Why VC Feedback is Often Bad Data

I've seen this so many times over:

A founder pitches a VC, or several of them, and then they come back from that process with all sorts of new strategy goals or worries that they need to be doing something differently.  Nine times out of ten, if you're pitching more than one VC, the advice seems to conflict with itself, and the founder winds up playing Wack-a-Mole trying to figure out what to do next.  

What's going on??

The fundraising process is not intended to be a feedback process.  If it was, you'd run it very differently.  Founders would ask for very specific pieces of advice on topics they thought that particular investor would have some insight into.  Instead they often just dump everything they they know about their company on the VC's lap and ask for any kind of feedback whatsoever, leading to really messy data.  

So why is this feedback seemingly all over the board?

First, let's be clear--when you walk out of a VCs office and don't get a term sheet in the next week or at least another meeting with the partners necessary to make a decision, it's a pass.  Lack of a yes is a no--so anything that firm tells you should be taken with a grain of salt.  They don't want to invest in your company.  Any advice they have for you is going to be a bit broken.  It's a bit like if someone doesn't like ice cream and then says your favorite ice cream is too sweet.  First off, you need to drop that friend like a ton of bricks, and second, making that ice cream less sweet isn't a good idea.  They don't like ice cream--so no amount of sweetness reduction is going to make them happy.  That's not helpful feedback.

Second, the feedback is incomplete.  Since you didn't ask the investor to write you a complete strategy guide, all they're doing is giving you *one* of the reasons they passed.  There could be others--so many others that following up on just that one protest might still not lead you anywhere.  Just the other day, I was talking to a founder who was told by a Series A fund that they normally invest in companies around $125k/month in MRR.  She assumed that by getting to $150k/month, they'd automatically invest.  What that investor left out was that before they were going to write an $8mm check, they'd also want to see a marketing funnel established to get leads, an actively growing sales team that showed that the process could be replicated, and growing revenues within each customer.  Otherwise, one awesome enterprise salesperson in a market where contracts were big and good product would be enough--but no one is going to write a check that big to a virtual team of one business person and some devs.  

Lastly, the most important piece of feedback--the team feedback--almost never makes its way back to the founder.  Sometimes, VCs will walk out of a meeting thinking, "Ok there's no way I'm ever going to fund THAT guy," so they just make something up or make something small into something bigger.  They'll never tell you to your face that you're pretty much unbackable, so focusing on any other advice you got from them isn't going to fix the issue.

How do you solve this?

We're working on something cool at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures to address some of these questions.  :)