room. They paved the way for me. Without their support and approval I would have gone nowhere. In that particular deal and situation specifically. No need to golf with the CEO luckily.People are funny sometimes in how they view the power and decision making ability of someone at the top. Like the boss gets everything he wants and everyone is the mythical Steve Jobs, Gates or Ellison. Unfortunately as a leader (among other things) if you don’t go along with the opinion of a person down the line you give them a way to make an excuse for why something doesn’t work as planned. Even if they don’t say “I told you so..”.
Contrary to my point below there are of course exceptions. When I sold my first business the new buyer landed a large contract at Penn with the purchasing department that I couldn’t ever get as an alumni despite trying pretty hard. Everybody wants to do business with Penn and those that pull it off have good pricing and good quality. Not much you can do to overcome that especially since the purchasing agents are catered to by the competitors socially. No different than how I treat a vendor. I don’t switch w/o a really compelling reason.How did the new buyer pull it off? The reason was simple. The new buyers uncle (one of his investors) was a big deal attorney who had contacts on the board of Penn. That was enough to make the purchasing department put the company on favored nation status in fact they even knew that prior to the deal closing.
We are in violent agreement.Yes, if you have strong connections up top you win.Yes, lower people that call you up and want to milk you for info without helping you build a strong connection at the top are a waste of time.However the transitive property does not apply.If the answer is only go to the top, that will lose every time. If the answer bother multiple people at the top, you are doubling down on that strategy.People see these soundbites and think they are truth. No they are pieces of advice to triangulate on.And the last thing I will say is there is some thought by people that because you send an irrelevant email you deserve a reply.Nothing could be further from the truth. You deserve to be blocked on my spam list forever which is what I do.
And the last thing I will say is there is some thought by people that because you send an irrelevant email you deserve a reply.What I would love is to be able to find a way to make money for every irrelevant contact (of a non spamming nature) that is sent to someone. (Me, you or Fred).For example Fred gets all sorts of email, hundreds per day, that from what I can tell, are somewhat personal not including spam like we all do.What if he was able to auto reply with variations of”at this time this isn’t of interest but thanks for sending. By the way if you can support my school project that would be nice and you can do so by going to this xyz.com/techschool. After you have done so please write back and let me know..”Fred might not want to do this but others would. If I was selling life insurance I would certainly reverse sell each and every person who contacted me.My point is why not take advantage of all of the people that contact you and do something positive with that?The obvious answer is “it would create a further obligation on the part of the person asking for a return favor?”. While that is true solving that problem seems way easier than displacing the long standing tax industry in NYC. Could be done with an assistant since it has already been determined that these people “aren’t worthy of a reply”.
One of the first secrets I learned as a young recruiter was to enlist the support of the administrative assistant and/or direct reports of the person that I wanted to reach and sometimes this worked.For me, going to the top is not so much circumventing the authority of others, but not stretching out the process of reaching the person I actually need to interact with.
Right! I imagine they would be hungrier.
You can call this for easy reference “the Yoko effect”. Or “use the smallest effective dose”.If you watch the David Geffen documentary you will see that he attributes signing John Lennon to the fact that he went after Yoko Ono while everybody else was sucking up to John.I learned this early on in my first business where I found out that it was better to get in good with the “secretary” than the boss. The boss relies on the “secretary” (as a broad principle) and rarely wants to dictate to her who she should be dealing with or how she should go about her job. The secretary in this case is a metaphor for anyone in a position that has defacto power over a situation to get something done rather than the obvious person with power. People in power, despite popular culture examples, rarely want to step on the toes of an underling that they feel is doing a good job. For one thing they don’t have the bandwidth to actually know if what they are being told is correct or not.
dude u write some great stuff…used it in article but couldn’t reference your disqus profile because private.
There’s a lot of ‘advice’ out there telling entrepreneurs to avoid junior partners, framing them as gate keepers. That always seemed illogical to me, for the reasons you’ve shared.
See my post I totally agree.If you have a junior just asking for info and they cannot tell you what you are getting in return or what the next step is??? Agree.But saying I don’t talk to junior people????Dumb.
I think you have to determine what works for you. If you find that talking to juniors doesn’t work then you must change your approach. The next guy/gal that comes along may find that talking with juniors gets them what they want..I know when I sit in a room with wealthy successful people we all enjoy the conversation. But when I’m working my way up to that meeting I find discussions with juniors very uneasy. They are nice people but we are not focused on the same things.
who comes up with this advice?
I wrote an article for TechCrunch on this exact topic http://techcrunch.com/2015/…Its a huge mistake entrepreneurs make.
I read it when it was published. Great points.
Not all junior VCs are equal just as not every General Partner VC is equal.Regardless of seniority, these are the qualities about the VC that count:(1.) Personal chemistry.(2.) Values & principles.(3.) How they use technology — avoid investors who don’t actually use the tech they’ve invested in.(4.) How they manage conflict and missed milestones and enable mgmt team to keep moving FWD.(5.) Sense of humor & wit — if they can’t LOL at the chaos, paradoxes and absurdities that happen in the startup world and at themselves then they belong in dry index fund mgmt.
I’ve moved away from email. I think it’s best to talk with people in-person. Fred’s post is just another example of why I’ve moved away from email..Lots of people want to send me emails but I don’t have time to wade through them finding what’s important and what’s spam. Call to talk or make an appointment to meet but don’t waste my time with email.
Agreed. Also, the most frequent email abusers I encounter are the VC/PE marketing ppl. I get their emails almost every day saying they’ve ‘studied’ my company in detail and want to make an acquisition. But then I look at their links and see they’re url parameterized, so they come off as not just junk but deceptive as well.
The junior analyst is sort of like the secretary in a positive way. Don’t piss them off, they remember stuff.(Actually you should just be nice in general)
I find it interesting that VCs seem to me to fall into three categories and almost self-identify …1) We follow – so we have no differentiation, are dumb money, and so we don’t need to search for deal flow2) We are a well known tick-box operation – we have such deal flow that we only need to find an excuse to ignore anyone who doesn’t exactly fit. We love to when hidden gems find us first. However we are so swamped with incoming that we cannot take time to mine it for value.3) We have something to prove – so we will work to find differentiated deal flow – we understand that some Entrepreneurs do not spend all their lives hanging out networking – because they have stuff to do. So actually we invest in reading the emails that do come in (even if they come in cold).Show me a VC who will look at a team with a good idea but that does not yet have access to networks via croney-ism (AKA they are an unknown), and I will show you a VC that may be able to bottle lightening – for the rest it’s just a crap-shoot.Prognosis1) Long term fail as they are a market inefficiency and essentially are a middleman brokerage without differentiation.2) Winners who must work hard to avoid falling into trap 1) but have been 3) in the past or just got lucky on some good follows3) Potential winners
That’s a really good analysis. We are somewhere between 2 and 3. On our best days we are 3. On many days we are 2
@fredwilson:disqus – Thanks for compliment,Apologies that my knee jerk comment was out of order earlier – I find avc a great place to come and cool off when the stress is running high (but should leave guns at the door).For the record I put USV nearer to 3 than 2) – you have a discovery attitude that even this forum, continuations and USV itself contribute to – I don’t think it has begun to pay off fully yet (watch type 1 go to the wall during the next tough phase – hope the LLPs learn about commodity markets)Deal-flow is arguably the biggest network market effect ever ! – You go to the “man” if you want reliable price (not necessarily the best price)I believe a great weakness in VC as a market is about localization / i18n though start up environments are beginning to flourish far and wide supported by tech itself.If I had an investment thesis it would be that B2B network effects (between verticals) are under-explored and therefore underpriced.
Before we started using Slack, I used to see this happen internally all the time at my start up.. Always interesting to hear others talk about simple troubles like this.
.One of the earliest and best lessons I learned in life was to answer the mail. I find an enormous correlation between success and administrative efficiency.In reading about Geo Washington perhaps the oddest thing I have ever learned is the efficiency of his administration of correspondence. He was an incredibly efficient correspondent.Same thing was true of MacArthur (for whom Eisenhower was a “clerk”) and Marshal and Kennedy and Reagan.MacArthur was once asked by someone — when Eisenhower’s star had begun to arguably eclipse his — what he thought of Eisenhower. He is reputed to have replied: “A good man. I trained him. Best clerk I ever had.”Eisenhower also worked for Marshal.I love to read the edited letters of famous people and see what came from the end of their pens. A good read is Reagan’s correspondence and Marshal’s also. Their greatness comes out clearly.People today don’t write or answer correspondence. It is very telling.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
Now we SMS, we tweet or we blog if we feel intellectually inclined. No more pen and feather.I’m just screwing around.Great point on administrative efficiency. It is a tell-tale sign.
I agree with you and reply to at least 20 unsolicited emails every work day. But I can’t reply to 200 and I don’t think any busy person can
That is freaking impressive.
So is the consensus from these comments that contacting you guys (VCs) via email without a personal introduction is okay? I thought that idea was dead.
Wanna hear something crazy (but verified). The Lubavitcher Rebbe would answer 500 letters a day (using 4 secretaries). What’s more – he would do it in 2.5 hours.
And that is with a 6 day week.
I always answer sales/spam bc i find it faster – tried first time two weeks ago not answering – and i got the ONE guy who was determined to get an answer from me. He sent 8 follow up emails with escalating humour. I finally replied – made a joke back – and told him i’d keep him on file. It would have been faster for me to send him a tnx but no tnx email in the first place …
Comment removed – I was pissed off and it was unworthy
“As a self-described “Creativity Enthusiast” you may want to crawl down out of a certain creative orifice.”Buddy, you’re crossing the line — there is no need for that tone around here if you take notice.
As you may note comment was removed – as I agree it was not warranted and I like to admit mistakesNonetheless I find the observation by Seth truly arrogant and somewhat offensive
I dunno – there are lots of great, fundable, businesses out there that I have no interest in hearing from/about (because they just aren’t relevant to *my* world)…it’s not that they aren’t great or that I can’t objectively see that they are great…it’s just that we all have limited time and bandwidth, so personal relevance becomes *really* important for each of us.The context that I took Seth’s statement was to mean “make it very relevant to Fred and/or Andy, and the specific USV thesis” (this goes way beyond just needing funding) and you will pass the *spam* filter as well as have a much better chance at sparking a prompt reply.Personally, I think that’s actually great advice…
@falicon:disqus If that were what was written I would agree (but you need to take a context).At face value Seth Godin believes>> So, step zero: Build something worth funding. Step one: Earn the privilege to talk about it.If it IS built and IS worth funding, then the author of that entrepreneurial activity surely has a certain right and I take that as more than freedom of speech Equally his/her potential audience has the right to dismiss.To suggest otherwise whether by clumsy writing (not something Seth is famous for) or by deliberate and very pointed positioning (something Seth is famous for) is rather patronising from someone who has “made it” to the position of being listened to..
Fair enough – regardless, I’m buying the beer next time your in town (and will be thrilled to hear the latest about the business you’ve built) 😉
Careful what you ask for 😉
Essentially selling 101. The way you get better at selling is to spend a great deal of your time selling. As well as knowing the hot buttons and as much as you can about your target and doing your research. Also get them in a good frame of mind. “Tickets to the Yankees Game”. The list of things that can be done is endless. Having a good product to sell is certainly a large part of all of this but only one part. If that weren’t the case the phrase “sell ice to Eskimos” wouldn’t exist in popular culture.Unfortunately if you only read books that would be like me trying to duplicate your knowledge of sports or Fred’s knowledge of music attained over the years by reading the back issues of sports illustrated or Rolling Stone and trying to cram in games (and tracks) that you spent the last quarter century watching. Not going to happen.
Side story: There is a recent episode of “Comedians in cars getting coffee” where Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Harvey are talking about how to become a comedian…Steve Harvey mentions that he was asked to give a talk to a class about it, and the first thing he said to the class was that “If you are in this class, you don’t have what it takes (and you aren’t going to get it here)…because if you did, you would already be out there and doing it”.There are somethings that you can *really* only learn by trying and doing…
Have to accept that – If I ever succeed (well I guess we are a bit) it will be despite of not because of my communication skills
I used to watch that “Inside the Actors Studio” on Bravo and always wondered “I wonder if anyone in the audience ever gets to be famous”Well it turns out there is at least one case of that, Bradley Cooper as shown by this clip:https://youtu.be/l3HYLLruJi…
Good to see you commenting Totally agree. I have always said two things. The person responding owes the person asking one level of response less. And that is a great story about classes.
Thanks for that, and it’s obvious and understood that Seth’s comment has rubbed you the wrong way.
proud for taking down that sort of thing by yourself.(hey, we can reward positive behavior…)
I agree. Debate is encouraged. Dissing is not
BTW, “email hot potato” is a well-suited moniker for the behaviour — the metaphor works. It should become a widespread business term, IMO.
Funny. But see attached email example. You just have to increase “n” and you will eventually get a positive reply.
.I already made a deal on the diamonds. They arrive tom’w.You can still work on the two tons of gold bars.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
I have done the reverse of this. I have paid attention to spam (from the Chinese) and have actually made a great deal of money by doing so. And I do mean “a great deal of money”. Lends credence to the saying “leave no stone unturned”.
National Lampoon once had a fake contest – readers could enter to win a home security system – all they needed to do was to trace their house key on the entry blank.
Note this idea along those lines:https://keysduplicated.com/Their cert actually expired 7/19/2015 and gives a warning message.Also this is one of the things that I dislike about the entire startup scene. Look at the credentials of the founder on this page:https://keysduplicated.com/…Ali programmed the robots that analyze and cut your keys. He has a PhD from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. He builds machine learning and computer vision systems.Seriously. He has a PhD from MIT (in AI no Less) and he is chasing the dream by doing a startup that is cutting keys!!! What a complete waste of a fucking good brain. Stop the madness!! And yes I am factoring in that this could lead to something else and that it’s a worthwhile experience in other respects.
Seriously. He has a PhD from MIT (in AI no Less) and he is chasing the dream by doing a startup that is cutting keys!!! What a complete waste of a fucking good brain.  Assuming that the claim is true, With that background, he likely has next to nothing good in career opportunities.If he will take Ph.D. off his resume and emphasize Python, Objective-C, etc., then he may be able to get a job as a beginning level coder in Silicon Valley that pays enough for him to live in a tent.What employees in Silicon Valley are making enough in salary to buy a house and support a family?What Ph.D.’s in AI, anywhere?I know a guy with a Ph.D. who published peer-reviewed original research in AI, quite close to some of the MIT work in that field, sent 1000+ resumes, and got back nothing.Currently, from all I can tell, in the US, nearly no employee on a salary, Ph.D. or not, can make money enough to buy a house and support a family.A full professor with a Ph.D.? Start as an Assistant prof living in an apartment, maybe cheaper than some of the students are living in. Work hard for seven years and maybe make Associate. Work hard for another seven years and maybe make Professor. Then, age 40+, if in a town with cheap real estate, maybe can buy a starter house.Really, the university is not interested in paying salary enough to let a prof buy a house. Instead, it is up to the prof to get research grants. About 60% from the top goes to university ‘overhead’. Getting a lot of research grants helps chances of promotion. Research grants are very tough to get; there are many more profs than research grants.A Ph.D. is supposed to be for someone totally dedicated, with every fiber of their being, to the center of the cells at the center of their bone marrow, to asceticism, monasticism, celibacy, academic “research, teaching, and service”, for life with no ambitions or activities otherwise. Even in a B-school, consulting is frowned on.Outside academics, a Ph.D. is regarded with a mixture of fear and contempt. The contempt slander is that they are interested only in pure thought, intellectual self-abuse, and are just a waste of time in the organization. The fear part is that they might actually have some better ideas, crucial contributions, etc., become important, and, thus, scare everyone else.The solution is the usual one: Start, own, and run a business and make it successful. If the Ph.D. in AI helps, fine. Otherwise it was likely a waste. And, it was likely a waste: So far AI is 99 44/100% smoke blowing; any exceptions are just good engineering called AI.While there are a few exceptions, quite literally in the US, after a good high school education, a person is better off starting in grass mowing, the trades, e.g., auto body repair, framing carpentry, being an electrician, than going to college or graduate school.Grass mowing? Sure: Start say, working for a parent or uncle already successful in the business; learn the business. Go it alone and build the business — get mentoring from family. Get a crew, then more crews. Then move into lawn service for commercial clients. Then move into landscaping. Work hard and smart. By age 35 stand to be quite far ahead of a Ph.D. at age 35.Or, long the HR practice at Intel has been to hire EE MS grads and by age 35 promote a tiny fraction into management and fire the rest. Likely in either case, certainly in the case of getting fired, the Intel EE will be worse off than the guy the same age who mowed his grass, assuming Intel ever paid him enough to buy a house with grass. And Intel just announced a lot of layoffs.Then, compared with grass mowing or electrician work, with hard work, by age 35, the Ph.D. guy stands be behind in his career. The electrician guy can have a house and a family. A Ph.D. in EE can want to swap his Ph.D. for an electrician’s license.Quite broadly in the US, with only a few exceptions, careers as salaried employees are dead. In simple terms, the US economy is sick, quite sick. Deathly sick. Literally.Sick? We are going extinct: On average the number of children per woman is less than the minimum of 2.1 for a stable population. Same situation quite broadly across nearly all of Europe. E.g., in Finland, the number is 1.5 so that after 10 generations(2.1/1.5)^10 = 28.92529 Finns today will become 1.A guy with a salary buy a house? Okay, have a wife who is a school teacher. Stable job. Have no kids. Get some family inheritance for the house down payment.Otherwise? Own a business and make it successful. A salary? A way to slowly bleed away some of the best years of your life to make some other guy who does own the business successful.
Ok so the summary is “he bet on the wrong horse” in getting a Ph.D.But my broader point perhaps is that with the ability to achieve a Ph.D. you would think he would reach higher than this.Perhaps the brain that is able to study and do the work required to achieve a Ph.D. is not a particularly “creative” brain.
Perhaps the brain that is able to study and do the work required to achieve a Ph.D. is not a particularly “creative” brain. No, being “creative” is not the problem.Really any Ph.D. from a good research university is essentially certified by a quite serious process to be quite good at high quality creative work.A Ph.D. is a research degree: Usually the main work is the dissertation, and a common requirement for that is “an original contribution to knowledge worthy of publication”; “publication” means in a peer-reviewed journal of original research; and the usual standard there is that the work be “new, correct, and significant”. Being “original” and “new” along with “worthy, correct, and significant” are the big points.So, an MIT AI Ph.D. no doubt did something creative, also, new, original, significant, and worthy of publication. He (she …) worked hard and smart. He made a significant contribution to the field of AI.That’s called research, and over time, say, starting with Newton, has for civilization given by far the highest ROI of anything so far. E.g., take away all the research of the past 100 years, walk around your house or office, and see what’s left — not much.So, Ok so the summary is “he bet on the wrong horse” in getting a Ph.D. is basically correct. The joke will go, “No one smart enough to deserve a Ph.D. will be dumb enough to get one.” Or, “If I want a Ph.D., then I’ll hire one.”.So, why might a smart guy get a Ph.D.?(1) ParentsKids can be heavily influenced by their parents. At one time, a lot of parents in the US were eager to push their kids to Ph.D., LLB, or MD degrees.(2) SocietyThere is some prestige for a Ph.D. in society, some respect for the degree.(3) The US Federal GovernmentThe biggie reason for a lot of current US Ph.D. degree holders was the response of the US Federal Government for US national security during the Cold War. Also have to toss in the space race.E.g., to a large extent it was math and science that let the US win WWII, not for just the A-bomb but for much more.So, at one time, the US NSF worked hard to get K-12 kids interested in math and science.Also at one time since the end of WWII, US universities were awash in grants and scholarships, from the NSF, NIH, ONR, etc. for math and science.When the Cold War was going full swing, there were plenty of good salaried jobs for Ph.D.s in math and physical science.But, right: Essentially all this employment was working for the US Federal Government for US national security. One little effect? Sure: Silicon Valley. It was built by the US DoD and NASA, not Google or SnapChat.(4) Image of EducationIn the US the statement is still common and strong that on average more education leads to higher lifetime incomes.With the present situation, this statement will prove to be strongly false — the time, money, effort, and opportunity cost of too much of education, including in math and science, also most of engineering including computer science, is for an individual usually a big net loss, big enough to wreck their lives, e.g., keep them from ever buying a house.(5) CompetitivenessAn individual, trying to do well, can hope that more education will make them more competitive — for a salaried job, for a degree past an BS or MBA, now, in the US, mostly no.For a salaried job, outside of academics, in the US, a Ph.D. is about as helpful as a felony conviction.(6) KnowledgeOne of the standard high motivations of young people is to be as competent as possible, e.g., get as much knowledge as possible. So, it’s easy to want a Ph.D. to get more knowledge and competence. Alas, usually that doesn’t help for salaried jobs. E.g., the supervisor wants to hire someone who knows less, not more.So, due to (1)-(6), etc., it’s easy for a young person to be fooled and pursue a Ph.D. Getting a good Ph.D. is not easy, but even the students who do get such a degree can remain fooled.Meanwhile, in the US, the Cold War and the space race are over. The NSF, NIH, etc. are no longer, proportionally, so richly funding research universities. A lot of US business that might have provided salaried jobs got exported. Silicon Valley now is SnapChat for maybe imprudent teenage girls, not Varian for US national security.The businesses that are left in the US usually have some good barriers to entry. Well, a guy who owns and does a good job running, say, five fast food restaurants has a darned good geographical barrier to entry — he’s not in competition with anyone more than 100 miles away. No one in China can hurt him. And now few customers can hurt him; unless a major fraction of the whole US economy goes into depression, he will still be able to feed his family.It used to be that a movie that wanted to show a scientist showed a lot of test tubes. So, a lot of kids went into chemistry. So, when they got out of grad school they found that there were far too many chemists for the available jobs in chemistry.The MIT Ph.D. AI guy no doubt went for his degree with some or all of (1)-(6) but with not much understanding then of the US job market now. He no doubt has worked hard and smart and been plenty creative, with the creative work correct and significant, but that doesn’t mean that there is a good salaried job waiting for him.Intel is still able to hire BS and MS EEs and in 10 years trash the careers of 99% of them. For a guy in the 99% that Intel fires at age 35, the guy they ran track with in high school but started grass mowing in his uncle’s business at age 14 stands to be doing much better.The ex-Intel guy can be looking into being an electrician. He knows some fantastic things about Maxwell’s equations, wave guides, antenna theory, convex analysis, stochastic optimal control, microelectronics at 14 nm, and design of digital circuits but now hopes to be installing lighting for backyard swimming pools.Long term: Anything like the US economic system is just not sustainable, in part because it is so unstable; it far too frequently writes off assets, e.g., most of graduate education, that cost a lot, a major fraction of everything the students had in life.As a result, the US population is shrinking.So, the land/labor ratio will become more favorable.Moore’s law is dying with nothing to replace it. The high tech boom will slow and stop.The high tech stuff will become commodities, made by robots in factories somewhere.With the better land/labor ratio, people will move closer to the land and be much less dependent on being employees for salaries in businesses in urban economies.The US will erect trade barriers to protect US citizens from external disruptions.Think of some village in Romania, Bulgaria, Belarus: Horse drawn, wooden carts, but a lot of warm families, no stress over disruption from high tech, no concern about some market crash in the US, Japan, China, or England, nearly everyone busy and happy, and nearly no one unemployed.The US can be like that but better.There may be better alternatives, but I see no serious effort in any such directions.For me, start a business. My grad education? Some of that stuff is powerful, and it is the foundation of the secret sauce of my business.
cpus could be replaced by GPUs…which are getting way way better
A lot can be done to make computers faster, from the transistors, the hardware design,through all the layers of software,the networks, etc.All along the way there are factorsof several improvements in speedavailable.IIRC NRL just did a transistorwith one organic molecule andsix atoms. IIRC can get a transistor out of a little DNA.Use DNA for storage and a quartof the stuff — beyond belief whatit could store. All this beforequantum computing. IBM nowclaims lab scale chips at 7 nm.Still, Moore’s law is on the way to atomic sizes and will stop there, at least without somethingvery different.And, it’s not good business: IBMjust claimed $200 million for worker ‘rebalancing’ — i.e., layoffs. Intel has some groupsnot doing well that will be cutwith layoffs. HP is splitting upand will have some layoffs. Microsoft is laying off at leastits Nokia people. There arerumors that Qualcomm will havelayoffs. Not good.For our current ‘economic system’and economy, bottom line is we’re having so few kids we’regoing extinct. So is Finland, Japan, Russia, and much more.
Grass mowing? Sure: Start say, working for a parent or uncle already successful in the business; learn the business. Go it alone and build the business — get mentoring from family. Get a crew, then more crews. Then move into lawn service for commercial clients. Then move into landscaping. Work hard and smart. By age 35 stand to be quite far ahead of a Ph.D. at age 35.Watch CNBC’s “Blue Collar Millionaire” deals with exactly that concept.http://www.cnbcprime.com/bl…
Not feeling the love for this idea as an opportunity.You typically stay with the people who mow your lawn and if you don’t like them you can easily see who your neighbors are using in a typical suburban neighborhood.A better twist might actually be “mow your neighbor’s lawn” for all of the people out there who actually enjoy pushing a lawn mower.Snow shoveling is also a better “opportunity” as well. (Of course you are limited to when it snows). I would even bid that in reverse for people who will pay more to be the first guy shoveled out (something my Dad used to do always tip big so the kid in the neighborhood would come to his house first..)
really advanced statistics?
Just simple observations.
for AI? a lot of the knowledge coming up seems not intuitive…
Not sure what you mean.But good results from good mathcan look amazing and not at allintuitive. E.g., if want to regarda chess program as AI, no doubtthe moves don’t look intuitive.
There’s a sociopsychological phenomenon called “Diffusion of responsibility” that explains that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…
So Fred, we recently pitched to a firm in Texas. First we had a phone conversation and then were invited to their office for another 2 hour meeting. It seems to go well. But then, (after following up with the email to BOTH partners – classic – and some other attempts) We have heard nothing. They totally blew us off. Is this common? To me it is unprofessional. If we drive 6 hours to your office we at least deserve a “no” with some comments. Interested to hear if others have had this experience.
that’s not great. i bet we have done that once or twice. but certainly not often. it’s about the worst thing you can do to an entrepreneur. a quick no is good. a longer no is bad. no answer at all is horrible.
I’m glad that isn’t normal. It is very discouraging. (But also motivating.) Their competitors get to “win” us.
While it would seem that it would increase the likelihood of getting a reply, it actually reduces it. It’s a really basic fact that can’t “reduce” “likelihood” below zero!Respond? If they like the project, they will respond, enthusiastically, no problemo.Some venture firms have associates looking hard for good companies of the kind they like to fund and will eagerly contact such a company if they find one, no matter how many people in the firm learn about the company.Otherwise a response is just a courtesy, and maybe soon we will get good data back from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft that such courtesy works on Pluto — on earth, not so much!Or, when they don’t respond, that is just the shortest version of “No”. Same as “Not interested”, “You wasted my time”. “Please keep your spam out of my in-box”. “I’m a $10,000 an hour guy so that your two minute e-mail costs me2 * 10,000 / 60 = 333.33dollars.” “Where’d you get my e-mail address anyway? I’ll have to talk to my assistant about that.” “I’m getting an e-mail client with a white list, a short one.” “BTW, don’t leave messages on my phone, either.” “Don’t call us; we’ll call you as soon as possible.”Can learn this lesson here the fast, easy, cheap way or can send 1500+ email messages and learn it the slow, hard way and “pay full tuition”.Instead, do it the Markus Frind way: As just one person, write some code, get two old Dell servers, for a romantic matchmaking service Web site, call it Plenty of Fish, go live, get ads just from Google, get $10 million a year in revenue, grow staff to about 70 people, own 100% of the company, let investors/buyers make the first contact, sell out for $575 million, e.g., as athttp://www.businessinsider….For a more general view of the same thing, athttp://a16z.com/2014/07/30/…see”The Happy Demise of the 10X Engineer”by Sam Gerstenzang with This is the new normal: fewer engineers and dollars to ship code to more users than ever before. The potential impact of the lone software engineer is soaring. How long before we have a billion-dollar acquisition offer for a one-engineer startup? For the time it took to send all those e-mails, could have gotten some more code written! Gone live! Gotten users, revenue! Or just gotten some exercise. Anything would have been more productive.Then have a new set of problems: Sub-chapter S or LLC? How to handle billing and accounts receivable? Where to get a bookkeeper and an accountant? How to keep the IRS happy? How to get an electrician to put a 200 A circuit breaker box in the spare bedroom for the servers and A/C? How to handle own payroll, IRA, etc.? How to handle authentication for the Web site? Where to get a good Web site security audit? Where to get a good lawyer to get me out of trouble, e.g., handle any cease and desist letters?Then, hurry up and get a new supercharged Corvette before the [email protected]#$%^&*()_ Greenies make them illegal. Then, big question: Eight speed automatic with paddle shifters but with some doubts about reliability or a stick?Then where to put the new house and server farm? Next to a great US National Park somewhere between NYC and Canada?Then what light truck to get for bad winters?Then get the lists of math and physics seminars at Harvard and MIT and the lists of concerts and operas in Boston and NYC!How to write a nice check to say “Thank you” to Vassar Hospital?Then, where in Maine to pig out on seafood and, say, Montrachet?Lessons they don’t teach MBAs or Ph.D.s who teach MBAs!
Its diffusion of responsibility. There are a lot of interesting studies on this phenomenon spurred on by the murder of Kitty Genovese https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…
ha! sending this as a reminder to my account Team when it comes to sending emails to clients. Exactly same dynamic. The key is always send to one person and then cc: the world but someone has to be accountable for answering your questions.
In economics, this is called the free rider problem. https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…Best practice when you want an answer to an email is to send it to one person. I’ve noticed it at work. When there is what I’ll call a ‘blast’ email with many people, everyone assumes someone else is doing the work.Even worse, nowadays even if a person is specifically called out in an email to do something, they often don’t see it because of email bankruptcy (which I’ve declared). That’s why Slack and other productivity tools are so powerful. I can call out people in what’s effectively an IM and and say @davidericfleck what do you think of XYZ?
Off topic but important. Forget about Hillary:http://www.marketwatch.com/…For those held just a little longer—likely two or three years—the current capital-gains tax rate of 23.8% for top earners would rise. The Clinton rate, which hasn’t been finalized, would be higher than the 28% President Barack Obama proposed earlier this year for the highest earners. The Clinton campaign hasn’t ruled out taxing such investments at the regular income-tax rate.
Email tip–don’t use it as an excuse for a call.I email less. More strategically and while it had its genesis alot from privacy and security, it’s changed how I do business.For the better.
This is really good to know. I will bear in mind for job prospects as well.
Good advice. However, I think this should be something VCs take care of internally. It shouldn’t be the founder’s responsibility to know how your firm operates and who to contact, especially in today’s frothy environment. It’s healthy to think about it as a potential deal that you’re missing instead of the entrepreneur losing out on pitching to you.
A little late to the party but my favorite emails to receive as a venture associate are where the person CCs every other fund they’re trying to raise from. That takes a unique level of awareness.
Diffusion of responsibility they call it methinks