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December 12, 2004

Commandment #2: Be On Time

 

So this really seems like a platitude, doesn’t it?  Something your mother would have told you if she knew you were pitching an idea to the venture community….And, of course, seven or eight times out of ten, it’s not an issue.  But every so often timeliness (or lack thereof) becomes very important.  Here’s why you always want to be early to a meeting with a VC (even though 95 times out of 100 they’ll keep you waiting).  I call it the problem of the HARD STOP.

Arriving early at the VC’s office avoids two main problems, both ultimately having to do with the fact that VC’s often over-book meetings (given everything else they have to do during the work day) and often have a HARD STOP after an hour or so (and are often, themselves, the cause of a late start – more on that below). 

First, believe it or not, the presentation technology provided by the VC doesn’t always work (shocking!).  Sometimes it’s the fault of their projector, sometimes it’s a glitch in the laptop the entrepreneur brings, and sometimes it’s just gremlins, or the failure to have made a large sacrifice to the Presentation Gods prior to the meeting.  In any event, if this happens you want to have plenty of time to fix the situation.  No matter what anyone thinks, it certainly doesn’t make one look good if the presentation isn’t working (no matter what the cause).  VC’s (who consider themselves very important) hate to sit around waiting.

Second, VC’s, themselves, are often late to your presentation.  Since this doesn’t alter the HARD STOP, if you are not ready to go as soon as the VC walks in the room, you run the risk of having an even more hurried, pressured presentation – which is not the way to show your best stuff.

So arrive early if you want to give yourself the optimal chance to do well.  Don’t worry, this means that you’ll often spend 10 – 15 minutes ready and rarin’ to go, while waiting for the VC to get off the phone.  Unfortunately, that’s life, and life’s not fair -- but maximize your chances of success: show up early.

December 12, 2004 in Web/Tech | Permalink

Comments

Plus, if you get there early:
* the coffee is often good
* you see that other guy you have been trying to hook up with
* you can fiddle with that deck
* while straightening your tie you can realize you shouldn't be wearing it
* no matter where you go, there you are
* its a good karmic balance for how the VC is always late

Posted by: Ross Mayfield | Dec 12, 2004 7:14:50 PM

I gotta say that I had the exact opposite reaction to this posting as Ross. I actually find this pretty offensive even though its not Allen's intent.

First of all, it is condescending to tell any professional to "be on time" unless you are a third grade teacher talking to the parents of a student. If you are around third graders all day, then it is somewhat excusable to treat adults like children.

However, if you are, as you say, a "top tier" VC, it is a whole different story. Allen, why are you meeting with people who haven't figured out to be on time? Hopefully, you are seeking out companies headed by strong, high potential, if not already successful, founders and management. In my experience, those folks have figured out the "be on time" strategy without being told.

Second, I find it interesting that the entrepreneur has to be on time to allow for the VC being late. This shows poor time management on the part of anyone, and suggests a one-sided evaluation process. Unfortunately, this is not accurate. It is a two-sided evaluation process: VC to entrepreneur AND enterpreneur to VC.

In my experience, poor prioritization and time management doesn't make anyone look good. For example, how does it make you look to be late for a meeting with a company also talking to Kleiner and Sequoia? Let's be honest, maybe they can be late, but you guys at Mayfield just shouldn't. That's mean to say, but we all know it's true.

In that first VC meeting, I am evaluating what type of board member you will be. If you are 20 minutes late because you are so busy with other, more important deals, I have to believe that you are not going to be the type of "world class" board member suggested by your firm's marketing materials.

Perhaps I just missed the 1st commandent which says, "treat others how you wish to be treated."

Posted by: Vanilla Chin | Dec 21, 2004 1:00:02 PM

Mr. Kiwi, those comments are uncalled for. Last time I checked, slander was illegal and, at the very least, completely inappropriate.

If you want to turn this into flame war, go ahead. But while I disagree with what Allen posted here about the rule of the HARD STOP, hopefully I did so respectfully and without this type of mudslinging.

I am can sleep well at night. I am not sure we have that in common.

Posted by: Vanilla Chin | Dec 22, 2004 1:06:13 PM

Mr. Kiwi, why do you hate Mayfield?

Posted by: Vanilla Chin | Dec 22, 2004 5:14:16 PM

Arrogance seems to be a key ingredient for a successful VC. Allen seems to make a clear case for this.

Posted by: The Sage | Jan 19, 2005 11:03:14 AM

While I have actually had a bit of a strange run in with Allen, and certainly have seen the arrogance come across, and he can be a bit off the wall- He is a pretty damn good investor and doing some interesting stuff recently- including having the guts to put this out there.

Lots of companies fail- the fact that Mayfield invested in a few seems to validate what most entrepreneurs want- they are willing to take some risk.

Posted by: Oaktree | Jan 25, 2005 10:21:13 PM

OK, So Allen's comment sounds a bit self-important, some even said condescending.
Well guess what, NOBODY is on time any more. Not for VC meetings, not for staff meetings, not for any meetings. When I meet a CEO that is late more than once or twice, I take it as a surrogate for how he is going to run the clock of his organization; whether he is going to respect the time of the folks who work hard for his company or not. I frankly don't care so much whether he wastes 5 minutes of my time, since he is really cutting into his own opportunity. But I care a great deal if his lack of discipline spreads throughout his organization, and becomes the execution example he is setting for a firm that is spending our money.

Posted by: Paul Matteucci | Jan 26, 2005 12:43:06 PM

My co founder and I have been joking about posting this sicne we first read the Mattucci note. (A man who is not only a fine VC but who can smoke meat with the best of them)

We found ourselves actually saying "are you going to be on Mattucci time" meaning ontime.

So here are the numbers:

Idea Development and Fund Raising Process 120 Days

VC's Late 8

Us Late 10
Us Late without calling 2
Due to SandHill Contruction 2
Due to a VC being usual place with hard to find address 4
Due to another meeting going really well 4
VC cancelling meetings 0
Us cancelling meetings 3

Rude VC's 1 ( He actually said who the F are you)
Time we walked out of a meeting in 5 Minutes 1 (same guy)
VC's whose had one of their companies ask us for a favor after 24 hours using the F word 1 (you guessed it, same guy)


VC's who took calls in meetings 6

VC's who talked with other people about the deal when asked not to 3 (that we heard about)

VC's who told other people they were doing the deal but sat for weeks without moving 3

Meetings we learned something 75%

Time from when we decided what we wanted to do and closing 45 Days

Termsheet to Money 10 Days

Shortest time from firm meeting with a firm to Money in the bank 21 days


Posted by: WYBS | Mar 25, 2005 12:32:56 AM

Its possible everyone has missed the mark here. Its easy and there are only 2 questions that need to be answered when talking about any given mtg:

1) Who is asking for something? and;

2) Who is being asked to give something?

An easy way to answer these questions accurately is "Who called to set up the meeting?" and "Who was called with this request?" Did the VC ask for the mtg, or did the entrepreneur? And here is the answer: 1) If you called to set up the mtg, you better be on time. If a mtg was requested of you, its less critical. In this scenario, the enterpreneur has called the VC to set up a mtg. Therefore, the entrepreneur should be on time. However, if the VC called, then the VC needs to make sure they dont keep the entrepreneur waiting.

These laws are absolutely steadfast whether you beleive it or not, and roles can change as the relationship develops. If a VC puts a term sheet in front of the enterprenuer, my guess is that they both have an equal interest in being on time(the only time when it becomes the 2 sided evaluation process mentioned below). Why? Because they are both asking something of eachother at this point, the entrepreneur for $$ and the VC for a chance to invest. If a VC hasnt put a term sheet in front of you, he hasnt asked you for anything, so dont expect he or she to be hung up on being on time for you. If the entrepreneur is holding multiple term sheets from multiple VCs, the balance has shifted in favor of the entrepreneur, because the VC is now asking for something (take my money over the next guys). I bet my paycheck VCs find a way to make mtgs on time in these scenarios and even HARD STOPS perhaps become FIRM or even FLEXIBLE STOPS.

In deal making, there is no such thing as professionalism, only leverage. Disappointing but true. And as an entrepreneur and a VC, its best to know who has it and when, and to act accordingly.

Posted by: Gator | Apr 23, 2005 1:16:09 PM

Well guess what, NOBODY is on time any more. Not for VC meetings, not for staff meetings, not for any meetings. When I meet a CEO that is late more than once or twice, I take it as a surrogate for how he is going to run the clock of his organization; whether he is going to respect the time of the folks who work hard for his company or not. I frankly don't care so much whether he wastes 5 minutes of my time, since he is really cutting into his own opportunity. But I care a great deal if his lack of discipline spreads throughout his organization, and becomes the execution example he is setting for a firm that is spending our money.


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http://telechargermessenger.site.voila.fr/index.html

Posted by: maluni | Apr 28, 2005 2:51:52 PM

Personally, it is disrepectful for EITHER side to be late, without a DAMN good reason, and without notifiying the other that you are late and why.

The VC (and I'm one) shouldn't be so busy that they are the ones late. As Chin states above, it would tell me they are too busy to be of any further assistance to the company, and will probably be late with the money as well (said ofhandedly and not fully behind the latter part of the comment...).

Don

Posted by: Don Bell | Sep 7, 2005 7:08:39 PM

thank'SsSs

Posted by: kenan doğulu | May 17, 2007 6:07:22 PM

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