Feedback from Founders

I surveyed all the entrepreneurs I’ve met about what I did right AND wrong as a VC. Here’s what they said.
BY Taylor Davidson | October 28th, 2013
New York, NY, 2013

Knowing where you stand can help you figure out what to change.

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Over the last 2.5 years, I’ve worked on a number of initiatives and tested some ideas to create a better operating system for myself and for kbs+ Ventures, with the goal towards improving what I and we can do for entrepreneurs.

In 2011 I was impressed by Phin Barnes’ feedback survey in an effort to improve his own "product", and stored it away in the back of my head as something to do in the future.

Last week I surveyed all of the entrepreneurs I’ve met to see how I’ve done on my own "product". I used a lot of Phin’s basic structure (good ideas deserve to be appropriated) and added a couple wrinkles specific to me, and focused on the initial meeting product (not the VC support product), focusing types of things that matter in that context, including timeliness, preparedness, responsiveness, etc. The survey was completely anonymous. And to be clear, I was specific to ask about feedback specific to me, not kbs+ Ventures as a whole.

Here’s how I did.

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Sets the context. As you can see, the number of survey responses is 41.

58% rated me Extremely or More than Most, which is good, but I’d like the portion of Extremely to rise. Changing my meeting timing defaults could help with this, as could simply reducing the amount of meetings I do.

This is a pretty critical question, and while I did good (66% rating me Extremely or More than most), the portion of Extremely isn’t high enough. Time is our most valuable resource, and it should be spent on highly productive activities. Having a critical insight into everyone’s business in a 30 or 45 minute initial meeting can be difficult, but it’s the right challenge.

I try to keep to the Andreessen Horowitz credo to show up on time, and while I don’t fine myself, I guess I do OK. Can be better.

Responsiveness is something I care about and work hard to achieve, even without being a slave to my inbox or feeling like I have to return every email (I don’t). Doing ok.

I almost didn’t ask this question. The topic of VC feedback for entrepreneurs is a mini-black hole conversation, with a lot of thoughts back and forth on what’s the right way to say no to an entrepreneur. I’ve always felt that I gave more feedback than most (and perhaps, more than I should, but that’s a different topic), and the results show that I do: 80% of the non-applicable respondants rated me Extremely or More than Most.

10 was "definitely", 1 was "very unlikely". Not bad. Obviously I’ve had a couple #fails, but the overall results are pretty good.

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I also asked two additional open-ended questions about what I did right and what I could do better, but am not publishing those responses.

Going forward, my goal is to use this same structure to survey every couple months entrepreneurs I’ve recently met. I recognize that the time from first meeting to a funding event, significant learning or investment decision may be long, so I may adjust the survey timing and audience around that, but the goal is to capture this data more frequently to help figure out what I need to do to improve.

And yes, I know the data is not statistically significant, and that the methodology has a number of biases built into it. But it’s still a valuable endeavor.

Sending this survey out made me nervous, and clicking through to read the responses continues to make me nervous. But it’s the kind of nervous that makes you accountable, makes you prepare better, makes you care more, makes you better. Thank you to every entrepreneur that took the time to complete the survey, I appreciate it.

If anyone wants to copy the survey and do it themselves, feel free. It’s available on Github, ready for you to fork.

Any questions, contact me by email or twitter.