Venture capitalists are NOT evil

Let’s start with a series of questions: How many people have you gone out with (dated, if you’re American) in your life? Ten? Twenty? One hundred? (You charmer you!). 

Now, of those, how many did you go on to have second, third or fourth dates with? Five? Ten? Fifty?

Let’s take the plunge next and go to some proper commitment. How many ended up being proper long-term partners? Three? Five? 

And, at the end of it all, are you with one person for forever? 

You’ve probably been through a lot of highs and lows – the first frisson of excitement, when someone really grabbed your attention. The pleasure when the relationship moved to the next stage. Then the low when you realised it wasn’t going to work out. And the low got worse when you realised that you might just break someone’s heart. You can probably remember each time that happened, and it wasn’t great.

Now imagine that you were bombarded with 3,000 propositions every year. Those lead to several hundred first dates, which lead to a hundred second dates, then ten long-term relationships. 

It would quickly become tiring. Especially when you know that out of those ten long-term relationships, six of them are doomed to failure, two will part amicably, and only two may have a shot at being terrific. 

Now rinse and repeat – every year.

This is what every VC goes through every single day.

No, I’m not some kind of VC life-coach in disguise. My company Aframe has taken VC money. And yes, we’re raising again.

This is my take, based on personal experience, on “dating” a VC: they care a lot about their investments once they’re in them and are under as much pressure as the entrepreneur to see them succeed. 

The VCs I’ve met are far from evil. I’ve found them to be patient, supportive and, in several cases, to give feedback of real value.

Northstar, our existing VC (which put in £750,000 at the start of 2011) has been a very stable source of support. As with all good VCs, they know when to leave us alone to get on with things, and when they need to roll up their sleeves and get involved. They make useful introductions to other companies they meet, and even to other VCs they think might be good partners for us in the future.

All in all, I’d be happy to recommend them to any other company looking to raise capital. And many other founders of VC-backed companies would do the same. If VCs were really evil, would this still be the case?

As an aside, it’s been with individual private investors that I have seen and experienced the most grief. Sharp practices, aggression and even, in some cases, illegal behaviour. Angels are held up as the rescuers of companies from the clutches of VCs, but remember: at least VCs are regulated – angels are not!

If we’re serious about growing a genuinely vibrant and exciting startup ecosystem, we should think twice before we broad brush VCs with terms like “evil”. If anything, they’re fallible, prone to mistakes but forever optimistic. Doesn’t that sound remarkably similar to us entrepreneurs?

David Peto was founder of Unit Post Production and is now co-founder and CEO at Aframe.

Do you agree with David? Or are all venture capitalists are evil? 

We pitched David Peto against Karen Darby, founder of SimplySwitch, to debate the theme in the last issue of Real Business magazine. Missed your copy? Register (for free) here.

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