It’s Not You. It’s Me.

Mike Hirshland at Polaris on why “no” remains the hardest word for VCs:

I did not have any really good reason [for saying no] other than the fact that his particular venture had not risen to the top of my stack.  While I think it remains very interesting, compared to the other opportunities we are seeing I couldn’t realistically see a scenario where we prioritized this particular venture as one that we were likely to actually move forward to fund. So, although I think both myself and the entrepreneur were at one level very interesting in continuing to “work” the deal, it really didn’t make sense for either of us to continue our discussions.

While this might seem elliptical, it is a actually a usefully honest answer from Mike. All too often the real reason why investors don’t fund your deal isn’t something innate, it’s because something else — often in a totally different area — is mildly more interesting to them. To paraphrase George on Seinfeld, “It’s not you. It’s me”. Being honest about that isn’t such a bad thing.


  1. The dyamic here isn’t that different from anyone doing a (big) sales deal. The seller (entrepreneur) has to create that sense of urgency and not let his deal languish his customer’s (vc) stack. Everyone’s always got more on their plate than they can get to. Prospects will tell you every day they want to buy your stuff, but until you walk out with the PO, it’s probably languishing in the middle of the stack.
    I’d love to hear Mike describe the characteristics of the deals on top of his stack, analyze the seemingly random variables that brought them there and trace that back to the entrepreneur who managed the sales process to make sure the randomness fell his direction.

  2. Whilst I am sure that Mike was genuine, there is also a tendancy in VC land to avoid saying “No” to entrepreneurs (especially, “No, you sucked stone”) in order to maintain a (potential) relationship. I always prefer people who are upfront and direct with entrepreneurs but it is sometimes challenging to get there.