Venture capital · Fundraising

Tips on not taking the fundraising process so personally?

Alexia Auyang CEO/Founder at NameLock, LLC

February 12th, 2015

I was just reading the FD blog interview with Tom Patterson (Founder of Wize and advisor to many) that focused on his fundraising experiences. One of the questions was whether he takes the Fundraising process personally. In the fundraising process with angels and VCs you hear "no" a lot and it's about your company, your baby. How do you learn not to take it personally and let it get to you?

Istvan Jonyer VC at NexStar Partners

February 12th, 2015

Think of it in terms of trying to find people to invest in your company who get what you're doing. Most won't -- if they did, you'd be doing something way to obvious. If you are looking for a "check only", vs a "partner" whose contribution is money, you'll be surprised when they start asking silly questions when things start going wrong (and they will). Think of it in terms of finding investors will stick with you through thick and thin. Not easy, but think of a "no" as a self selection by investors who don't get it.

On the other hand, you need to keep your mind open to the possibility that what you're doing is not actually a good idea, especially if too many people are telling you that. Really great ideas can look like bad ideas at first. The problem is that bad ideas also look like bad ideas, and they are hard to tell apart :)

Tom Patterson CEO and Founder at New Company

February 12th, 2015

Hi Alexia, I'll try to clarify what i meant by taking the fundraising process personally. What I was trying to say was that I'm all in, my passion, my vision, as I am trying to inspire people to join my tribe whether's its an employee, customer or in this case investor.  You are totally right that there is an incredible amount of rejection that comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur (even google and microsoft almost sold out for very low amounts early on in there history).  I'd view recieving rejection like building a muscle in the gym and it does get easier over time but it can hurt a bit in the beginning.. I made one modification at an early point in my career to follow up immediately if I was passed on with a phone call or email that starts with "i'd love to know what caused you to pass?  In a lot of cases, you get feedback that helps you improve the next meeting.  Public Presentation is a lifelong initiative so practice, practice, practice.  :)  

Alex Eckelberry CEO at Meros.io

February 12th, 2015

Look, I ran a company that was, by all exterior views, wildly successful. We grew to $50 million in revenue making great software and sold out for a great exit. And I had plenty of "nos"., even right to the end.  

Whatever, it's part of the game. If they all said yes, what would be the challenge in that?  

The truth is, I've usually done it without VCs.  And the biggest reason is: I hate having to ask someone to validate my idea.  It's my idea, it's good, and I know it. But then I have to get someone else's validation? Not for me. 

Ok, that's me. But there is also salesmanship involved.  Are you selling "cold dead fish", or are you selling "sushi"? Keep that in mind. And good salespeople know that the "no" is just part of the game, and it's largely a numbers game (great sales people know how to turn a "no" into a "yes", but that is a skill that very few have). 

Then again, I was also once a VC myself and said no to many, many entrepreneurs, so I suppose I can look at it both ways. 

Don't take it personally. Just... don't. 

Cullen Zandstra CTO:FloQast

February 12th, 2015

You can't be attached to ideas. They're not your babies, they're just ideas. As soon as you've become attached to an idea you stop being able to think objectively about the problem you're trying to solve. 

Being an entrepreneur is not about having a single idea, and making that idea come to life. Being an entrepreneur is about understanding people and the problems they face, and subsequently trying to iteratively solve a problem. 

Investors are wrong all the time, so don't use them as a barometer for what is a good idea or not.  However, it's extremely important to always be open minded and objective about feedback. If enough of the people you're trying to solve a problem for tell you it's not a problem, consider thinking of a new idea.  

Richard Seviora Web Developer and Problem Solver

February 13th, 2015

There's been a lot of great suggestions mentioned here about the more external aspects of dealing with rejection, and improving your pitch.

I'd add that a huge component of your ability to move forward despite discouraging signs (VC rejections and the like) is your mental equilbrium. The more grounded you are mentally and spiritually, the less likely you are to be disturbed by momentary setbacks.

If you don't already do this, I would strongly encourage you to take up some sort of activity that encourages mindfulness. Meditation is a great way to accomplish this. There are other practices that get there indirectly (yoga, tai chi) but my perception is that explicit meditation is the best way to accomplish this.

Leo Babuta over at Zen Habits has written a quick primer on how to get started with meditation.

Mark Divine has also written The Way of the Seal. He gives you a very helpful set of mental practices to keep you focused on your goal, and it's one of the most important books I've read in 2014.

Glenn Saunders

February 12th, 2015

"I am trying to inspire people to join my tribe whether's its an employee, customer or in this case investor."

I like to think of the pitching process as an invitation and not a door-to-door sales-pitch.  Don't shove your foot in the door when they are trying to slam it in your face.  You don't want to feel that you somehow gamed the system to get investors to write you a check because it will mean their actual level of buy-in is low and they will cause problems later when things aren't just smooth sailing.


Larry Mai

February 12th, 2015

You have to take a lot of No's and then you just get use to it.

You have to take it personally to some extent. A rejection* says you don't believe in me and my idea. I now have a chip on my shoulder. Work hard to prove them wrong.
Don't be mean about it.
Keep a list and when you're ready for next round, reach out again and show them your progress.
It should stoke your fire, not put it out.

*There are many reasons for rejections - not the right industry, competitive investment etc, but usually it's because the investor thinks it won't be a success.

Liza Kimbo Director

February 13th, 2015

Alexia, In my experience, I rarely ever get a straight 'No' but instead the potential investors will give you various reasons why they cannot invest at this time and typically want to wait until there is better proof of concept, evidence of reaching target market, higher market demand seen in higher footfalls (in our case with out-patient clinics), higher revenues etc. When you ask for and get specific feedback on why the answer is 'No' or 'Not now' then that gives you something concrete to work towards, but mostly it just means you have to do better targeting of your fundraising efforts to reach out to those who will be excited about your idea or concept - and it's particular stage of development. All the best, Liza

Rowan Richards Business Developer at Rowan Richards

February 13th, 2015

Alexia, you are going to be passionate about the ideas you have. It's ok to allow yourself yo feel the connection personally. However, we all need to remember that the ideas, businesses we launch do not define us. 

Bob Binder Member of Technical Staff at Software Engineering Institute | Carnegie Mellon University

February 13th, 2015

I pitched many, many times (and was often the lead on product sales), so I have a lot of experience with rejection. I agree with what others have said about learning and improving, so no need to repeat that.Here are some other things to consider.


Investors are not always right and or professional. So, if it seems like you're getting a load of ****, that isn't necessarily your fault. Specifics at http://robertvbinder.com/vcs-say-the-darndest-things/


Some people are more immune to rejection than others. Changing your mindset and attitude can help, but what works for me or the authors of how-to-sell and pop psychology books might not work for you. I tried some of that and it sometimes helped, but didn't prevent the sting. I came to view that disappointment as simply part of the game, in the same way that injuries are part of contact sports.


And being too tough-minded isn't a good thing either - looking back, I persisted long past the point of diminishing returns.


Hope this helps.