Fundraising · Venture capital

How Do You Work With An Investor with A Different Vision?

Devin Dixon Business Developer Extraordinaire

September 13th, 2016

I am in the process of raising and have a very interested investor but we tend to differ on points and vision, which sometimes worries me.

Different Values
He likes the idea from a content point of view and the social lead generation components. To me, the big picture is the amount of data we collect, and our development of artificial intelligence and intellectual property. When I bring that up and how that is important for an acquisition, the conversation gets lost.

Different Visions
We are a social lead generation platform, but the investor envisions it in a way that I don't think it will fit. I am trying to convery that our approach and development is not about feeling but strongly tied to what the market says because ultimately our customers are our true boss.

My question is how can I make this a happy marriage? How can I say no to the potential investor's idea/vision but still keep him interested? And should I focus on what I find of value(AI, IP, data) or focus on what he wants to see?
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Jindra PhD Case Study Research Lead, Ex-post Evaluation in USAID E3 Basic Education at Management Systems International

September 13th, 2016

Oh have I (and surely many others) been there.... I suggest making sure you have shared vision for where your enterprise will be 1 and 5 years from now, what success looks like to both of you, as well as where your paths are so different in getting there. Good luck!

David Johnston 16 Patent Claims Granted in Artificial Intelligence, NLP, IoT & Mobile SMS/Chat/Text Messaging

September 14th, 2016

I have been through this. My advice is nail down his ideas. Make quadruple sure you completely explain his ideas to him and get his feedback on whether you truly get his ideas.

Once you fully grasp his point of view (for real), you can determine whether there is really a conflict or not. Sometimes people are just talking about different "stages" in the startup lifecycle.

Sometimes a "product idea" quickly gets into the weeds of the "execution" and "market penetration" strategies and the "value generation" thereof. The product itself is only 20%-30% of the value a business can bring a market.

Investors are focused on "revenue" and therefore they will see things you don't. Revenue is the safety net to the risk a big player won't buy you in the future. Revenue actually multiplies that likelihood exponentially.

Be humble and passionately seek not only to fully understand their viewpoint but create a group of confident advisors to discuss everything with. I am talking about outsiders who have "more" money and success than you. Peers don't count for this part.

The stupidest thing you could do is assume you know more than the people you are asking money from. Even dumber than that is only seeking money from one investor and having a single person's viewpoint be your only sounding board. Not saying that is the case. Just an FYI point.

Keep in mind, if your vision is clearly debated out, you won't make as many mistakes and you won't fall into the pit of despair called "tunnel vision" that leads to poor "product/market" fit. If you can't win others over with your clear and simple logic, you may not know your product and/or market as well as you assume.

However, if after all of this is said and done, and you determine there is a "real" conflict, then give him high respect and validate his viewpoint and politely ask him to believe in you and the thorough due diligence you believe you have conducted.

Make sure you do this BEFORE you ask him to back you anyway with his/her money. 

Do NOT lead him on thinking you are agreeing to execute on his version of your vision. That will backfire big time!

Michael Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

September 13th, 2016

Hey Devin.

You said your approach is "not about feeling but strongly tied to what the market says." But then the rest of your post is actually about your feeling.

Is there enough commonality of vision where you can identify the assumptions each of us is making and test those? If it's sort of a 60% agree, 40% disagree thing then you should be able to work together... who knows, he could be right or you both could be right... or both wrong. But you won't know until you listen to "what the market says." But if it's a fundamentally different perspective and he wants to invest in his idea, not yours, then you really have to move on.

Sidney Sclar SID the SECURITY PRO at sidthesecuritypro.com

September 13th, 2016

If all goes well, good news. If opinions become conflict, you need an exit plan. Nothing is worse than having someone else's problems become your problems

Malcolm Baker Business Consultant at Gopha

September 13th, 2016

That rings loud warning bells to me. My opinion is that an investor needs to back the vision of the founder....or you need a different investor. The only caveat to that is if the investor is going to be playing an active role in the business on a day to day basis (as CFO or CTO for example). But if the investor is already trying to move your goal posts before you've even started and is going to be doing this from the sidelines, then get a different investor!

Ben Littauer Angel Investor and Management Consultant

September 14th, 2016

If you are questioning the vision of your investor at this point - before you're married - walk away from the altar.

Joseph Wang Chief Science Officer at Bitquant Research Laboratories

September 14th, 2016

You may not be able to make this a happy marriage.  If you and the investor have fundamental differences in vision, then this is going to produce conflict.  If it turns out that you are not in a position to say walk away from the deal, and you need the investor, then what you have is a classic unhappy marriage. 

It is possible to run a business from an unhappy marriage.  I've seen situations where successful businesses get run with partners that absolutely hate each other, but somehow find a way of working with each other.  The classic public example of this is McDonald's which was a partnership between Ray Kroc and the McDonald's brothers, which turned unhappy the moment they signed the deal.

I've also seen situations in which two people turn out to seem to hate each other, but actually get along well.  It all boils down to human relationships.  The one important thing is to go in with eyes open and not to fall victim to wishful thinking. 

One final thing.  If you do have to go in for an unhappy marriage.  It's really important to set up the investment relationship so that they can't kick you out of the company. 


Rod Abbamonte Co Founder at STARTREK / @startupHunter / @startupWay / @CoFounderFound / @GOcapital / @startupClub / @lastminute

September 14th, 2016

Investor with different value and vision is better do not work.

Daniel Turner Interaction Designer, Xerox PARC

September 14th, 2016

What can you test? What can you disprove? That's the basis not only of science but of product development. I echo the "what are your assumptions" above. 

If you can't think of what assumptions you have made and the investor have made, and can't think of ways you could test/disprove, well. Guess it's all feels.

Devin Dixon Business Developer Extraordinaire

September 13th, 2016

@Shingai SamudziI don't think it's that simple both with investors and partners. No vision is ever really the exact same and I can't just write people off because there's is a little is a different.In fact I deeply discourage group think and encourage debating for innovation. What I am asking is more for how to compromise certain parts,which may be for better or worse for the business, but still keep the core vision intact.

@Jindra Cekan, PhDI like your suggestion of having a shared vision of what success looks like. It leaves wiggle room for trying what I feel is right and what the investor feels is right. Because to @Michael Brill's point, we may both be right, we may both be wrong, but the market will decide.