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Posted: June 13, 2011

How not to start a relationship

They just wanted me for my connections

Brad Feld

In the last month I've had the chance to make about 50 new friends. I've suddenly become very popular with investment bankers and have been on the receiving end of over 50 emails that look something like the following:

"We met once a long time ago when I was with firm X. I'm now at firm Y. We are the blah blah blah best at blah blah most successful blah blah tied into blah blah working with blah blah blah connected with blah blah blah. Congrats on all the success at Company W. We are very interested in talking to them about blah blah strategic blah blah - can you introduce us to a high-profile-CEO."

At first I felt compelled to respond as part of my "answer every email and try to at least be polite / responsive to everyone" approach to life. After a few days, I started getting annoyed when I realized I was simply viewed as a conduit to an introduction. When I saw a few similar emails to my co-investors in at least one company, I realized that there was a complete lack of sincerity in many of these emails - it was no different than a random salesman emailing me asking if I wanted to buy a random widget.

Now, I have several good friends who are investment bankers and we have a handful of trusted ibanking relationships and folks who are our go-to ibankers. These are people who have developed a long standing relationship with me and my partners, have worked with us in good times and bad, and have always been reasonable and thoughtful about their fees, especially in situations that didn't work out.

It amazes me that 50+ people could suddenly come out of the woodwork in an effort to "build a new relationship that's not really a relationship" thinking it would give them an opportunity, or even an advantage, in the context of a set of hot companies.

When I think about the relationships I've developed, whether it be with investment bankers, LPs, co-investors, or anyone else, they evolve over a period of time. They don't require boondoggles or fancy things; they require sincerity and substantive interaction over a long period of time. Then, when there are moments of opportunity, these are the people that I go to (and hopefully who come to me.)

There suddenly seem to be an abundance of "transaction relationships" out there.

Entrepreneurs, beware.

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Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for more than 20 years. Prior to co-founding the Boulder-based Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is a nationally recognized speaker on the topics of venture capital investing and entrepreneurship and writes widely read and well respected blogs at www.feld.com and www.askthevc.com. He holds bachelor's and master's of science degrees from from MIT. Contact him at brad@feld.com

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Readers Respond

Brad, you and I have never met, but I know of you and your work in some depth through CEOs I've coached. The entrepreneurial world would benefit from more investors, investment bankers, etc... like you - an investor and mentor that can be trusted. Since there is not a lot of trust or reason to revere folks in your field, wanted to let the business leaders who read this that you provide great wisdom and support to the entrepreneurs you fund. By TC North on 2011 06 21
Great points made in the article. "transactional relationships" focus on WIIFM (what's in it for me) versus on how we can help each other! By Sharon Shores on 2011 06 21
Bravo! 50 friends?! in a month ?? Most would be lucky to have 5 true friends in a lifetime. "Transaction relationships" is a great description. Reminds me of the one night stand promise of the 70's: I will respect you in the morning. I promise. Well said, Brad. Keep writing. David O. By David Overton on 2011 06 18
True relationships are build on trust, which doesn't come from one meeting. Trust takes time, but with it, you earn the right to work with a right trusted adviser in good time and in bad times. By George Tyler on 2011 06 14
Brad, Thank you for explaining WHY long term relationships are important. It's not about 'what can you do for me today,' rather "how can we help each other at some point in the future?" There are too many opportunistic friends out there who are gone as soon as they don't need you any longer. By Kimberly on 2011 06 13
Amen. By Stephen Koenigsberg on 2011 06 13

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