Brad Feld

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The Priorities of a Venture Capitalist

Aug 15, 2008

I’m baffled whenever I hear from a CEO that he’s having trouble getting a response from one of his VC investors.  Unfortunately, this is a very common occurrence in VC-backed company land.

After noticing this during the Internet bubble around the turn of the century (doesn’t that make it seem like so very long ago), I’m starting to notice this again more frequently.  As I pondered this the other day, I tried to discern a pattern, but I just think it’s just the way the universe works for some people.

I’ve always thought that my "priority hierarchy" was very straightforward.  In order:

  1. Amy (my wife)
  2. My extended family
  3. My partners
  4. Our employees
  5. The investors in our funds
  6. The CEO’s of the companies I’ve invested in
  7. Other board members of the companies I’ve invested in
  8. Employees of the companies I’ve invested in
  9. Everyone else

If you’ve spent any time with me, you know that I handle #1 pretty easily since I love being with Amy.  #2 is also easy – fortunately – as my family is pretty functional (yeah – we have our issues like every family, but they are more "entertainment" than "problems.") 

Once you get into the work hierarchy, it just seems painfully obvious to me that my partners, our employees, and our investors are the next chunk.  Without them, we don’t have a business.

Then comes the CEO’s of the companies I’ve invested in.  Notice that there is no "noise" before them.  No new deals.  No potential investments.  No conferences.  No baseball or golf games.  No boondoggles.  No hanging out with other VCs.  No … (random other thing goes here.)

All of the CEO’s I work with are excellent on email.  As a result, the tempo of our initial communication is immediate.  They send me something; I respond almost immediately (worst case – a typical "catch up on email cycle time" which is rarely more than 12 hours for me.)  If it requires a phone call, that happens "next" (immediately after whatever I’m doing, as long as I don’t have 1 … 5 scheduled "next".  If it requires a face to face interaction, that happens as soon as we can get together.

This seems so simple to me.  Maybe I’m missing something but I’m always kind of amazed to hear CEO’s talk about how difficult it is for them to get a response from some of their VC investors.