I see this time and time again—a founder pitches a VC or an angel and they say to come back when there’s more traction. The founder then goes off and raises from friends and family or invests their own savings in the idea in an attempt to come back with a handful of customer or users.
In other words, the people with the least amount of money in this game wind up doubling down on what is probably an unfundable, problematic idea to begin with—because an investor said the only thing missing was traction.
Nearly all of these investors have funded someone they know on a Powerpoint or on a pre-revenue prototype. It’s not because they’re all part of some secret Illuminati group that you’re not in—it’s because they’re convinced that a repeat founder can execute, and they’re not convinced that you can. They might also be convinced of a repeat founder’s ability to identify what a big opportunity is and what isn’t.
At the end of the day, if they had 100% certainty that you could do what you say you were going to do and that the economic opportunity was there, they would jump at the chance to buy stock in your company today on the cheap.
They’ve done it before. Sure, they say they do it by exception, but every single time they fund someone, it’s by exception. Being exceptional is literally the requirement to get funded.
So whenever someone says “too early”, you should respond with the following:
“What is the thing that I have not done yet that you do not believe I can do?”
Unless you get that answer, you wasted the whole meeting. Make them tell you exactly what’s holding them back. People don’t pass because you don’t have customers—they pass because they don’t believe you can get customers, and there’s a reason why they think that.
Too many times, I wind up telling founders that it isn’t, in fact, too early, but that something just doesn’t provide enough value for customers or make enough money from each customer, and that the whole thing is problematic on its face. It’s a bit like telling someone their child is ugly, and maybe the founder won’t want to hear from me again, but at least they got real feedback.
It’s easier to handle if you’re getting that feedback consistently. That’s why we created Feedback.vc. We create a blind panel of 10 investors from venture funds who rate you anonymized pitch across multiple categories, providing you with a detailed report on how fundable and workable your idea is.
This way, you’ll know exactly why you’re being turned down and if it makes sense to double down and come back in a few months.