“No” Doesn’t Mean “You Suck”

I know it can be counter-intuitive, but just because an investor says “No,” it doesn’t mean they don’t love what you’re doing.

Keep in mind that as venture capitalists, our job is to say “No” 99+ percent of the time!

That means we often say “No” to things we love and founders we love. Even when we really don’t want to say “No,” we still end up saying “No.” Sometimes it just means we love what you’re doing, but we don’t love it quite enough to actually make the investment. Or, sometimes it’s just not in our targeting and/or thesis to make the investment.

Unfortunately, when venture capitalists say “No,” founders often hear: “We think you suck.”

The reality is that, many times when we say “No,” sometimes actually means: “We think you’re great, but we believe in something else more, and we have very limited capital to deploy.”

If you’re hearing “No,” it just means you’re a normal entrepreneur dealing with normal investors. Instead of taking “No” as an insult, take it with the recognition that capital is limited. Even though you may very well be on to something, you’re probably going to get a “No” from lots of investors. It’s just part of the game. “No” is a learning experience.

I find myself on both sides of this process. When we’re raising money for our venture fund, we might meet with 50 or 100 investors, and guess what? We’ll hear “No” from most of them. We have plenty of people that say, “We love what you’re doing, but it’s just not for us.” That’s a reasonable response from an investor, and it’s all part of the process.

So if you’re hearing “No” a lot, don’t give up. Keep your head up, and move on to the next venture capitalist until you find the right investor for you. Eventually you’ll find those few investors who really believe in you, the ones who get excited about what you’re doing and want to invest their limited capital in your startup, the ones who will say: “Yes.”  That’s when magic happens.

One last point – I see many examples where “no” turns into “yes” over time. If you’re offended by a “no,” you may forget to come back a year later. As an example, most companies that apply to Techstars don’t get in on the first try. They hear “no,” they get stronger, and they come back later. And that’s perfectly ok to do.

file under: Startups