Dating…er…Fundraising Etiquette

I’ve always been surprised (and somewhat dismayed) at how unpredictable the fundraising / investing process is.  I have been party to many conversations with entrepreneurs along the lines of:

Me:  What happened with XYZ Capital?

Entrepreneur:  Dunno.  They said they were really interested, but it’s been a week and I haven’t heard anything.

Me:  So are you going to call them?

Entrepreneur:  Ya, but I’m going to wait a few days…don’t want to seem desperate.

The funny thing is that I’ve also had many conversations w/ VCs (present company excluded) with the following gist:

Me:  How’d your meeting w/ NewCo Inc. go?

VC:  It was interesting, but I think they’re too [early/late/big/small/whatever].

Me:  So are you going to follow up with them?

VC:  Ya, but I’m going to wait a couple of weeks to let them down so it looks like we did some diligence.

It reminds me of that scene from the movie Swingers!  The more I think about it, the more fundraising sounds like dating.  So with that in mind, I will proffer my "dating…er…fundraising etiquette tips" (which I shamelessly plagiarized and modified from some website on dating):

  • [Fundraising] is about two [firms] coming together to see whether they are compatible and then enjoying each other’s company so that they may move towards forming a close bond. In doing so there are things that you should remember. [Fundraising] should always be fun and it is as much your responsibility to ensure it is. When you are [fundraising] ensure that you do everything you can to make the meeting enjoyable.
  • You will always turn up for a [meeting] unless you have given enough time for it to be canceled. Standing someone up is not acceptable adult behavior, and shows contempt for your prospective [investor] by wasting their time. This kind of arrogance is detestable.
  • You will not be opinionated or arrogant on a [pitch] and you will try to avoid discussions on politics and religion in the early stages. You may be very opinionated on certain topics and maybe for good reason but that does not mean you are right. You will come across badly if you act like this. Arrogance makes most people feel uncomfortable so avoid at all costs.
  • You will be a listener and not talk your [prospect] to death, particularly if you are [the entrepreneur]. Listening shows interest and the ability to compromise. If your idea of a [pitch] is talking about yourself and your opinions all [day] then do the world a favor and stay at home alone.
  • If you don’t like your [prospect] then don’t be quick to give them a hard time. They are human beings like you and they deserve always to be treated with respect. You can and will have a good time with someone you are not attracted to, so treating someone badly because they are not your type is not acceptable behavior. Rudeness is not allowed.
  • You will never tell lies on a pitch to promote yourself because you WILL get found out. Maybe not now but probably when it is too late. Tell the truth or avoid a subject if necessary.
  • You will call when you promise to call and not keep someone hanging on. If you don’t like your [prospect] then don’t falsely promise anything or leave the door open. Again this shows a great disrespect for your [prospect] if you do.