Metaphor: VC as a Produce Supplier

I was in a meeting with Rich Miner from Google Ventures on Friday with some entrepreneurs we are working with on a potential investment. While the team isn’t a rookie team, they’ve never worked with VCs before and they’ve been wrestling around the dynamics of how to interact with the two VCs in the room (me and Rich) and the various angels that are part of the seed round we are planning to do.

In the middle of the discussion, Rich used a brilliant metaphor of “VC as produce suppler”.  The CEO was talking about how she realized she was the lead chef in the kitchen, but viewed us as some combination between sous chefs, owners, and the diners in the restaurant.  This was apparent in the interactions – was she trying to “please us”, listen to us and do what we said, or put us to work?  This was made even hard with the handful of angels involved – where did they fit in?  And, it was clear that the kitchen was getting crowded.

In this middle of what was a rambling conversation, Rich said “think of us as produce suppliers.”  He said something like: “We bring you produce.  Some of it will be awesome and you’ll want to use it immediately.  Some will be moldy, or won’t fit in your recipes, or you won’t need any more of it.  And sometimes we won’t show up.  Occasionally you’ll want to put us to work in the kitchen teaching you how to make a new dish with our produce.  Other times you’ll politely ask us to get out of the kitchen so you can get some work done.  And – ultimately – all of us – the investors (VC and angels), the entrepreneurs, and the employees are the owners!”

I’ve editorialized, but I stopped, wrote it down, and asked Rich if I could blog it.  It’s one of the best, freshest, and crisp metaphors for the VC / CEO relationship that I’ve ever heard.