Raising funds from venture capitalists is just like entering into a marriage, especially if a partner takes a seat on your board. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a venture capitalist (who to marry) and how to best work with that person after receiving investment (after the honeymoon). Below are a few pointers from Eric Kim, Managing Partner of Goodwater Capital, who works closely with startups in Silicon Valley as well as Asia. Locally, Eric has invested in the early stage rounds of some of South Korea’s leading technology startups, including Kakao, Coupang and Memebox.
Don’t marry (fundraise) just for money. Just like in a marriage, if all you seek is money, you’re bound to be unhappy. Startups need more than just capital, they need partners who can be of real value add.
It’s not just about looks. VCs come in all shapes and sizes and it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. Take the time to get to know the culture and values of the firm before partnering with them.
Be honest. During the pitching process, don’t oversell or make false representations. The truth always comes out. If something goes wrong (which it most certainly will in startups), don’t cover things up. A good VC will help you during times of trouble.
Agree to a common set of expectations. Happiness in marriage is often about making sure reasonable expectations are met. This also goes for both VCs and startups.
Walk in the other person’s shoes. Take the time to think about things from the VCs perspective. Also, seek out VCs that have previous experiences to you and can relate and empathize to what you’re going through.
Actively Listen. Engaging in substantive dialogue is more important than just listening. This is true in any relationship.
Efficiently over-communicate. Though I wish my wife could read my mind, she can’t, and unfortunately VCs can’t read minds either.
Have Fun. Life is short. Make sure there is room for fun in your relationship with your VC.
Learn how to agree to disagree. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage and there is no such thing as a perfect relationship between an entrepreneur and a VC. You will inevitably have disagreements, but it’s important to figure out how to respect your differences.
Trust is more important than falling in love. Trust is a “two way street” and is earned between a VC and an entrepreneur. Whoever you raise money from, you must feel that you first and foremost can trust that person and firm.