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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Dear GP: Why Are You Blowing Me Off?

Comments (20)

On my run today I was thinking about GP – LP interactions. This line of thought was prompted by a contrast between two interactions, or rather one interaction and one non-interaction, that I’ve had in the past few days.

The interaction was I had with one of my LPs over the last 24 hours. They emailed asking for a reference on someone who indicated they knew me and had invested with me. I didn’t know the person, but knew a few people who did, and quickly sent emails getting addition info for my LP. With a small amount of effort I was able to generate some useful feedback, including triangulating on the deal he was suggesting we were investors in together (it was a true statement prospectively as it’s something I’m working on.) I was also able to get some specific one degree of separation feedback for my LP.

I contrasted that with the non-interaction that I’d recently had. I’m an investor in about 30 VC funds (so, in addition to being a GP in my funds, I’m an LP in a bunch of other funds.) I’m a very easy LP – I basically try to be available for the GP whenever they want, be supportive, make my capital calls on time, and be low maintenance. I invest in VC funds for several reasons, including my belief that long term it’s a good investment (and my overall performance across this category of investment bears this out.)

In the case of the non-interaction, I made an intro between an entrepreneur and the GP. I do this sparingly (per my Don’t Ask For A Referral If I Say No policy) – I’ll only do this if I think the fit is a good one. I think most of the people I’ve invested in and work with know this, but who knows. Anyway, in this case I haven’t heard anything back from the GP. When I thought about this, I realized there were several GPs I’ve invested in that are terrible at responding to me. Now, this might just be me, and not their LPs in general, but my guess is that the dynamic is a typical one given my knowledge of their individual tempo and work patterns.

I realized as I was thinking about this that I have very little respect for this type of behavior. I think you should treat your investors with the upmost respect, be extremely responsive to them, and to go out of your way to try to be helpful when they interact with you. When I reflect on the interactions I’ve had with my investors over the last 25 years, I always tried hard to be responsive, even if we had a disagreement, difficult conversation, or difference of opinion.

I tried to come up with a rationale for blowing off an LP. None of the obvious ones – I’m too busy, it’s not a priority, it’s not what I’m paid to do, I’m not interested – made any sense. And I couldn’t come up with any non-obvious ones that did either.

In every GP / LP relationship I’ve ever been involved in, there comes a moment in time when the GP needs something from the LP. This is true at the beginning of the relationship when the GP is asking the LP for an investment. It seems incredibly short sided to me for GPs to forget that they will once again need something from the LP and, instead of being responsive through the life of the relationship, only pay attention when the GP needs something.

  • http://freepository.com John Minnihan

    “over the last 25 years, I always tried hard to be responsive, even if we had a disagreement, difficult conversation, or difference of opinion”

    Yep.  Yin/yang, karma, what goes around, golden rule etc.  Hundred diff names for it – it’s just common courtesy handled common-sensibly. 

  • http://freepository.com John Minnihan

    “over the last 25 years, I always tried hard to be responsive, even if we had a disagreement, difficult conversation, or difference of opinion”

    Yep.  Yin/yang, karma, what goes around, golden rule etc.  Hundred diff names for it – it’s just common courtesy handled common-sensibly. 

  • http://www.daemonized.com Richard Childers

    Brad,

    Why blame the GPs? Maybe it’s a power dynamic thing; ‘you need me more than I need you’.

    Perhaps it’s because GPs outsource their secretarial function and as a result of constant turnover have lost touch with the sort of attention to detail that used to come with a long-term professional relationship.

    Most likely neither party manages the followup to appointments effectively. Surely your smartphone has a calendar; what’s lacking here, on both sides, is the failure to discipline oneself to make a notation to remind oneself to follow up, a week or so later – and to set an alarm.

    You have, if I may say, both delegated this task to the other person.

    We are fortunate to live in an age where all of that power and business logic can reside in a small and ergonomic device that rests in the palm of your hand – be it a PDA, a Palm Pilot, a Blackberry, or some other flavor of smartphone.

    The proliferation of powerful technologies does not, however, negate the need for the same sort of discipline that is required to do the same thing using a pencil and a slip of paper. Only the technology has changed.

    The proof is in the fact that civilizations have been built without electronics. In fact, it’s possible that too much electronic convenience has decayed our ability to memorize things. But this is another topic.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Richard – I’m not sure I understand what you are saying. I have a 1:1
      relationship with all of my investors. I believe that everyone I’ve invested
      in has a 1:1 relationship with me as well. I don’t think it has anything to
      do with technology.

      • http://twitter.com/davidcowan davidcowan

        I think I see Richard’s point. With such a full inbox I often fail to follow up on important emails that I had fully intended to reply to. “I’ll respond later when I have access to a browser (stupid blackberry!)” or “before i answer let me hear what So-And-So thinks” and then it’s lost… 

        That’s why I try to give the benefit of the doubt whenever I get the cold shoulder from an email recipient, and so I typically forward the sent email to the recipient one time, topped with the word “Resending…” and I usually find this treatment to jostle a response. 

        • http://www.feld.com bfeld

          Yeah – I try that also. Surprisingly it doesn’t work as well for me as it
          apparently does for you.

          • http://freepository.com John Minnihan

            What I think works is forcing yourself to give quick, brief replies when one is warranted, as soon as the email arrives (or when you check).  Sometimes even a single word works.  ’Yes’,  ’No’, ‘can’t, have plans’ etc.

            I learned this approach from numerous interactions w/ a dozen or so very busy people (inc you) + now practice it myself.  Keep it short + the point.  Always be honest, try to be helpful + occasionally throw in some humor.  My humor is often silly, but that’s my personality.

            Clear the message, close the loop + maintain the relationship all in 10 seconds or less.  This is manifestation of the ‘common courtesy’ I mentioned earlier.

  • http://www.biggerpockets.com Joshua Dorkin

    It isn’t hard to be responsive to people.  Every day I go out of my way to help someone or to connect people . . . it only takes a minute of your time and the payoff in terms of good faith on your part is incredible.  

    I’ve been toying with writing a post about this topic when it comes to biz dev and other business relationships., myself.  Not a week goes by when someone doesn’t skip out on an appointment or blog me off.  In the end, it all comes back around, IMO.

    Ultimately, I’ve chosen to wash my hands clean of those people, once they do it.  There are always other players to work with . . . why deal with that nonsense if you don’t have to.

    Great commentary, Brad!

    • http://www.kineplay.com/ben Ben Milstead

      I agree. Somehow people convince themselves that there is never enough time but it’s really not that hard to be responsive. The good will generated alone is worth the effort, and often there’s a business payoff — sometimes way down the line but it happens to me not infrequently (give people time and they will surpise and delight).

      In my industry (gaming) we often work with external teams. I only get to meet these guys in person once a year at best (usually at an industry conference), otherwise the communication is project-focused email/phone/Skype. When someone reaches out to me for other types of help or connectivity, it’s an opportunity to put something good out into the universe. The way I look at it, we’re all on the same team.

      Practicing trust and reliability is good work. It’s a chance to show quality. It’s a happiness-inducer and life-extender.

    • http://www.kineplay.com/ben Ben Milstead

      I agree. Somehow people convince themselves that there is never enough time but it’s really not that hard to be responsive. The good will generated alone is worth the effort, and often there’s a business payoff — sometimes way down the line but it happens to me not infrequently (give people time and they will surpise and delight).

      In my industry (gaming) we often work with external teams. I only get to meet these guys in person once a year at best (usually at an industry conference), otherwise the communication is project-focused email/phone/Skype. When someone reaches out to me for other types of help or connectivity, it’s an opportunity to put something good out into the universe. The way I look at it, we’re all on the same team.

      Practicing trust and reliability is good work. It’s a chance to show quality. It’s a happiness-inducer and life-extender.

  • Michael H

    Thanks for the article. I rarely read anything linkedin recommends, but I’m glad I read this piece. You should always make time for your investors. I am one and have also been the person looking for investors. Communication is a key factor in trust. Whether the investment ends good or bad, being constantly open increases trust and future opportunities regardless of the financial outcome. Great article.

  • Jim

    Terrific you posted this on LinkedIn — maybe this becomes the networks for content that is not “content-free.”  A great reminder as well as sometimes I “get too busy.”

  • http://www.feed.us RacerRick

    In this day and age, it surprises me when I can’t elicit a response from some business contact – even when I don’t know the person.  Most people are very good at this. 

    Even Steve Jobs gets back to random emailers. 

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yeah – it’s bizarre.

      • http://www.feed.us RacerRick

        I think it’s sort of a modern necessity – the ability to interact with anyone.  Email is still incredibly essential for this activity.

  • Scott

    Why don’t you follow up with the GP to see if he’s made contact and, if so, what he thinks / how it went?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      In each case I can think of I have and have been blown off again.

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