Winner's Circle

A Foot In The Door

Though you can blindly submit your business plan, the best way to approach venture capitalists is through a third party. Venture capitalists tend to look more closely at business plans that have been introduced by someone in their "inner circle."

So how do you get your name into the inner circle? Networking. If you're friendly with a successful entrepreneur who has received financing from a venture capitalist, his or her introduction of your business plan could be the foot in the door you need. Lawyers, bankers, accountants and marketing firms can also make introductions for you. Most venture capitalists have strong alliances with these professional communities. Find out with whom these professionals do business, make an appointment to see them, and sell them on your idea. If they agree that your idea is fabulous, they may provide a great introduction for you.

As a final comment, let me share with you a statistic from one of the venture capitalists I interviewed. Richard Tadler of TA Associates in Boston says he reviews an average of three business plans a day and spends anywhere from five to 15 minutes looking at each business plan before making a decision about whether to invest. That's almost a thousand business plans a year. Of the business plans he looked at in 1997, he only arranged to meet with 95 entrepreneurs. And his statistics are not unique. One venture capitalist I spoke to claimed to look at 5,000 plans a year and only picked one out of every 475 to interview. As you can see, the odds are not in your favor. Therefore, having a strong business plan and getting a third-party introduction are the most valuable things you can do to be considered for venture capital.

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This article was originally published in the April 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Winner's Circle.

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