On Monday I attended a Meetup event for entrepreneurs in Santa Clarita – what a treat to be only 15 minutes away for a change! The group is SCV Startup and the speaker was Bob Aholt, an angel investor and screener with the Pasadena Angels.
I learned a lot from Bob’s presentation titled “How Investors Really See Your Startup”, and am so glad I attended. Bob discussed the objectives and motives angels have in mind when reviewing startups. Specifically, angel investors are generally invested in multiple companies at a time, they use a very blunt formula for their first pass assessments, they really want to see a strong team (I took personal issue with this topic, but that’s for another post) and they reject far more businesses than not. What really surprised me though, was how similar the landscape is for both angel investors and recruiters.
Apparently investors are generally viewed as being slimy, greedy, arrogant, and lecherous. Hey, that sounds an awful lot like the sentiments of IT folks for recruiters – how interesting, indeed. So there I was, in the meeting, holding my own and just trying to learn about the world of raising capital, and I find myself also drawn into exploring what it must be like to be an angel who has to tell hundreds of people “no” every year. I have to do the same with candidates of course, so it’s very similar. It’s also similar that we screen and reject more people than we actually talk with, and the people we have to say no to are emotionally invested in our answer; their finances are attached to the deal, there is a lot of money involved, and their egos are inevitably bruised at the end. Of course the rejected are not bad people, they haven’t done anything “wrong”, we probably like them a lot in fact, and sometimes it just sucks to tell people no.
Any thought of ever approaching an investor (outside of a dedicated meeting) with my pitch at the tip of my tongue has been properly dashed. I’m always happy to talk with people about their careers, their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, interviews, etc. until it involves them wanting me to do something with the information. I talk with every single person who is referred to me and offer everyone the same opportunity to call me any time, request introductions to folks in my network, and generally count on me to assist where and when I can. What I cannot do is get someone a job! Saying recruiters get people jobs is a crude way to describe what we do. I don’t get credit for any hire beyond making the introduction. I can’t make anyone do well in an interview, nor can I make a hiring manager hire someone they don’t feel comfortable with. Now I realize that investors are in the same boat – having to navigate a terrain where the products (people/startups) walk, talk, lie, are disorganized, cheat, flub questions, forget how to have a dialogue, offend important people, or just don’t have the right combination of skills and experience to be the right person for the given investor or hiring manager.
Somehow it’s nice to know there are others who walk a path similar to mine. And what I got out of that meetup was a whole lot more than I ever thought possible. Kudos to SCV Startup.