What follows may appear short and sweet….it is.
Just because someone’s conference badge says Investor/Venture Capitalist does this mean that it’s a good use of your time to talk with them? Perhaps, perhaps not. Personally, I would suggest not and for several reasons:
#1 In recent years – in Europe in any case – there’s been a fairly stark rise in the number of people self-identifying as Investors. Most founders will be (read: should be) aware of most established venture capital firms and angel investors. So, my advice would be to ignore the unknowns or ‘randomers’ if you prefer. If you haven’t heard of the firm or individual by name or mention it’s either because they’re not well established or you don’t know the investor landscape. If it’s the former why waste your time and if it’s latter, you’re probably not ready to be talking with investors. (There are of course exceptions but switch on your filter!)
#2 Target whom you wish to meet with (yes I said ‘meet’ not ‘pitch’ – we’ll discuss this more later). At both the firm and partner level, you should know who is a good fit for your company based on: Fund Size, Fund Focus (Vertical and Geography), Prior Investments. All of this information can be gleaned from a firm’s website, interviews/panel discussions the partners have done and/or talking with people familiar with the firm – collectively we call this research, so do your homework. If you are not a clear fit (on paper at least), you are not going to convince a firm to change their investment strategy, so again let neither side waste time.
#3 ‘Meet’ not ‘Pitch’ I don’t like to be pitched (and not just at a conference). I like to build relationships with Founders and CEO’s. Just like any partnership or relationship, this takes time and in my experience typically starts with ‘Hello’ or a variation of same. So say ‘Hi’, introduce yourself (if of course you have established from research/homework that a fit may well exist) and suggest a coffee or chat for another time.
Finally, it’s worth remembering the old adage ‘Ask for money and you’ll get advice, ask for advice and you’ll get money’.
Noel Ruane is a Venture Partner with Boston headquartered Polaris Partners. He is based in Dublin and leads the firm’s investment activities in Europe. His primary interests are Early (Series A) and Later stage investments in the areas of Business and Consumer SaaS and the broader shift of on-premise to cloud. Polaris Partners is currently investing it’s 6th fund and has US$3.4bn in funds under management.