A Day in the Life of A Venture Capitalist
7:00 Arrive at the office.
7:01 Read The Wall Street Journal, paying careful attention to the Marketplace section covering your industry focus.
7:20 Read trade press and notice four companies you haven't seen before. Check your firm's internal database to see if someone else on your team has contacted the companies. Search the Internet to find out more. Of the four companies you find, only one holds your interest. Send yourself an e-mail as a reminder to call them during business hours.
7:45 Clip out some interesting articles and put them in the in-boxes of other associates or partners with a note explaining why you found the information interesting. The other members of your firm have more expertise in the areas covered by the articles. You stay and talk for a few minutes with each of the people in their offices, exchanging the latest word about the people and technology you follow.
8:00 Respond to e-mails or voice mails from the day before. People you are communicating with are primarily entrepreneurs, other VCs, and personal acquaintances.
9:00 You attend a meeting with a group of entrepreneurs who want to make their pitch. You read the business plan for five minutes. One general partner (GP) sits in with you. The other GP, who planned to be there, cannot make it because he has a conference call with a portfolio company facing some challenges. The computer projecting the entrepreneur's presentation crashes, so you have to take their paper version of their presentation and work with your assistant to make four photocopies before the meeting can proceed. During the 10-minute delay, the partner talks with the team informally, and learns more about the opportunity than he or she would in any one-hour presentation. You sit politely through the presentation, and identify the three critical issues facing the company. During the question and answer phase, you think of how to politely extract more information about those three issues, all the while evaluating whether you would want to work with this team or not.
In the end, you decide to make some calls to gather more information about the market, or a competitor, but you feel that there's a very low probability you would ever invest. You wish you could just kill the deal, but the management team is reasonable (though not great), the customer need they have identified may actually exist (you don't know first-hand, so you will need to call around), and you may learn something by taking it to the next step. Plus, in the back of your mind, you know the market for good deals is very competitive, and you don't want to reject a deal too quickly.
11:00 Phone the people who called during your meeting. These people include entrepreneurs, analysts, other VC's, and your lunch appointment. You find out from another VC that the company you almost invested in two months ago just got funded by a competing firm. You wonder if you made a mistake. You find out from an entrepreneur you were hoping to back that he wants his son to be a co-founder and owner of the firm. You abandon all hope. You learn from an analyst that AT&T has decided to stop its trial of a new technology because it doesn't work, which creates an opportunity for companies with a alternative solution. You happen to know about two small companies, one in Boston, one in Denver, that have alternative solutions. You make a note to yourself to call them back to get a status report.
12:30 Lunch with an executive recruiter. This person is very experienced in finding management talent in your area of expertise. You have kept in touch with her over the years, and try to see her every quarter to hear the latest buzz and to make sure she will be available when you need her services quickly. It's a fun lunch, freely mixing personal and professional information. A Day in the Life of A Venture Capitalist (cont'd)
2:00 Call new companies you have heard about over the last few days. Ideally you could do this task a little bit every day, but you find you need to be in a friendly and upbeat mood to make these calls, so you batch them. Also, if you actually get in touch with the CEO, you may be on the phone for 90 minutes, so you need to have an open block of time. You leave the standard pitch about your firm on the voice mail of the CEO's of four other companies. You get through to one CEO, and although you can tell in the first five minutes that you won't be interested in investing, you talk for 30 minutes. You spend most of the 30 minutes probing about competitors who might be better than the company you're talking to and finding out more about his market space.
3:00 You and a partner meet with a portfolio company on a conference call. The company is facing some challenges and you offer to screen executive recruiters to help find a new CFO for it. The GP offers to talk to two M&A firms to get a first opinion about what might be done to sell the company over the next six months. At the end of the call, the GP gives you three names and numbers of recruiters, which you add to your own two contacts.
3:30 You call the recruiters, explaining the situation and asking about their recent experiences in similar searches. The critical element is whether the recruiters actually have time and interest in doing the search. You talk to two recruiters and leave voice mails for the other three.
4:30 You make due diligence calls for a potential investment you have been following for two months. Last week you called the company's customers, and they seemed happy for the most part. Today, you are calling the personal references of the management team. The idea is to get as much negative information as possible. You need to discover any potential character or personality flaws any member of the team may have. VC firms are "due diligence machines," doing the hard work of making sure a company is what it says it is.
5:30 You make calls to the West Coast. You also check your stocks and confirm dinner plans. You do some miscellaneous surfing on the Web to gather some articles about the technology areas you cover.
6:30 You stand around the halls talking with other members of your firm, brainstorming and filling each other in about what's happening in your area.
7:00 Dinner with two other young VCs downtown. You talk mostly about life, sports, travel and relationships, but also about the latest deals, cool business ideas, and recent successes. You find out that a competing firm just made 30 times their money on a deal you never saw. You also find out that a company you turned down which was invested in by someone else is about to go bankrupt. A train missed; a bullet dodged.
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