Biohazard: It’s about people not resumés
It is sunday night and I am learning more about the teams I get to meet with this week. Linkedin, facebook, twitter, blogs…was that a MySpace page?!?
People not resumés
It got me thinking about initial meetings and how recently I have seen a couple initial meetings go horribly wrong when an entrepreneur spent more than 50% of the meeting on resume review. Narrating a resume and the background of the team bullet point by bullet point is what I call Biohazard and I am sharing this in hopes of helping others avoid it.
I know investors created the biohazard both by being over scheduled, initial meetings are often as short as 30 minutes, and by endlessly repeating the mantra of investing in people, not just ideas. In my experience it is absolutely true that investments are made in people, not just ideas, especially at the seed stage. In fact, the best thing about moving from my role as an entrepreneur to my role as an investor is the people I get to meet. Everyday I sit down and learn from brilliant people who are about to set off and build amazing things. Josh calls the best entrepreneurs heat seeking missiles. Floodgate calls them Thunder Lizards. Whatever you call them, you cannot typically identify them with a written bio (even if it is read out loud in a meeting).
The problem is Initial meetings are kind of like a first date. Conversation can be a little awkward at first, but you both work through it to lean as much as you can and see if you feel a spark. In the end, both people come to the meeting with the hope of finding a deeper connection that evolves into a great relationship. First meetings are optimistic places where each person knew enough about the other to want to meet in the first place.
As an investor, I think it makes sense to learn as much as I can about the team I am meeting so that by the time we sit down or talk on the phone, I am familiar with the past, on paper at least. I try to find connections between the team’s professional past and what they are currently working on both in terms of expertise, but also in terms of potential sources of inspiration. For me, the team bios are like the outside pieces of a jigsaw puzzle: they are informative and easy to find but never really give you the whole picture.
In a first meeting, I think a quick review of the past is worthwhile, but what is most important is how the past has informed the current vision. The best narratives I have seen at First Round weave the background of the team into more than the “team” slide. The best meetings illustrate the team’s background in the story of how the company came to be, in the initial insight that lead to the proposed product or service and in the explanation of the hypothesis and beliefs about the key risks.
Ultimately, if you can weave your collective history into why this team is ideal to attack this problem with this unique solution you will avoid the biohazard. Done right, you can surface the most meaningful experiences and personal characteristics that do not appear in your LinkedIn history but do qualify you as a heat seeking missile that any investor would be crazy not to engage.