We have provided a listing of over 170 VC’s who are seed and early stage. This is available in Excel format and can be downloaded from the site. This list is provided as a resource to allow you access to these VCs.
Please recognize that a referral into an investment source is far, far better than a cold call. While we do provide this reference list, we would highly encourage you to read the following section, which contains tips on the “Art of Networking”.
Networking is considered an art, and as such, it should be constantly honed and worked on. Like any craft or a skill, networking can be taught and developed. It does however require work, thought, and a conscious effort to make the connections.
We’ve broken the tips into two different sections:
1. Tips on how to use the list, and
2. Tips on pure networking and expanding your contact base
In terms of using the list; we want to provide a method allow your time to be spent as effectively as possible. This can be done with some research and planning on the front end.
The Goal is to develop some kind of link or relationship into the funding source. This is accomplished by finding common points of reference. Remember, time and productivity is a major concern of the VC as well. The more prepared you are and the closer you are to their level of interest, the more efficient the process becomes. This list attempts to address the first state of efficiency by listing the “sweet spots” of the different groups.
Using the List:
1. Go through the list and research what area a VC focuses on. For example, if a group like biotech or infrastructure and you are in software development, move on. You want to find groups who will understand your project.
2. Even after noting their focus, go to the web site and look at the other companies they have invested in. The purpose for that is four fold:
a. Look for similar companies in your space. If they have funded similar companies, they will more easily understand your company.
b. Look for potential competitors. If you are an education company and their portfolio already contains someone close to your space; move on.
c. Try determine the synergy between your company and the other portfolio companies. If your organization will provide benefit to companies that the VC has already funded, they would me more likely to take a look. It is your job to do that research. The VC doesn’t’ know your business, where it fits in the market place, what contact and resources that could be leveraged, or how you could benefit their current investments. It is your job to determine that in advance.
d. Look for companies you recognize. If they have funded a company that you have a relationship or contact with, utilize that resource. Call the company and ask for the VC contact that the company deals with. A referral from a company that the VC has already funded is a sure door opener.
3. Find someone who can make an introduction. Go to the site and research the directors, founders, board, and management of the VC you are considering. What you are looking for here is any common link. Maybe a director worked at one of your old companies. Maybe the CEO went to the same school you did. Maybe a Board Member worked at a company where you know someone. Anything that you can use to build a link or bridge into the company.
4. Your goal is to have a link into the company. Whether this is a portfolio company, investor, or manager – anything that you can use to get the door open. You also want to know what the synergies are within the portfolio companies that the VC has already invested in.
For a venture group to invest in a new technology is one thing. If they can invest in something that leverages their portfolio companies, current contacts, or domain experience and contacts, they will have a more heightened interest.
VC’s are always looking for that edge. If you can help them build it with your company within other companies they own, invest in, or understand, progress should occur.
I hope this helps. Does any of this ensure funding? No. But if we all try this approach and become better at the process, the results should follow.
If after going through the list, you can’t find anyone you know, any common link, or any common bridge, and all else fails; Send an e-mail to every VC on this list. Some activity is better than none.
NOTE: Before sending out the email enmasse. we would like for you to consider another evaluation. If you, after going through the entire list of 170+ companies, can’t find a single contact or point or referral reference, one might argue that you aren’t cut out to be an entrepreneur.
Harsh as that may sound, a key element of good leader/entrepreneur and one that will be expected of you, is the ability to develop these relationships. If you can’t come up with a single one from this list, this environment may not be the best place for you.
Pure Networking and Expanding Your Contact Base Besides the list, think of your Board, your friends, your acquaintances, and your business associates. Ask them the same questions: Do they have connections on other funding situations that they may have been or are currently involved in? Do they know anyone who would get excited about your space? Can you find people to validate your model? Can you get them to write letters endorsing your project?
Talk, talk talk – meet, meet, meet. Write articles and go to as many professional and social functions on both tech and your particular space. In manufacturing? Join the IMA. B2C play? Join the Chamber of Commerce. Find people who can endorse or get excited about your play. If people can’t help you, think who else they might assist and refer them. That referral may result in the favor being returned.
I have often noted that the best people you find are often 6 people deep. This means your referral, of a referral, of a referral.
What we are going to cover are a few basic tips:
1- Learn how to ask
2- Have a goal to always get 3-6 refererals
3- Find out what you can about them
4- Know how to make a referral call
5- Follow up and keep people informed
In going through this I am going to relate a quick story. If you don’t like stories, you can jump right to Tip #1.
A few years ago I was making a move from Kansas City to Chicago, a city where I didn’t know a single person. Before moving, I went to everyone I knew and asked, “Who do you know in Chicago?” I left Kansas City on cold, dreary, and snowy January 1st.. I arrived in Chicago with 30 names.
The importance of this is going to be document in reverse order to show you the importance of all 5 steps above.
For the last year I have been fortunate enough to be involved with the former Chairman and CEO of Citicorp. This relationship has proven invaluable in our current business efforts. What follows is a chronological order of how we met. In each case I received a referral for something I was looking for.
1- Friend in KC gave name of Lawyer in Chicago
2- Lawyer referred a CFO
3- CFO referred an investment bank
4- Investment bank referred
Click here to access a PDF of our resources list.