Your (Potential) Investor’s Business Model

“[O]ne thing I should tell you is that our approach is our approach, and we don’t even claim it’s the right approach.”

Jeff Bezos, 9/6/12, on Amazon’s business model

Different investors have different business models. Everyone runs their business differently. I believe that this is important for founders to remember as they raise money. It sounds so simple and obvious but is often overlooked.

Different business models lead to different approaches to valuation, deal structure and diligence process. There’s no right answer. An investor’s business model is generally reflected in the number of investments in their portfolio; size of their fund; whether they take board seats; how they make investment decisions; and others. (And here, I’m talking about investors who make their living investing other people’s money. I don’t think this applies as much to individual angels.)

You should kick the tires on your potential investors as hard as they are kicking them on you. Talk to other founders who have worked with them. Ask them directly. What’s their model? How many companies do they work with? How much time will you get? Do you even care? How do they add value – domain expertise, relationship network, management expertise? What is their reputation for actually delivering on their promises?

If you don’t do this, you’re negotiating in a vacuum.

Investors add value in different ways – you should take money from those that fit your needs. In some cases, you might want an investor who will spend more time with you. In others, you may never want to see them after the check is wired. In each case, the valuation discussion, deal structure and process will all vary accordingly.