There are No Gatekeepers

One of the underlying dynamics I see in the venture capital, tech, and startup world--and where some of its worst behavior comes from--relates to underlying assumptions about power and influence.  Founders put up with bad VC behavior because they think a check from a certain investor is going to make or break their company.  VCs bend their rules with certain founders because they think this will be the one deal that got away--rules about oversight, governance, valuation, etc.  

Even in the talent market, startup employees make too many consessions around culture and environment because they worry about what it will look like if they leave somewhere too early.  Founders hiring top talent get desperate about it and make those same tradeoffs.

Let me be the one to say that there isn't any one single person in the entire world that you *need* to work with who is going to make or break your business or career--and certainly not at the expense of respect or your values.

You think VCs are important or influential?  Bullshit.  They sell you money, and there's lots of it in the world.  If one VC or angel is willing to fund you then another one will.  Don't be afraid to turn down money if you don't think you're on the same page with someone in terms of goals, values, or character.  

I had an investor reach out to me yesterday--no intro, no context--just asked to meet.  I didn't even know he was an investor because all he wrote was "I want to learn about what you're doing."  Like, that's literally all he wrote--just demanded my time.  Then he got annoyed when I asked who he was and how I could be helpful.  "Well, if you bothered to look at the e-mail address, you could have figured it out."

Dude, really?  I ain't got time for that.

I don't want to work with an investor who thinks that money should just open doors.  My time isn't for sale.  It belongs to my founders.  The really great thing about my fund now is that my investors are absolutely wonderful, respectful people.  I had one guy who was a managing director at a big asset manager write me like a full page and a half explaining why he wanted to meet.  

Maybe this person could have written a check for $5mm for my next fund, but then what would it have been like to work with them?  I'd rather spend the time finding 20 awesome people that I love to work with writing $250k checks.

The next time you don't like the way you're being treated, just walk away.  Your success is never going to come down to one investor, one employee, one reporter or one job.