VCs promise a lot of things.
We've got all these platforms, advisors, special partners, communities, networks...
...special economic bells and whistles, spaces, programs, partnerships, etc...
Meanwhile, they most useful thing we can give you when you're first starting out seems to be the hardest to get:
VCs see a lot of deals. We see successful companies and others that fall on their face--so getting our actual opinions about something, pass or fund, can be really useful. If nothing else, we're seeing what's out there now and so we can give you a sense of how it compares to what we're currently seeing.
Instead, what the average VC provides in terms of feedback is about as committal as the answers given at a Senate confirmation hearing. It's generally some form of "interesting"--supportive but not decisive, with some extremely vague indication of what more they'd like to see before writing a check.
The other day I told a founder that she was missing a marketing lead and that I didn't think her team was capable, as currently composed, of launching product successfully her market.
Right after that, I told some another founders that the money they were raising wasn't enough to really get them off the ground.
Last year, I told a founder who had previously sold his company for $400 million that I didn't think there was a mainstream consumer need for what they wanted to build--and even if there was, I didn't see a path to making enough money from it.
As the end of the day, all I really have to give is my honesty. If I don't give you that, then I've given you nothing.
That's why so many founders walk away from VC pitches feeling like they wasted their time--because they have no idea what the investor really thought. You can get money from elsewhere, and you'll make the hires you need to. You'll sell what you need to sell and connect to who you need to connect come hell or high water. But an honest opinion--that's a rare find in your early startup days.
What I ask in return is that you come in with honesty. Don't try to blow smoke. Be honest about what you know and what you have yet to figure out.
And be honest about whether you're the best person to start this business, or have the best team, and whether or not you've really done enough work to decide if this is worth doing.
There's nothing more a founder can do to help their cause than to be honest with themselves from day one.