Brad Feld

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The VC Version of Kick the Can

Feb 11, 2008

I got an email this morning from an entrepreneur that I know that has been trying to raise an early round from a "seed VC investor" for the past few months.  He’s put together (and closed) a decent angel round and left it open for this seed investor.

This morning the entrepreneur was told by the VC that they are "postponing their decision on investment until a future round" because one of the partner’s friends at BigCo "isn’t comfortable with the direction the startup is headed." 

I asked the entrepreneur who the person at BigCo was.  I know plenty of folks at BigCo in the relevant area and wanted to do a reality check for the entrepreneur.  He responded that the partner at the VC firm wouldn’t say – just that it was a good friend.

I told the entrepreneur to move on and not worry about it because I put this in the "VC kick the can" category.  Given that data above, I don’t think the VC was ever serious – if they were at a minimum they would have connected the entrepreneur up with the person at BigCo. 

Remember kick the can?  It’s a game that is mildly entertaining but fundamentally pointless.  You play it because you are hanging out, have nothing better to do, and feel like playing a game is better than doing nothing (with my apologies to children all over the world.)  For whatever reason, VC’s play this game with entrepreneurs all the time.

I’m sure I am occasionally guilty of it but I try really hard not to be.  The best move for an entrepreneur – when they find themselves in a game of kick the can – is to pick up the can and say something like "so – are you serious about funding us or not.  If not, just tell me.  If you are, what do we need to do next to get to a deal?"

Dear entrepreneurs: Just because your VC can’t seem to make a decision doesn’t mean you should be an enabler.  Kick the can usually ends when everyone gets bored of playing.