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flickr photo by Lakewood Croquet Club

I’m a firm believer that everyone is somebody no matter what title or status they have. Neither one phases me. I’ve met Presidents, NBA Players such as Michael Jordan, a Princes and billionaire investors who can change your life with a stroke of the pen or a tweet. But as an entrepreneur in the Venture Capital, Angel Investor and technology startup space you do need to know and understand the role of the person you’re pitching to.

For example two startups I was working with earlier this year both had meetings with the same VC firm. One met with founders and partners and the other met with associate. The startup who met with partners had a direct line of communication on the investing decision making process and the startup that met with associate were in a wait and see mode to learn if they would even get an email or call back to pitch to the partners. This is not always the case at VC firms but depending on who you’re meeting with it can speed up or slow down the process or you may not get a second chance. Regardless who you meet/pitch with I would be as well prepared as possible no matter what their title. There are also more titles than Partners and Associates such as:

  • Managing Director
  • General Partner
  • Venture Partner
  • Managing Partner
  • Managing Director
  • Partner
  • Principal
  • Associates
  • Analyst
  • Scouts
  • Entrepreneur in residence (EIR)

For learning more about the Venture Capital space Quora is a good source of information. I suggest you follow both the Angel Investing and Venture Capital topics. Below is Ask the VC answer to what some of the Venture Capital Titles mean that was posted on Quora.

Question: What is a “venture partner” and how do they compare to a “Partner” and / or “Managing Director?” And what exactly is a “Principal?” How are each compensated?

Our Take: Titles have widely varied meanings in the VC world. Unlike most other professions, there aren’t hard “rules” about what means what. But here goes…

– “Managing Director” / “General Partner” (MDs / GPs): In whatever VC organization you are dealing with, this is the top of the food chain. The titles mean effectively the same things, but many lawyers get nervous letting their clients use the term “General Partner” because this term equates to unlimited personal liability in the partnership paradigm. Therefore, the term “Managing Director” is used. Rest assured that all of them refer to each other as “partners” in conversation. MDs and GPs are compensated through management fees and receive direct carry in the funds. They essentially run the firm, engage in fundraising and vote on the deals the firm considers executing. Note, that some larger firms have smaller committees of MDs / GPs that wield most or all of the power.

– “Venture Partner” / “Partner” (VPs): This is generally the next step down the ladder, but not always. In most organizations, Venture Partners / Partners source new deals, sit on boards and act in the eyes of start-up companies just like MDs and GPs. In contrast, VPs may not have carry in the funds themselves, rather deal-specific carry for companies in which they are involved in. In some firms, however, they do have general fund carry. What’s most interesting is that some VPs are really MDs in training, while others are folks who just don’t want to be an MD, or are explicitly only intending to be at the VC for a finite period of time. At some firms, MDs / GPs who have “retired” (either voluntarily or involuntarily) are made VPs. In other words this position can be a position “on the way up,” “on the way down / out,” or “just hanging out for a while.” VPs can or can not make a salary off of the management fees. We’ve seen ranges from $50,000 a year on up to several hundreds of thousands of dollars. It can also be a full or part time position. You see everyone from young bucks trying to make their way up the ladder, to seasoned company executives becoming first time investors. Whatever the case, you rarely see these folks having another job (full-time operation roles at companies) while they are working for the VC firm.

– “Principal / Associates”: As with VPs, this functional responsibilities of Principals and Associates can range from “number crunching deal monkeys” to folks who source deals, sit on boards and act as junior partners. At some firms, the role of Principal immediately preceeds the role of Managing Director. Generally, they are younger folks who are learning the ropes and depending on the firm will each have their own level of autonomy and compensation. Rarely do they have a vote in deals and it’s probably about 50% of them who have direct fund carry. They are compensated through management fees, as most of them are still trying to pay off their business school loans.

For more about “Scouts” read a recent pando daily discovery. VCs in Angels’ Clothing: The Sneaky New Trend of “Deal Scouts” in Silicon Valley

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