I have not invested a second reading about you. Now can you give me an hour of your time?

Apr 21, 2015
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Robert Shrimsley’s column in the FT this past weekend with advice for journalism job seekers (Dear millennials: a few interview tips . . .) resonated with me.

Shrimsley laments how every Spring he witnesses newly-minted journalism graduates aspiring to work at the Financial Times who seem to have so much to offer — degrees from elite universities, a hatful of internships, and impressive life experiences — let themselves down by not having bothered to read a recent FT newspaper in advance of the interview.

We see this a lot in venture capital too: Job seekers ping me at random for employment or career advice without reading about my areas of expertise or passions. I recall job candidates flushing with embarrassment when I asked them an open question to tell me what they liked about any of our investments (anything at all).

But it’s not just job seekers. Entrepreneurs (or worse, fundraisers) send pitch decks indiscriminately without even glancing at my investment interests, which a simple Google search on “mark bivens” brings up (ignore the links about the guy that got arrested, that’s a different mark bivens. really.). I try to explain clearly and prominently on my blog what my investment sweet spots are and how best to capture my attention.

Okay, I admit that Truffle’s website is uninspiring even by Web 1.0 standards, yet it does make it clear who specializes in which sectors, as well as the 50+ companies in which we’ve invested.

A reputable investment bank recently emailed me a detailed fundraising memo for their client who happened to be a direct competitor of one of our portfolio companies. Before reviewing the document, I politely inquired whether they realized the risk of conflict, upon which the bank sheepishly asked me to delete the file (for which I gladly obliged).
Contrast these behaviors with the following unsolicited emails that I’ve received in the past few weeks alone:

  • Hi Mark – I love your blog articles and I wonder if you have some spare time to share some of your advice over lunch or coffee? Perhaps I can be of help as well somehow?
  • Dear Mark – I noticed that you invested in BoosterMedia. I believe I might have a lot to offer this company and would be really grateful if you could take a look at my CV…
  • Hi Mark – I saw your most recent article on Japan investing. Really fantastic article… If you ever have time, let’s meet.

I love receiving solicitations like the above. These are individuals who clearly took a bit of time to understand my point of view on something, and in light of that, deemed it would be valuable to get to know each other. They have pre-qualified themselves with me. It’s a no-brainer for me to defer to their judgment to carve out time for at least a meeting.

It really makes such basic common sense, doesn’t it?

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