May 29 2013

Forget about the rest. What makes a good VC?

I should preface this post with the caveat that a VC describing what it takes to be a good VC runs the obvious risk of falling into a trap of vanity and lack of self-awareness. I hope I haven’t, but you be the judge…

There’s been a real uproar over Andy Dunn’s recent missive slamming venture capitalists. In it Dunn asserts (I’m paraphrasing here and I’d encourage you to go read the full post) that 98% of VCs suck. And his last line pretty much sums up his feelings: “98% of VCs who read this post self-identify as being in the top 2%. The other 2% are actually the top 2%.” There have been some good rebuttals of his overall critique – and especially of the 98/2% split (which, interesting, is perhaps an admission that certainly by track record, and implicitly by some of the other critiques Andy offers, there is some split between good and bad VCs -or Dumb and Not Dumb in Andy’s parlance; by the way, his math is completely wrong – the majority of venture returns are generated by an order of magnitude more than 2% of VC firms). I particularly like what Mark Suster had to say on the topic in his response – especially his opening point, about liking the VCs you know and hating the rest (Andy calls out his own VCs as being great in his post, to Mark’s point).

But this post isn’t a further rebuttal to Andy. Instead I’m interested in starting a conversation around what makes a good VC – specifically from an entrepreneurs perspective. Why might an entrepreneur choose to work with one VC over another (and as Andy suggests in his post there’s plenty of information out there to help entrepreneurs make informed choices). And in what ways can VCs actually be impactful on a company’s business (Andy suggests that this is by staying out of the way, although implicitly he suggests that his own VCs actually are quite involved with his company – I strongly disagree that being uninvolved is the answer).

Here are a few idea