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如何正确地吸引风投:绝对不能说的五句话

Mark Achler 2017年04月11日

在与投资人交谈时,创业者要特别小心,有些话是千万不能说的。

“企业家内幕”是美国的一个在线社区,美国创业界最睿智和最有影响力的大咖会在这里及时回答与创业和职业有关的问题。今天为大家分享的是美国西北大学凯洛格管理学院讲师、MATH Venture Partners公司执行董事马克•阿克勒在“有什么话是绝对不能对潜在投资人说的?”这一问题下的回答。

作为一名风投资本家,我每天都要与两到三位创业者见面,他们之所以找到我,无非是希望我能他们投资,圆他们的创业梦想。(去年我们评估了2000多家新公司。)我在三家基金公司干了20年的风投,见识过各种你能想象到的创投洽谈。哪些话是坚决不能对风投资本家说的?我给你举五个例子:

“我有一个大客户,马上就要谈成功了。”

我的合伙人特洛伊•汉尼科夫很爱讲这个故事。1999年,他成为一家名叫SurePayroll公司的CEO。SurePayroll是当时第一批做在线薪酬管理的公司之一。特洛伊找到我的时候,我已经做好了投资的准备了。这时他对我说了一句几乎致命的话:“我们已经快签下富国银行作为第一个大客户了,对我们来说,这是一件改变游戏规则的大事。”

我对项目的兴趣提高了,但我的回答给他泼了一盆冷水:“那很好,我感到更激动了。等你把富国的合同签下来,我就给你一份投资合约。”其实就算没有富国银行这码事,当时我可能也会给他的公司投资,但现在这笔投资的成败完全系于富国银行这个大客户能不能谈下。好在这两笔合同最终都谈拢了,这家公司最终也有了一个成功的结局。但这个故事给了我们一个显而易见的教训:一定要避免过度承诺和过度推销,只要对方说了“yes”,你就可以打住了。

“哪怕我们暂时达不到承诺的目标也没关系,以后总能解决。”

如果风投决定给一家创业公司投资,那么双方的关系往往会维持七八年甚至十多年。对我们来说,诚信和相同的价值观代表了一切。我们会一直保持高度警惕,不断询问一些试探性的问题,确保我们和投资对象有一致的价值取向。诚信重于一切,信任压倒一切。如果我们不信任你,就不会给你投资。所以任何可能导致我们质疑诚信度的话,比如“哪怕我们暂时达不到承诺的目标也没关系”之类的,无论你说得含蓄还是直白,基本上都会使投资意向流产。

“你们的投资意向是什么?”

如果风投家愿意抽出时间跟你谈投资,对创业者来说,这几乎是最重要的一次会谈了。如果创业者没有做好充分准备仓促上阵,无疑是一个重大的失误。通过与创业者的初次会面,我们能看出创业者在接触潜在客户时是什么样的工作状态和努力程度。如果投资者跟我们会面时没有做好充分的准备,甚至没有抽时间看看我们的网站,了解我们到底是干什么的,我们的投资意向是什么,我们的投资热点是什么,那是肯定没戏的。

“我只想让它快点成长,然后迅速脱手。”

这听起来似乎有些矛盾,因为风投做的生意就是为一些特定的投资人赚钱。然而我们青睐的投资人应该有更强的企图心和使命感,对自己的事业有坚定的信念,相信只要自己沉下身子去打造一家优秀的公司,美好的事情最终会发生。换言之,我们信赖的是那种把客户、员工和股东利益放在首位的服务型领导者。诚然,我们也想投资那种想赚很多钱的创业人,但我们更青睐的是踏踏实实的创业者——在稳固的基石上打造卓越企业的人。

“你错了。”

这种“王之蔑视”大概是对潜在投资者伤害最大的一句话了。我记得在90年代末的时候,有几个创业者曾拿着一些还未得到证实的理念找到我,一本正经地盯着我,开口就要2500万美元的估值,哪怕他的公司还没有任何收入——因为它就是“市场”。我当然拒绝了。结果对方说道:“你就是一个傻X风投,根本不懂互联网……”

当然,风投看走眼的案例也有不少。有些前沿甚至超前的东西的确很难让人立即买单,更何况很多风投都非常忌讳风险。问题是:针对短期或长期目标,你对创业理念进行了优化调整吗?这个世界说小也小,山不转水转,你永远不知道什么时候还会碰到这个风投。所以你要尽力培养而不是终结你与风投的关系。虽然我们可能暂时不理解你的理念,但很可能我们最终会理解,而且我们还能跟你分享一些历尽艰辛才得来的智慧——前提是你有开放的心态去倾听和学习。(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “What’s the worst thing you can say to a potential investor?” is written by Mark Achler, lecturer at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and managing director of MATMark AchlerH Venture Partners.

As a venture capitalist, I meet every day with two or three entrepreneurs who pitch me to invest in their dreams. (Last year, we reviewed more than 2,000 new companies.) Having done this now for 20 years across three funds, I’ve heard every kind of pitch imaginable. Here are five examples of what not to say to a VC:

“I have a big potential customer that is just about to close.”

My partner Troy Henikoff loves to tell this story. In 1999, he was the CEO of a startup called SurePayroll, one of the very first online payroll providers. As Troy pitched me, I was ready to commit. Then he said the almost fatal words: “We are close to signing up Wells Fargo (wfc, +0.71%) as our first white-labeled customer. It’s a game changer for us.”

My interest only heightened, though my response was chilling to him: “That’s fantastic; I’m even more excited. I’ll give you a term sheet when the Wells Fargo deal is signed.” Troy had boxed himself into a corner: He had sold past “yes.” While I probably would have done the deal without Wells Fargo, the investment now hinged on this big customer. The good news is both deals closed, and eventually the company went on to a very successful exit. But the lesson is simple: Avoid over-promising and don’t oversell—stop when you hear “yes.”

“It’s okay if we don’t deliver what we promise—we can always fix it later.”

When a VC invests in a startup, this is often the start of a relationship spanning seven to 10 years, and sometimes longer. To us, integrity and shared values are everything. We are constantly on the lookout and ask probing questions to make sure we are on the same page around shared values. Integrity is everything and trust is paramount. If we don’t trust you, we’re not going to invest. Any statement that casts doubt on your integrity—some version (implicit or explicit) of, “It’s okay if we don’t deliver on what we promise”—will almost certainly kill a deal.

What’s your investment thesis?”

Getting time with a VC to talk about investing is one of the most important meetings an entrepreneur can have. Going in unprepared is a huge mistake—in fact, we view it as a proxy for the level of work, effort, and due diligence the entrepreneur will do when they meet with potential new customers. It’s an almost immediate deal killer for us if the entrepreneur comes into a meeting unprepared and didn’t take the time to look at our website to understand who we are, what our investment thesis is, and what our hot buttons are.

“I just want to grow it fast and then flip it quickly.”

This may sound paradoxical since we are in the business of making money for our limited investors, but we are looking to invest in entrepreneurs who have a deeper sense of purpose, mission, and the rock-solid belief that if you put your head down and build a great company, then eventually good things will come. We believe in the servant leader who puts the needs of their customers, employees, and shareholders first. Yes, we want to invest in entrepreneurs who are motivated by making a lot of money, but who want to do it the old-fashioned way: by earning it—building a great company on a solid foundation.

“You’re wrong.”

This is my all-time favorite dis an entrepreneur can say to a potential investor. I remember back in the late ‘90s when entrepreneurs would pitch me an unproven concept and look me in the eye with a straight face and ask for a $25 million valuation without any revenue—because that was “market.” And when I said no, I heard, “Oh you’re just a dumb VC and don’t understand the Internet…”

There are many famous cases where the investor is actually wrong. Doing something cutting edge and visionary is truly hard to sell, and many investors are risk avoiders—not risk takers. That said, the question is: Are you optimizing for the short term or the long term? It’s a small world out there. You never know when you might interact with the potential investor again, whether later in your company cycle or for your next venture. You should be nurturing relationships, not ending them. While it’s true that we may just not get it, it’s more likely that we do, and that we can share some hard-fought wisdom with you—provided you are open to hearing it and learning together.

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