How to make a good impression with founders
How do you make a good impression with founders?
I am in my MBA program and have written up a thesis on a certain sector. Now I want to go meet all the founders in that sector.
Assuming X% of them talk to me, what should I say to them so that I can keep them in my rolodex and when I am in an investing seat after my MBA, I can call them up again and ask them if they are in the market for capital and are interested in meeting again?
E.g., I just want to get to know them now and want to know what I should be saying in these meetings to show I'm smart. I wonder how much of it is showing my deep research vs. asking them good questions vs. something else.
It's very different than PE where you would have a CIM on your desk, a management meeting set up, and lots of formal stuff so want to get some coaching here first.
It's totally dependent on the stage, but in general, the important principle to keep in mind is that actions speak louder than words. There are tons of people who approach startup founders and say "let me know how I can be helpful," but it's all talk and they never lift a finger or only spring into action after the company has already started to take off (and their help is no longer as useful / necessary)
At the pre-seed or seed stage, capital (or rather the lack thereof) is the biggest problem for founders. Founders at this stage want leads to high conviction investors that are willing to cut them a check without dragging their feet and a bunch of back-and-forth / negotiation. If you introduce an investor to a founder and that investor ends up investing, that founder will be forever grateful and will remember you for allocation in a future fundraising round. You could also be helpful by reviewing their deck and providing thoughtful, actionable feedback.
Series A and B stage - hiring becomes the biggest challenge. You could be helpful with introductions to potential candidates that are in your network or even with screening/vetting/interviewing candidates though your mileage may vary on the latter, (e.g. if you are not technical, you are not qualified to be evaluating engineers)
Series C and beyond - not just hiring but now building out an executive team, company building, and scaling
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