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Within the venture capital industry, we all have different styles when we talk to entrepreneurs. Even within the same team: I tend to ask lots of detailed questions on the business and the product, for example, whereas other VCs on our team focus on the personal history of the founder, their background, and the problem that led them to set up a startup to solve it.

From my experience of pitching to potential LPs or supporting subsequent fund raising for our portfolio companies, I’ve identified (at least) seven different VC profiles. It’s critical for an entrepreneur to understand the style of the VC they’re pitching to.

And because everything that happens here also happens in Game of Thrones, I tried to map each style to a character from Westeros. So next time you’re pitching to Tywin Lannister, you’ll know what to do ;-)

1. The one who keeps saying you’ll fail

Lannister

Above: Tywin Lannister — Valar Dohareis (Season 3, Episode 1)

This one keeps challenging your assumptions, questioning your business model, and more importantly, criticizing your vision. Without being as harsh as Tywin Lannister, he/she would typically say things like, “I don’t believe you can achieve this, or, there is no way you can pull that off.” I know that many use this tactic to assess how a founder reacts in the face of adversity, but it does not always create the most conducive environment for the conversation.

Best way to handle: Listen to argument and answer calmly, but stick to your ground, your vision, and your conviction.

2. The one who is only interested in the founder’s personality

The High Sparrow - The Gift (Season 5, Episode 7)

Above: The High Sparrow — The Gift (Season 5, Episode 7)

No need to speak about your product, your vision, your team, or your business model with this VC. Like the High Sparrow, this VC is primarily interested in the founder’s personal story, their background and childhood, and what events drove them to start a company. Beware, this VC will often ask very personal questions, and you may feel more like you’re on a shrink’s sofa than pitching your business to a VC.

Best way to handle: As much as possible, answer the questions asked and save industry aspects for follow-on meetings.

3. The one that doesn’t say anything

Ilyn Payne – A Golden Crown (Season 1, Episode 6)

Above: Ilyn Payne – A Golden Crown (Season 1, Episode 6)

This VC asks no or few questions, doesn’t interrupt the flow, and lets the founder present their case as they like. This VC is very polite, listens with attention, and is always courteous, but doesn’t show signs of what they might be thinking, such as if they are leaning towards a positive or negative view of this potential investment. They will often finish with, “Thanks so much for taking the time to see us, we’ll get back to you with further questions.”

Best way to handle: Don’t hesitate to ask questions yourself, ideally open questions, like “What is your investment strategy in this sector?”, “Which KPI are you looking for?”, or “What do you think is the biggest challenge for us?”, etc.

4. The one who keeps asking questions

Ramsey Snow – Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken (Season 5, Episode 6)

Above: Ramsey Snow – Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken (Season 5, Episode 6)

Unlike Ramsey Snow, this one has a lot of (very good) questions, is a fast-talker, and won’t take a break to let the entrepreneur finish as they are always interrupting with a comment or with a clarification point, proposing another perspective, another business idea, another option.

This type is probably the most difficult to handle. They typically make a very lively and interesting conversation, but the risk is that the entrepreneur does not get to explain their vision and pitch, leading to decision-making perhaps on an incomplete presentation.

Best way to handle: Stay in control of the time and the agenda, firmly propose to park the conversation if it goes off track or takes too much time and move on. It would be shame to spend time on your achievements without exposing your plan for example.

5. The one who has better things to do

Bronn - Baelor (Season 1 Episode 9)

Above: Bronn — Baelor (Season 1 Episode 9)

Sometimes, it’s clear after a few minutes that this investor is just there out of curiosity or as a favor to your existing investors. It’s difficult to keep the conversation focused on your business as the VC tends to digress to other issues in your market, ask questions about other businesses, or spend too much time talking about the last football match. Or they may just try to make the meeting as short as possible.

Best way to handle: No need to persist with the meeting. Wrap up succinctly and try to speak to other parties at the firm.

6. The one who doesn’t get it

Gilly - The Night Lands (Season 2, Episode 2)

Above: Gilly — The Night Lands (Season 2, Episode 2)

Venture capitalists are extremely smart people who are able to analyze a business in no time and come up with interesting feedback, but it can happen that they don’t get it. Or more often, that they had a preconceived idea about your proposition and can’t change this.

Best way to handle: Go back to the basics. Concentrate on the vision and product to make sure there is no ambiguity.

7. The one who’s enthusiastic

Samwell Tarly - The Ghost of Harrenhall (season 2, Episode 5)

Above: Samwell Tarly — The Ghost of Harrenhall (season 2, Episode 5)

From my experience, this might actually be the most common one. Lots of potential investors are often very positive about the business. You’ll hear “I love it”, “Can’t wait to get into more details”, “What you’ve accomplished is exceptional”, and “I’m really excited about your business.” However, this rarely translates into real due diligence on their side.

Best way to handle: Take the initiative to ask for feedback and identify the areas you need to focus on.

I’ve certainly missed other styles that may or may not exist in Westeros, but I believe founders can benefit from knowing the style of the VC they are talking with.

What other styles have you observed, and what is the best way to handle them? Or, feel free to tell me that, like Jon Snow, I know nothing ;-)

Olivier Huez is a partner at C4 Ventures, an investment fund investing in smart hardware, digital media, and commerce startups. He was formerly COO at Weve and CFO Unanimis, and handled M&A and various product roles at Orange. He is a board member for Cleeng and ISKN and a board observer for Netatmo and Giroptic.

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