How Not To Impress People

I answer my own phone.  I always have.  If I’m sitting at my desk working on something and my phone rings I’ll usually pick it up, even if I don’t recognize the phone number.  I know this doesn’t fit the “be hyper-productive” method of life, but I like the randomness of it.

A few minutes ago I got a random phone call from a guy in Oklahoma.  He was calling (I have no idea how he found me) to raise some money for his business.  He started off by saying that he needed $150k, thought he had it raised, but was looking for some venture capital.  Before I had a chance to say anything he launched into a description of his business.

I was able to interrupt at some point and tell him that I didn’t think he should be bothering talking to VCs if he was only raising $150k.  I started to explain and again he cut me off and started telling me how he’d proven the business worked he needed to find VCs that would invest less than $3m, and he really didn’t need much money to build the business.

This went on for a little while.  At some point I got more forceful in our conversation about his financing approach.  He then started pushing on the idea and explaining why it was going to be so successful.  He also explained that he could raise $3m and spend it if that’s what I wanted by simply going after more markets.  When I suggested that I thought that was an irrational approach, he started getting angry and explained how he’d proven things already and could go after more markets if that’s what I wanted.

I eventually managed to tell him that regardless of his financing approach, this wasn’t a market (mobile phone software) that I liked to invest in.  The conversation then spun into a really weird place where he told me that he could respect an answer like that, but not the advice I was trying to give him about how to raise money since I sounded “just like another one of those VCs that just gives advice but doesn’t do anything.”  He got even more indignant and told me he didn’t respect my point of view and didn’t know why he was talking to me.

I said “ok – goodbye” and hung up.  While I clearly didn’t impress him, he completely blew an opportunity to get some help.  While I’m not sure that any of the angel investors that I know in either the mobile phone software universe or in the Oklahoma / Texas area would be interested in his business, I could have at least made an intro for him to someone that might be relevant (which is where I would have gone with the conversation if he had let me.)  Instead – he got nothing from the call while I got a blog post out of it.

  • Evan Solomon

    Brad, thanks for replying to my email yesterday and helping me get in touch with some angel networks in New York before I had a chance to tell you how stupid you are. Looks like you saved me big time there.

  • Jon

    It is almost impossible to believe that someone would call you out of to blue first to ask for money and then to bully you!! Truth is indeed more bizarre than fiction…

  • Ajay

    Thanks for posting this view. But at least we got to know that you answer phone calls and (may be )ignore like email, not sure how long that will last since once people find out about your attention bandwidth everyone tries to get in it and shrink it.
    Anyways, could you post about what in general what is best way to seek your attention, if this is email then what should be subject line so it will not end up in your spam (obviously i have no idea of how many emails you answer everyday but just seeking standard way).

  • Wow… and I thought I was bold for simply e-mailing VC’s asking not for funding, but for a few helpful hints. I’m always afraid of pissing off the wrong people, and I figured unsolicited e-mail was one way to do it. But making an actual phone call (which forces attention, unlike e-mail) and blowing off advice? Ouch.

    By the way Brad, I’ve probably commented on this blog more than your cold-caller. I’m a 22 year old entrepreneur working on a startup involving sociality and micro-semantics. The goal of the startup is to create the largest user-to-user relationship map using a method similar to Geni, and by analyzing relationships between micro-tagged content.

    Perhaps you could send me some angels or get in touch with me via e-mail for some good advice? I’m definitely pre-VC stage at this point and have a developer/co-founder working part-time. What we really need is to get a full-time paid developer and a dedicated server for the beta.


    Robert Dewey

  • brad

    you have given me a whole new way to look at irritating, obnoxious or frustrating behavior. I can now just remind myself they are actually doing me a favor by giving me a blog post.

  • That is so unbelievable….that is has to be true. People never cease to amaze me.

    Funny story, though. I have a feeling you’ll end up going back to it often to illustrate a point. Heck, I’ll probably even use it to illustrate a point.


  • Actually you can probably get two blog posts out of it by adding that after you mistakenly posted how friendly you are to people who cold call you, a ton of other people found your number and you had to change it so you could get some work done. Heheh.

  • Actually, I know a guy who is exactly like this; I would actually be certain that it was him except that it’s very slim chance that he was able to get your number from halfway across the globe.

  • @Ajay – I vastly prefer email (and there are direct email links all over this blog.) I try to respond to all emails, although I’m sure I miss a few every now and then.

  • I’m sure with that sort of attitude he will never receive any investment.

    Best was your last line & thats extracting real value :

  • Jerry

    Hey…thanks for evoking memories of being a VC. I used to take these random phone calls (I also LIKED reading randomly forwarded business plans). Every once in a while, you’d find have a really great and engaging conversation with a thoughtful entrepreneur (David Wadler of Twistage comes to mind, for example). Unfortunately, most folks seemed so hyped up that it was hard for them to listen (“No. We don’t fund movies, even if they ARE about the Internet.”) Keep answering the phone, though. Everyone benefits from THAT attitude.

  • Dan Pingree

    Brad-you were nicer than I would have been! That is a very bizarre story.

  • The rude caller probably never considered that if you did invest he’d be working with you on a frequent basis- and why would you burden yourself with a business owner you couldn’t stand working with?
    I guess this goes to the point that VCs invest in people as much as (or more than) ideas.