Should Your VC Be Your Friend?
A few days ago, the partners at Foundry Group dropped their second music video, The Worst of Times. The video is a fun satire directed at the woes of modern technology, and pokes fun at a lot of things — especially the partners themselves, who are clearly not above embarrassing themselves in a rap video.
While I’m sure they had a blast producing it, you don’t have to be a cynic to see that there’s a marketing purpose lurking behind the scenes here. Somewhere around 100,000 people will end up watching it and, if they’re like me, will come away with an impression of the Foundry guys as a goofy bunch that like to have a good time and don’t take themselves too seriously.
Just like any other company, the public brand of a venture firm is often more carefully crafted and maintained than it may first appear. Foundry’s brand is as strong as any in the business, fitting perfectly with the younger demographic of early stage entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs like the Foundry partners because they can relate to them, certainly more than some of the stuffier VCs out there. They have personality. They seem like they’d be fun to hang out with.
But as an entrepreneur, should that matter?
You certainly want to have a good working relationship with your investors, but do you really want your VC to be your buddy?
The hard truth of the business is that a VC-entrepreneur relationship isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. As board members, VCs sometimes have to replace CEOs or cut them off from follow-on rounds if they no longer see an ROI. Other times, the entrepreneur has to fire their VC if they don’t see eye to eye on the future of their business.
Making this type of decision is hard enough when it’s all about business, but personal relationships can make a tough decision even tougher. If your VC is also a close friend, will you feel betrayed if they insist on financing you at a down round? Will you be able to negotiate against them without getting personal?
In some ways, choosing a VC is like choosing a roommate. Most of the time it’s fun… but it can also get contentious. Picking your best friend without considering the contentious parts of the relationship can get you in trouble.
So while it’s important to get along with your VC, don’t let a fun brand distract you from the true purpose of the relationship. VCs are business people, and if they’re good at their jobs, they won’t let their personal relationships get in the way of what they have to do to be successful as an investor.
As an entrepreneur, you shouldn’t either.