Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In defense of phone call pitches

Fred Wilson has a post on his blog about not doing a full pitch on the phone. I agree with Fred and the many commenters that in person meetings trump phone call pitches, but lest Fred's advice be taken to the extreme, please don't avoid them all together.  I think they are a great first step.

Think of a phone pitch as IMing/messaging on Match.com before actually having a first date (I guess that makes your product your Match.com profile?).  If you're local to the VC, keep the phone pitch short;  I tend to do 30 mins, which is longer than the few mins Fred suggests, but I can't help myself from asking questions and wanting to get to know you once I hear the elevator pitch.  For me, the call is not about a go/no go on an investment, it's about a go/no go on investing more time.  

In 30 mins, I think I generally have a pretty good sense of whether or not I want to take it to a first date (an in person meeting).  If I went right to an in person meeting each time, I would only be able to speak to 1/3 the number of companies.  The way I do the math:  when I meet with companies in NYC, I typically have a one hour meeting, and then a 30 minute buffer for overflow and commuting to the next meeting. When I have a phone call with a local company, I usually keep it to 30 mins (though I'll admit when I'm excited about a company, that will spill into an hour).  Even if I had an office in the city and was able to have entrepreneurs visit me in my office (alas.... I'm in leafy Larchmont, the startup capital of Westchester!), I would still be 50% less efficient because I would spend one hour with each pitch.  For companies that aren't local, I tend to schedule 45-60 min phone calls (and often times a second 60 minute phone call), but that saves a lot of flying time!

I doubt I'm alone. Consequently, if you took Fred's suggestion to the extreme and universalized it, with every entrepreneur requiring an in person meeting for a pitch, while the entrepreneurs that get a meeting will have all the benefits of a face to face meeting, as a whole, it's going to be harder for entrepreneurs to get meetings, and those that do will have to wait longer to get that meeting.  

So please, say yes to an intro phone call!  Flirt a little.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Microcap Bubble? One metric.

I've got my first EarlyStager blog post up today.

There has been a ton of talk on microcaps and whether there is "a coming super-seed crash".  My personal opinion is that while there is a ton of activity, it's just too early to tell whether what is going on really resembles a bubble.  But one thing I had been noticing anecdotally is that it did feel like there were a ton of new "super seed" (aka microcap) firms being founded or funded.  Being the data wonk that I am, I thought I would try to dig up a little data on microcap funds raised.

A lot of googling and crunchbase-ing later, I put together a rough list.  I'm sure I'm missing a ton of firms... there isn't a definitive list anywhere that I could find, so while I tried to be thorough in my sleuthing, I can't imagine I found each firm.  Even so, I think the data point confirmed my observation.  2010 is shaping up to be the year of the microcap.  Though when firms like True Ventures and First Round dip their toes back into the LP waters, 2010 might look like a warm up lap....

Anyway, check out the full post! Microcap Bubble? One data point.