One of the worst-inspired ideas for entrepreneurs to connect with investors is the “pay to meet” event, where some organization charges a fee to allow companies who are seeking capital to spend time with a VC or an angel, and get some feedback on their business concept. The latest one of these to pass through my inbox is from the Environmental Business Cluster in San Jose, a non-profit organization formed in 1994 that “assists start-up companies that make environmental products or provide environmental services.” Their recent announcement is part of a series enabling entrepreneurs to hear from and talk to top-tier venture firms like Khosla Ventures, Mohr Davidow and Rockport Ventures.
While I’m completely in favor of these types of meetups, and can even begrudgingly accept that the EBC — as a non-profit — may need to cover incremental costs, the impression created by this program is less than flattering. Unflattering to the EBC because they appear to be pimping out the investors; unflattering to the EBC’s sponsors who are not an insignificant group; and unflattering to the VCs because it appears they are the ones demanding cash for face time. C’mon folks, the limited partners for these VCs are paying them thousands of dollars an hour just to breathe: they ought to be doing this as a public service, and even paying for a sponsorship themselves.
My advice to entrepreneurs: pay for the informational sessions but skip the one-on-ones. You can get the same kind of feedback for free at an Open Coffee session, and will feel better about yourself the next morning.