As a new entrepreneur (a.k.a. noobpreneur), you’ve probably dreamed of connecting with a venture capitalist (VC) that gives you the cash and guidance you need to take your dynamic small business to the next level — and beyond. Indeed, we’ve all had those glorious Shark Tank fantasies.
However, it’s extremely important for you to realize that not all venture capitalists are created equal. Some are liabilities instead of assets, and will be regrettable to work with vs. rewarding.
While the signs you need to watch out for aren’t as clear and easy-to-spot as big, bold and colorful car wraps and graphics, if you pay attention and keep your eye on the prize then you’ll be able to spot — and avoid — three of the most common bad guys on the VC landscape: the Fake VC, the Lingering VC, and the Control Freak VC.
1. The Fake VC
You’ve heard of fake news? Well, meet fake VCs. These people talk a good game, but they aren’t VCs. They’re agents, reps or consultants who hunt for opportunities and feed them to VCs in return for a fee (either a flat fee or a commission based on the type of deal and size). Exposing these non-VCs isn’t that difficult. They’re the ones who will ask tons of questions, but refuse to answer most of yours.
2. The Lingering VC
Legitimate VCs make money by investing money. They don’t make money by attending meetings, or going to cocktail parties where they brag about being a VC (in fact, they usually keep this under wraps to avoid getting cornered by some guy who needs a few million dollars to create a revolutionary new board game or something equally as ridiculous).
If the VC you’re engaging doesn’t quickly get to the bottom line and tell you if they’re interested or not, then stop wasting your precious time and head for the exit.
3. The Control Freak VC
VCs obviously want a piece of the equity pie, and it could be a big chunk vs. a relatively small bite. Regardless of the amount, legitimate VCs don’t want to run your business. That’s not their wheelhouse, or how they make the most money. As such, if a VC on your radar screen pulls out a measuring tape in the meeting and talks about what color he’s going to paint your office (you get the idea), then pull the plug. You’re better off getting a loan in the alternative lending marketplace. Yes, you’ll pay an exorbitant interest rate. But you’ll retain control your small business — and your dream.
The Bottom Line
Competition for funds is fierce and ferocious, and the best business model and most ripe marketplace in the world are utterly irrelevant if you don’t have capital you need to move things forward. As such, you can certainly be forgiven for doing a happy dance if a VC returns your email or phone call.
However, while you’re excited and optimistic, don’t lose sight of the fact that not all VCs are created equal. Steer clear of those noted above, and you’ll save yourself an enormous amount of money, time, anguish and regret.