A few weeks ago I participated in a panel that included myself and a couple of outstanding entrepreneurs. The event was part of an entrepreneurship and innovation class of one of the leading MBA programs in Israel.
During the panel I was asked an interesting question by one of the students (who is also an entrepreneur). She asked what not to do when pitching to a VC?
Usually the questions I am asked are the opposite types of what “yes” to do so, this question stood out. But I had an immediate answer as there is one mode of behavior that in my opinion is not only a turn-off but also pisses me off (excuse my language).
My answer to her was “do not bullshit”! It is more than ok not to have all the answers and not to always have complete answers but don’t try cover it up with bullshit. Rather be transparent and open about the fact that there are still areas you need to check and analyze or that you do not know the answer and you need to find it out. In fact I even respect this type of honesty and it even gives the entrepreneur the opportunity to come back and have another discussion about the business.
Another term I sometimes hear from entrepreneurs is “fake it until you make it”. I am also anti this school of thought and behavior. Call me old fashioned but as Abraham Lincoln said “You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time”. The strange thing here is that I hear entrepreneurs saying this with pride as if this is a method to grow traffic and engagement levels and reach critical mass and by that time they will be offering a more complete product or service so will retain the user base. Sorry but I don’t subscribe to this modus operandi. And I think consumers and technology buyers (as the case may be) are so sophisticated that they will see right through it anyway.
So my philosophy is one of no bullshit. Tell it as it is, and find the answers to the questions not known. I believe this is a stronger foundation for any relationship, especially for a long term investor – entrepreneur partnership.