If you have taken a look at VC Twitter recently, you might have noticed the debate taking place around this one phrase: “let me know how i can be helpful”.
Back story: Many VCs end conversations with entrepreneurs who they decide not to invest in with this phrase. It feels terrible to learn that your startup isn’t going to get money from a potential investor. But it can feel like salt in the wound where the person you just spent 1, 2 or 3+ hours with, gives you an open-ended phrase of “support”. The more generalized the feedback, the less actionable — particularly for first-time founders who don’t know what to ask of investors who have passed on investing in their company.
To help entrepreneurs understand what they can come to me for, I hope in this article to outline exactly how I can be helpful.
I’m your girl if you’re looking for an investor who:
1 Is Obsessed with Customers — Particularly those at the Long-Tail. My entire career has been spent trying to figure out how to serve the “hard to reach”. I think figuring out how to communicate and serve this population is one of the biggest challenges organizations face (the government included) and I have gone through many rabbit holes unsuccessfully trying to figure out how to do this well. I would love to help you avoid some of those!
2 Has a Very Different Opinion than Most Investors. As you might have guessed from my answer to the first point, I have spent the majority of my career in the public sector. I’m also black. I also identify as a woman. I also live in Oakland. I did not go to Stanford. I’ve never worked at Google, Amazon, Uber or Facebook. Can I stop now? Essentially, name one thing that you think most investors have in common and I probably don’t have it. So I’m here for you if you are looking for feedback from someone outside of the status quo.
3 Can Provide Feedback Based off of Employee Experience. I have never started my own company. I have also never been a CEO. This I think gives me tremendous empathy for the employee experience. As you are building your company and have questions around employee compensation, roles & responsibilities and want to think through ways to push back against some of the “tried and true” methods and and want to fundamentally re-think how you can organize your organization that both empowers employees to do their best work and also creates a safe environment, I’m your girl.
4 Has an Eye for Process Optimization. When I first joined Precursor, I had to envision all the ways to create processes for the firm that could scale not to 1–10 companies, but from 1–100+ companies. I love thinking through big-picture process design that helps you identify and build towards the goals you seek. As I have been involved with supporting founders at the Pre-Seed stage, what I’ve found is that the beginning stage of beginning a company is a lot of admin — so much admin. So I am happy and excited to help you brainstorm best practices here.
5 Is Obsessed with Complex Partnership Strategies. I have never worked in an industry where I had only one stakeholder. That sounds like the good life! In one of my first roles, I was in charge of preparing public schools over summer so they were ready to open in the fall. I had to think about the Principals, the students, the parents, the district office and many others. I’m used to making sense of, organizing and processing these complex maps and am happy to help you think through how best to do that for your company.
6 Has Relationships Across Diverse Talent & Investors. I never sought out to be “the only” in venture. I know there are amazing people of color investors, engineers, PMs and founders, and when I first got to this industry I looked to build coalitions to meet and support them. I’m happy to help bring these relationships to bear wherever it can be beneficial for all parties involved.
7 Has Seen Over 100+ Fundraising Strategies. Precursor has grown now to serve a lot of companies. Out of Funds I and II, we have invested in over 100 companies. I have seen a lot of permutations of startup growth — from fundraising strategies, decisions to grow to profitability to shut-downs. From this bank of information, I think I’ve developed a healthy amount of knowledge on how to explore any combination of these steps. Always happy to chat through and guide founders through the buffet of options available to them.
8 Listens a Lot More than She Talks. I love to listen and try to come with an open mind to most conversations while actively questioning opinions and ideas. Talking is less interesting to me because I know there is so much that I have to learn.
9 Brings Her Full Self to Conversations. The experience of building something new, asking for help and working with investors puts founders in a deeply vulnerable position. I am still figuring out my footing in service of founders, but one thing I try not to ever do is to compartmentalize your experience or mine in a way that makes things “easier”. I’m here for the messy, the random and the real-life conversations that creep into the everyday life of trying to do something revolutionary — build something from scratch.
10 Can Get You Some Sweet Software Discounts 🙂 I’m good at getting discounts.
Please don’t come to me for:
1 24-hour Support. I’m human, just like you and need sleep so I can be my best self for you, my family, the Precursor team and my community. I’m probably not the best person to support you if you want to talk to me at 3 am, again at 6 am and then once more at noon. To get the best out of me, expect extremely quick responses from 8am-8pm and a delay outside of those times.
2 Immediate Feedback. I’m a deep thinker and journaler! I pride myself in having thoughtful, well-researched feedback for questions or concerns you might be facing as a founder. To that end, to get the best out of meeting with me, send me a few questions in advance that you’d like to discuss and I’ll come prepared.
3 Sunshine and Fairytales. I am very direct and don’t like to pretend about anything. If you are very conflict-avoidant, I might not be a great fit for you.
4 Anything Bro-y. I just can’t with that life.