why do you want to have a coffee with me ?

Photo by Mike Marquez on Unsplash

Not a week goes by without an entrepreneur sending me an email, a LinkedIn message, a message on one of the gazillion apps that events promote for their own event, and any of the messenging apps (Whatsapp if they have my number, telegram, etc.). for a coffee …

Why do you want to coffee with me I ask myself every time. There are just a couple of possibilities :

1) you think you can pitch me a business in 10–15 min. That would be great, but since we get over 60 decks every week (we do not log the random emails with no full investment deck anymore), I would need to take 15m x 60 meetings every week ? That’s 15 hours of coffees every week. Assuming that everyone can line up one after the other the whole day. Hence it’s more like 3–4 days a week devoted to drinking coffee with entrepreneurs. We actually have a robust process in place for managing inbound dealflow. Please respect that, it saves you and me time.

Example of my potential agenda for the 2-day NOAH London conference where I just accepted everyone. Impossible to say yes / no without a prior deck analysis. I could spend my whole event just meeting random entrepreneurs: not a good use of anyone’s time.

At Expon Capital, we are all professionals, we aim to reply to every request as fast as possible, we have ressources in place to give a chance to every opportunity. But we also need time to analyse the deals, perform DD, support our companies, report to our LPs, give back to the community, update our points of view; basically we’re pretty busy for good reasons.

2) you think that because you talked to me, you get on top of the pile and get a better chance. That’s potentially true, but then how do I decide on who I have coffee with or not ? or first ? it’s back to question 1) basically. The best way is either to wait for you to be upgraded to stage 3 in our process or to come through a warm intro (which I have already discussed in the process, and that just takes you to stage 2). You actually also stand a better chance to be upgraded in our process if you have researched us before, and what you really want to achieve with us.

The problem becomes even more acute when I attend an event, and I attend 1–3 events every month (by the way, each partner at our firm has the list of events he attends on our personal profile page). Everyone uses the feature of the event app to request a meeting, a speed-dating, a coffee — see points 1) and 2) above. As an example, I’m going to an event next week in London, and I have about 100 requests to meet already (I just say yes to everyone, because the app is so poorly designed, that you can’t reply before accepting an event. I’ll cancel all of them, and send them to my process instead then :). . Seriously, the best way to prepare for an event, is to send us a deck well in advance (at least 2 weeks), so that we can process it, log it, decide whether we’re interested, do some basic research, and then meet at the event with the right questions. Or just find me at an event, and we can chat for a few minutes.

Somehow events are counter-intuitive as well: why would I pay for a flight /train ticket, a hotel, taxis, meals to go to an event just to meet a series of entrepreneurs that I can just meet over a video call now and totally miss out on the event ? Somehow, all entrepreneurs assume my time is free and they can just can grab a slot.

I actually attend events for a number of other reasons :

  • to network with my fellow VCs, because we all have companies to re-finance, and having everyone in the same place is a good serendipity tool (although we do that a lot by email too).
  • like entrepreneurs, see some people on stage discuss the major trends of our industries and get updated; I could also do that watching livestreams (which I do whilst multitasking), but it’s good sometimes to take the time for that.
  • walk around the booths (I hate it when the signage or the kakemonos don’t even say what the company does), ran into a random person (with nor prior meeting, hence reducing the interaction to just a few minutes), or pick up a weak signal.

Bottom line : I reserve face-to-face meetings to situations when we are seriously interested in a company, want to perform on-site due-diligence, attend board meetings, or help our portfolio companies on something specific. Not to source dealflow.



President, Sepulveda Capital

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