Startup general interestVenture Capital

Maximising productivity in venture capital

Brad Feld posted a couple of days ago about Saying No In Less Than 60 Seconds in which he talks about the 10-50 times a day he has to say no to deals and meeting requests, and that as a result he has to do so quickly.

As Brad describes it there are a couple of things wrapped up in here, firstly his goal of being accessible to everyone that reaches out to him, which means both making himself contactable and responding to contacts, and the second is a time management point.  The goal is laudable and the time management is a practical necessity.

Turning to myself, I have a similar goal of having contact with as many interesting people as possible.  This is inevitably a time consuming process and as such competes for my time with my portfolio, the internal operations of our partnership, deals I am pursuing, and last, but by no means least, my family.  Unsurprisingly there is never enough time to go around and at any given point I am most likely feeling guilty about neglecting one of these constituencies, right now it is my portfolio where in the last week I have had two senior execs remark that they haven’t seen much of me lately.

My point in all of this is that for VCs optimising the use of their time is a big deal, as any extra that can be squeezed out can be profitably put to use.  Brad’s focus in the post above is minimising the time to say ‘no’, while still doing it well, and in this previous post he talked about how he likes to keep meetings short (often less than 30mins).  That resonated with me, as when I look at my working life and try to figure out where I can find time to meet with more entrepreneurs and spend more time thinking about our investments the obvious place to go is reducing the time I spend with companies once it becomes clear that we aren’t going to come to a deal.

US VCs have always been better at this than we are in Europe.  The culture of the 45 minute meeting is well established over there, but over here the custom is for meetings to last an hour or more.  Moreover, it is sometimes the case that people perceive it as rude, or some kind of sleight, or comment on their business if a meeting is shorter rather than longer.  I have had cases of more arrogant entrepreneurs wanting to schedule 90mins or 120mins for the first meeting.

In order to create time to see more companies I have been thinking about reducing the length of first meetings to 45 minutes.  I think that is enough for both sides to figure out whether we want to move forward together, but I’d be interested to know what you think.  From the entrepreneur side is 45 mins enough?, is it rude to schedule meetings this short?, and any other thoughts.

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