vcetiquette.bmpThe VC snoman video reminds us of a post we’d intended to write, but which we dropped when ValleyWag got there first.

It is about the proper etiquette for a venture capitalist, while hearing a pitch from an entrepreneur.

VCs are the ones with the money, so they can treat the poor entrepreneur as they please, right? That means fiddle with their blackberry, take calls during the meeting, arrive late, and so on.

Well, Mark Suster, chief executive of Silicon Valley content collaboration start-up Koral, recently lost it while visiting a venture firm called Granite Ventures in San Francisco. His rant is long, but here’s the gist:

So I’m stuck with the paper shuffler and the Blackberry man. I am not kidding you when I say that I was on the verge of literally saying, “let’s just call this meeting a day. It’s clear you have no respect for me and no interest in my company.” I bit my tongue (which my wife will tell you is rare). I finished the next 15 painful minutes and said goodbye. My only regret … the $25 I had to pay to park in their building. They were seriously the most pompous, self-centered, unprofessional group of people that I have come across in a long time. I went to back to their website and unsurprisingly there were no great companies I had ever heard of. I later learned that they were a spin out from an investment bank. It all made sense. They were not “real” VCs.

Valley gossip site Valleywag unearthed the fact that the firm he ragged on was Granite, and at least provided some perspective on the firm. It isn’t that second rate.

blackberrysleep2.bmpThe amusing thing is that VentureBeat had the same experience with the Granite guys, but came away with a slightly different feeling — perhaps because we weren’t pitching, merely doing a routine meet-and-greet. They came and went as they pleased during the meeting, and several of them had their phones out, and were fiddling. So much that I even switched the conversation to compare the various phones we had around the room. That livened them up a bit. I wasn’t dismayed by their etiquette. Five partners were there, and that wasn’t like most VC firms, where I typically am able to meet with only one or two, or at most three partners. I appreciated the informality. And I’ve long gotten over the cellphone fiddling. At dinner recently, a friend started checking her Treo email during dessert, so I took the opportunity to check mine too. And valley entrepreneurs like Pankaj Shah sleep with their Blackberry and don’t stop checking it when we’re around them (see story, and click on image for video clip, and then hit play). So we checked in with Mark Suster to ask him why he took it so hard. We also contacted Granite a few weeks ago for comment, but they never responded (also common VC etiquette).

marksuster.bmpSuster (pictured left) said he wrote his piece more as a caricature, and never intended to out the firm, or make anyone feel bad. The firm had indeed stood out from among the 14 firms he’d visited. However, Granite’s lead partner had called him as he had seen the piece, and apologized. Another partner let him know his wife had a baby, and while not an excuse, he’d been particularly distracted. Suster clearly didn’t want to inflame the situation any more than he already had. Good news is, Suster has raised seed funding — clearly, not from Granite.

Our social norms are changing. Question to entrepreneurs: In 2007, will it be ok for VCs to fiddle with a Blackberry while you’re pitching? Or not?

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.