Brad Feld

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To Tell The Truth

Jun 16, 2004

Fred Wilson and I are cross posting each other today (we must miss each other) – he had a good post this morning on how turn downs work in venture capital and then followed it with a followup post about what makes a great VC.

Fred’s post on telling the truth is right on the money. One of the most infuriating experiences an entrepreneur (or VC) has to get turned down from someone with a “blow off reason” (or no reason at all). Entrepreneurs get this all the time from VCs – but VCs also get it from each other (as potential co-investors when a VC looking at a new deal turns an existing VC’s deal down) or from LPs (when they decide not to invest in a VCs new fund). While it’s unreasonable to expect people to go into excruciating detail about why they are turning you down, I’ve have much more respect for people that will give me a clear, truthful, simple reason they aren’t interested vs. an elusive, twisted, convoluted – or passive and silent – rejection. I’d much rather hear that my baby is ugly (or that I’m ugly) then get blown off.

Fred’s post made me think of two pet peeves that I have – one around rejection and the other around honesty.

Concerning rejection – even worse than a “blow off turn down” is the “slow no”. VCs are the master of this – rather than turning you down, they string you along – never saying yes, but never saying no. My advice to entrepreneurs is to drive to a definitive yes or no and – if it’s a maybe – understand why and what you have to do to move it from either a maybe to a yes or a no. Now – a maybe is ok – as long as it’s supported with both action and elapsed time (e.g. talk to me again in three months). The ambigous or unclear maybe (which is really just a string along because the VC – or whoever is stringing you along) is simply unwilling to make a decision. That’s weak.

Concerning honesty – the title of Fred’s post made me think of the millions of times I’ve heard someone start a statement with “To tell you the truth, …” or “Honestly, …”. When ever I hear this, I want to jump up and down and scream in their face “No – don’t tell me the truth – I want you to fucking lie to me!” Until a month ago I bit my tongue, but I can no longer deal with it so I do jump up and down and scream something comparable. If you are going to tell me the truth, just do it. If you are going to lie to me, do it, tell me you lied, and then delete all my contact info from your universe since I don’t ever want to deal with you ever again.

I’ll end with another one that a friend joked with me about today – “You guys are 360 degrees apart.” Now – wtf does that mean?