Okay, so you’re a venture capitalist.
Don’t worry, we’re not Shania Twain—that totally impresses us.
And we know how much finding the right investment matters.
As a VC, everything affects why and how you invest—who runs the company, what they’re offering, and what the market is doing.
After all that evaluating, it’s gut wrenching when a company you want to invest in says no. It feels impossible. Why would anyone say no to money?
Here’s the hard truth: it’s not the money they’re saying no to. It’s you.
Couldn’t Be Me
It may feel antithetical to everything you’ve ever heard, but being a VC isn’t just about finding the right companies to invest in. It’s also about being the right investor for a company. After all, a good VC doesn’t drop their money and run.
Investing in a startup means putting two major things on the line: your money and your reputation.
Each time you choose a company to invest in, you’re making a selection based on what you feel will bring the greatest return. You want your money back and then some, sure, but you also want to see the company grow. You’re looking for a company that will bring something of value to the world, maintain (or improve) your already stellar reputation, and show future partners that you make great decisions.
The companies you’re considering are grappling with the same types of decisions. Who they choose to partner with and how they spend their money matters a great deal to them, too.
David Blake is no stranger to the challenge of finding the right investor. After being on the founding team of Zinch (acquired by Chegg in 2011), Blake founded Degreed in 2012, followed by Learn In and BookClub, both in 2020. His journey to success wasn’t quick or easy, but he got to where he is today by choosing the right investors.
When asked about how he selects VCs to pitch to, he said, “Ultimately, it’s about working with people who are aligned to your mission and approach to business…When big decisions come, you want that alignment.”
But you have to be able to determine alignment in the first place to get it right.
In a 2021 piece on personal branding written for the Business Angel Institute, Akash Bajwa, a VC Analyst at Cass Entrepreneurship Fund, confirmed that the best way for someone to make sure you’re aligned is through your brand. “If a founder knows how they’ll benefit from you through your brand,” Bajwa said, “it is easier for them to decide if you’re a good fit for them.”
Your Personal Brand
The best startups are the ones that stand out. The same is true for the best VCs.
And the best way to stand out? A personal brand.
Having a personal brand means several things:
1. People will know what you’re looking for. Whether it’s a specific industry (SaaS, real estate, consumer goods, etc.), companies that serve a specific purpose or demographic, or projects that inspire you, your brand should reflect where you want to put your money and your time.
2. You’ll have an instant audience for whatever you invest in. The bigger your brand, the more people will see the companies you choose to support.
3. Startups will come to you. The search for new companies to invest in can be as exhausting as it can be fun, and we don’t think you should stop doing it. We also know that having a brand people recognize means you’ll be hearing from startups you might not have known about otherwise. And we love that journey for you.
While building a personal brand may feel uncomfortable at first, it’s only going to make your career as a VC better.
When discussing why he chose certain investors, Blake shared a quote from author Simon Sinek: “The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. It is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”
And ensuring startups know what you believe and how you’ll align with them starts with you—and a brand that shows them who you truly are.