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Pestered by VCs

Every couple of weeks, we get pestered by calls from junior interns at VC firms fishing around to see if they can invest in Fog Creek.

It's kind of annoying, because they take up a lot of my time and expect to be told all kinds of numbers, and the chance that I'd actually want VC from anyone is vanishingly small. It's also a little insulting because they do no research on me or my company and then get a 22 year old summer student from Wharton to call me up.

So, I'm incredibly tempted to tell these VCs, "sorry, we are unlikely to consider deals sent over the transom." Sort of as a karmic joke.

[Editor: VCs always tell you that they never consider business deals sent "over the transom." Every VC blog I've seen has a section on how VCs only want to hear about deals brought to them from personal acquaintances. I don't even know what a "transom" is; I think it's jargon that only VCs use. And they all say this.]
Joel Spolsky Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
I believe a transom is the little window over the door in an old office building that could be opened to provide ventilation.
ATL/COM dude
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
Well, a "transom" is an opening above a door often installed for ventillation when the door is closed. They certainly wouldn't want any "fresh air" figuratively speaking. There are, of course, far worse problems to have as the owner/operator of a small software business than having to turn away VCs.
Jim Lamb Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
When I worked at a consulting company and we got cold calls, we tried to sell them software consulting services.

This was mostly stock tip cold-calls and we sold financial software services, but it sounds like this intern could use some software to manage their work.
Lou Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
It's a publishing term, for manuscripts sent in via mail. They are summarily thrown away unread.

It's funny, because I am in a chicken and egg situation. My partner has a good part of the guts of the app written, we need financing to create a beta and a business, but we don't know anyone with money to pitch.

Our idea isn't really appropriate for the Micro-ISV route, since it involves selling to Big Pharma and Big Financial, who aren't going to put their core data in a tool written in a basement. Oh well.
Steve Hirsch Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
"over the transom." is a really old term from the publishing business. Editors beseiged by would be playwrights would lock their doors, but the crafty writers would throw their manuscript through the little transom window so it would land  in the editor's office with a satisfying plop!
Bob Walsh Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
I guess no one here ever owned a boat.
MBJ Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
The phrase "over the transom" refers to works submitted for publication without being solicited; the image invoked being that of a writer tossing a manuscript through the open window over the door of the publisher's office.

Copied from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transom
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
I got my first one of these annoying calls a few weeks ago. At first I was excited. Not that I want any venture money, but it was fun thinking someone was actually interested. Of course, after a few emails and him calling me by the wrong name and generally not knowing anything about me or the company I kicked them to the curb. You'd think they'd have better things to do.
Ian L Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
On the off chance that the point of the original post was not to solicit definitions of the word "transom"...

Joel, are the VC firms well-known, established firms, or are they firms that you've never heard of?
ATL/COM dude
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
"..I'm incredibly tempted to tell these VCs, "sorry, we are unlikely to consider deals sent over the transom." :


Ummm... so why don't you?
Seems like they are the equivalent of a telemarketer.  I just politely tell them "let me save you some time: I'm NOT interested".

Or you could tease them with "We're already talking to to someone and I'm under an agreement not to accept money from any VC until we're done with negotiations".
Mr. Analogy {Shrinkwrap µISV} Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
Sounds like the Dot-Com era is coming back.
TheDavid
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
If only I had your kinda of problem, Joel, if only ...
Orick of Toronto Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
These solicitations are the VC equivalent of junk mail or spam.
Daniel Howard Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
It's like one of those 19th century French plays. Madeline loves Pierre, but he loves Angelina who in turn loves Girard, who also loves Pierre.
Joel Spolsky Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
> "let me save you some time: I'm NOT interested"

This gives them a lead for their next sales line. Any salesman worth his money will instantly dismiss this as not wasting their time.

What you want to do with any sales people is say "No", and then be completely quiet. Make them come up with another leading question. Two or three of these and even the best sales people give up.
Adrian
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
Tell them that you need a "value proposition". In writing. Then put the phone down.
Andy Brice Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
In BSW vol I, Joel periodically inserts notes from the Editor (i.e. himself) in other people's essays.

Yet here we have a mysterious editor editing Joel's comments. Who is this meta-editor (meditor?)?

WHO IS REALLY RUNNING THE SHOW AT FOG CREEK!?!

[Insert twighlight zone music here]
PWills Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
Tell them you only talk with partners of VC firms that cold call you. You must be able to verify such from their website.

It's not a waste of your time to meet a partner at a VC firm in this business. The information flow can go both ways too. You just don't want to waste your time with associates. Any partner who is "serious" understands that and will call you back themselves.

However, I would take the call from associates from a top tier VC.

Turn lemon into lemonade!
Stacy Murray Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
Have a standard message on the answering machine asking them to press 7 if they're a VC, and then play a message saying 5% of the company is up for grabs for a sweet billion dollars, anything else you just won't consider.
Alex Moskalyuk Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
Being annoyed by some VCs wanting to invest in my business is kind of problem I would like to have ;-)
Mike Johnson Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
My experience is this happens fairly frequently to many emerging ISV's - the VC's are simply cold-calling for dollars.  The ISV's I've been part of have all developed two fairly standard response, given the response when called and then returned to work at hand.
Bystander
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
I wonder how many of these aren't VC's at all and are just those stupid business directory services that are trying to get stats for publication?
anon
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
Jokes and friendly banter aside...

A company management team needs to be very much aware about dealing with these types of time burglars.

Discussing funding options, M&A's, expansion plans, external partnerships etc. can very quickly escalate into hundreds of hours of wasted time. It's a tricky thing because those topics relates so close to the hearts of the decision makers at the top.

But those hours are taken from a very limited and highly valuable resource. (founders/management)

Hours that should have been focused on running the damn business itself!

I've met several companies where overall strategy and client support quality simply nosedived
because management was preoccupied with engaging in high flying management antics that ultimately went nowhere.
HS Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
"What's a Transom, Bob?"

- Rick, Drugstore Cowboy
MarkTAW Send private email
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
VC lackey: We'd like to partner with Fog Creek to strategically leverage our ... blah blah blah meaningless MBA speak ...

Joel: Cool. We'd like a million dollars of your money to spend on Ferarris, Aeron chairs, 30 inch monitors and pizza.

VC lackey: <click>
Devil's Advocate
Thursday, February 09, 2006
 
 
"We'd like a million dollars of your money to spend on Ferarris, Aeron chairs, 30 inch monitors and pizza."

All the perfectly valid expenses that increase productivity in the workplace:

* Ferraris: If a worker can get quickly to the office, he can spend less time commuting and more working.
* Aeron chairs: A good chair lowers medical expenses, as well as eliminates an occasional "walk" to stretch one's legs, so the worker can concentrate on the work.
* 30 inch monitors: More pixel estate means more work being done at the same time.
* Pizza: It means that the workers can have their luch in the office, without to having go out and spend additional walking to the restaurant and back.

:o)
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
 
A million dollars won't buy you many Ferraris...
Flasher T Send private email
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
 
Well, you could get five ( http://www.autobytel.com/content/buy/lm/new/index.cfm/make_vch/Ferrari/model_vch/F430 ), which should be enough for your workers with the longest commute. :P

And what remains is enough for that other stuff.
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
 
"Well, you could get five"

Of course, you could then ask for another million to cover the gas expenses. At least if you're based in Europe.
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
 
What about: "I will consider offers with a starting bid of 1 billion Dollars."?

But then I am assuming that you are one of those guys who think that more money is always better.
Jan Derk
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
 
Berislav,

Let us know next time you have a vacancy.
Devil's Advocate
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
 
"Let us know next time you have a vacancy."

Sure, no problem. I got a Ferrari waiting for you... ;)
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
 
You know, I've got the solution. Give them my number. I'll give their money a good home, and I'll give them a good ROI as well!
Steve Hirsch Send private email
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
 
You don't need VC money, but why not seriously entertain their ideas?

Some VCs are pretty smart.  While you're doing admirably well, are you certain there are no opportunities you're overlooking?  A smart VC won't tell you to outsource all of your programmers overseas and start manufacturing CueCats.  But maybe there are non-silly ideas out there.  Is the conversation really that painful?

Mike
Bankstrong Send private email
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
 
>You don't need VC money, but why not seriously entertain their ideas?
Mike, VCs won't talk money until they've done the "due dilligence" routine. That means you waste a couple hundred hours answering questions that they won't read.

Answering VC cold-calls will get you tagged as a willing mark. Just like answering those 419 letters.
Peter
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
 
I thought "across the transom" related to boating. The transom is the rear cross beam of the boat. Fishermen throw waste out the back of the boat, or "across the transom," because it's the lowest part of the boat and also the surest way to avoid waste flying back into the boat when moving.

I think the publishing usage would use "through the transom." I think the VC usage is much more likely to be the boating/yaching one, knowing VC's.
been there
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
 
Last year i decided to venture out and go ahead with a local VC.

I had the same issues, so i gave it a stop by directly one of the VCs to invest in a particular event that was talking place at an international location. Basically sponsonr a trip and if that went well we will talk more.

X number of VC directly backed away. One stood fast sponsored and in the process found out micro ISV was not for him.

However the thing gave me a good insight into local VC scene as well. I think any one considering VC funding should consider reasons not get funded first before they do decide to get funded.

asif
Asif @ Cubex Send private email
Saturday, February 11, 2006
 
 
Hmm, transom was used in Spinal Tap (lead singer and girlfriend doing yoga stuff and poking out their tongues)

"Before I met Jeanine, my life was cosmically in shambles, it was ah...I was using bits and pieces of whatever Eastern philosophies happened to drift through my transom and she sort of sorted it out for me, straightened it out for me, gave me a path, you know, a path to follow."

What we did with recruitment agencies was say "You need to contact Holly Roberts." We gave out an email address. Any phone call in "She does not return my calls" - "Sorry, you really need to speak to Holly".
PF Send private email
Thursday, February 23, 2006
 
 
Holly did not exist.
PF Send private email
Thursday, February 23, 2006
 
 

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