The Other Kind of Traction You Need to Get Funded

One of the earliest lessons a new VC learns is about building consensus within a firm.  No matter what the voting structure is in your partnership, I think every VC can think of a deal that they got completely excited about, only to have the deal crash and burn when they showed it to the rest of their team.

It can be one of the most confusing and frustrating things from the entrepreneur side.  You think you've got yourself an investor who is signalling all the right things about coming in.  They're engaged, excited, and then all of the sudden, BOOM, dead.  

"Couldn't get my partners over the hump."  

As frustrating as it is for you, it can be pretty embarrassing for the investor as well.  No one likes to have their deals turned down--but that doesn't mean it still doesn't happen all the time.  Sometimes it takes years for an investor to figure out how to predictably get their partnership on board with the things they like--or to get them to trust their deal instinct.

On the other times, sometimes partners fall out of favor.  Maybe the last few deals tanked and they need to spend extra time that they didn't used to in order to get something over the finish line.

Here are a few things founders can do in order to make sure this doesn't happen:

1. Always do VC fund diligence with other companies they've invested in.  One, you should be doing this anyway, because life is too short to have the wrong people on your cap table.  Two, sometimes they can provide helpful insight into how they felt like the fund came to a decision about their investment, and who the key decision makers were.

2. Simply ask.  You're absolutely allowed to ask where a fund is in its process and what they key steps are to getting funded.  Do you need two partners to ok a deal?  Have you met any yet and you're still dealing with an analyst or principal?

3. Pay attention to who is setting the meetings.  Is every meeting you have with a partner being setup by the junior person?  Do you have a separate line to that decision maker or are all the questions from the team being relayed to you by someone junior?

4. Make sure you have multiple inroads into a firm.  That doesn't mean you go around the lead in any way, or open up separate channels, but it's good when multiple people are nudging various people around the table that they need to be paying attention to your deal.  

Rounds are getting harder to raise now.  They're under more and more scrutiny, and so you want to make sure that you know exactly how close you are to the finish line with eyes wide open, and that there isn't a key decision maker or two who will tackle you before you make it.