Danielle Morrill recently wrote an open letter to VCs, telling you how to find deals. But you have an even more basic problem than that: what to do when deals find you.
At Glowforge, we’re building the first 3D laser printer. It’s an incredible device that’s going to launch a revolution in creativity and will require significant investment to bring to life. But as I consider firms for our Series A, I’m having a wave of déjà vu from the last four times I embarked on the startup journey. From unclickable company logos to buzzword bingo, VC websites still suffer the same sad sins, and they are scaring off deals.
But there is hope. If you’re a VC who doesn’t want deals clicking away before you even say “hello,” take heed of these “Five Commandments for VC Websites” and save entrepreneurs from being tested in the wilderness.
1. Thou shalt not obscure thine location.
Just an address. That’s all we need. You get bonus points for telling which airport is the closest. If you have multiple offices, tell us which partners are located at which office.
2. Honor thine investment strategy.
Give us the basics so we know if there’s a match:
- How much do you like to invest?
- What stages do you invest in?
- Do you lead, solo, and/or syndicate?
You’re probably going to tell us your investment thesis too. That’s fine, but portfolios speak louder than words, so you don’t really have to. And if your thesis reads like the Pied Piper website from HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” it might be time for a buzzword-ectomy.
3. Don’t be walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
There are a lot of zombie VCs out there. We need to know that you’re not one of them, and that’s easy to convey through your website. You can list investments by date. You can have an up-to-date press page. You can have a “recent investments” section on your homepage. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Just know that we’re wondering if you are still actively investing, so don’t make us wonder too hard.
4. Thine firm slide shall not be a wall of faces.
We know that you love every member of the team, from your retired founder emeritus to your inspirational border collie. But entrepreneurs need to know who’s doing deals. Identify the investing partners clearly along with the following:
- A picture where you can see their face
- Sectors they like to invest in
- Current investments, with links
- A link to a detailed biography
Don’t hide the text until we hover over their picture with our nonexistent mouse to see it, either. Phones and tablets, remember?
5. Thine portfolio must be more than graven images.
Everybody loves logos, but we gotta know what you’re investing in. Just like the team slide, we need a few simple things:
- Name of the company
- Link to their website
- What they do
- Which investors are involved
We don’t actually need their logo, but I know you’re going to put it on there anyway. Extra bonus points for letting us filter investments by sector, though.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with seven venture firms over the course of four startups. We’ve broken bread, sat through board meetings, and exited to Google together. Your profession makes it possible for me to make my crazy dreams a reality. That’s how I know we both want the same things: A great fit between company and investor. Aligned interest. Shared passion. And, supremely, to not waste each other’s time.
Help your entrepreneurs out. Clean up your websites.
Dan Shapiro is CEO and cofounder of Glowforge, a startup that’s creating the first 3D laser printer. Previously, he accidentally launched the bestselling boardgame in Kickstarter history when he crowdfunded Robot Turtles, a game that teaches programming fundamentals to preschoolers. Before his detour as a boardgame designer, Dan spent two years as CEO of Google Comparison, a Google subsidiary that operates comparison shopping products. He landed at Google when they bought his previous company, comparison shopping website Sparkbuy. Before Sparkbuy, he was founder and CEO of Photobucket.