Poornima Vijayashanker

Startup Funding: Why Investors Keep Saying 'No' to Your Big Idea


Think you’re onto something big, and surprised you’re receiving so many noes from investors? It can really make you second-guess yourself, and shake your confidence…but it shouldn’t! Receiving a lot of noes is natural.

You may be tempted to listen to the feedback after being rejected and think you just need to launch your product, change your business model, or grow your customer base, and then you’ll be more attractive to investors.

Guess again.

The reason you receive for the rejection and the feedback you get may not be aligned. Why? Because at the end of the day, investors are human. They don’t want to hurt the feelings of a first-time founder, and don’t want to seem rude in case they want to invest later.

Yes, they just might invest later.

So how can you tell what is really going on?

Well that’s what we’re going to debunk in today’s episode of Build! To help us out, I’ve invited Ooshma Garg, who is the CEO and Founder of Gobble, and Danielle Morrill, who is the CEO and Founder of Mattermark. They’ve both recently become investment partners at XFactor Ventures, an investment firm that’s focused on investing in female founders and mixed-gender teams.

We’re going to help you get comfortable with receiving noes and deciphering what they really mean. Here’s what you’ll learn in this episode:

  • how Danielle and Ooshma learned to keep their spirits up despite all the noes they received;
  • how to be politely persistent with investors who won’t bother taking a meeting with you;
  • the various tests investors put first-time founders through; and
  • how to maintain a relationship with an investors even after they say “no.”

In next week’s final episode, we’ll cover what it’s going to take to get a yes and that first check from an investor!

Listen to the episode on iTunes!

Why Investors Keep Saying “No” to Your Big Idea Transcript

Poornima Vijayashanker: In the previous two episodes of Build, we talked about why, even if you have an idea, you might not get investment from it, and it needs to be a big idea in order to even attract interest. But even if it’s a big idea, chances are investors aren’t going to say “yes.” In today’s Build episode, we’re gonna uncover all the reasons an investor may say “no” to your big idea, so stay tuned.

Welcome to Build, brought to you by Pivotal Tracker. I’m your host, Poornima Vijayashanker. In each episode, innovators and I debunk a number of myths and misconceptions related to building products, companies, and your career in tech. Now, one misconception that a lot of first-time founders fall prey to is if they have a big idea, some investor’s gonna want to put capital and fund it.

The truth is that a lot of funders face noes, and just because they face noes doesn’t mean that someone won’t eventually invest in them. In today’s Build episode, we’re gonna explore all the reasons that investors may say “no” to your big idea. And to help us out, I’ve invited both Ooshma Garg and Danielle Morrill.

Ooshma is CEO and Founder of Gobble, and Danielle is CEO and Founder of Mattermark. They’ve both recently become investment partners at XFactor, an investment firm that’s focused on investing in female founders and mixed-gender teams. Thanks a lot for joining me today.

Danielle Morrill: Absolutely.

Ooshma Garg: Thanks for having us.

Poornima Vijayashanker: We’ve come a lot way since that first South by Southwest where we all shared a hotel room in 2010, and all of us have gone out and fundraised a number of times. I want to start by asking the two of you, what was that first no like that you got from an investor?

Danielle Morrill: I was bummed. I mean, I think the first 10 investment meetings were just noes back to back. First, you’re like, “I guess that it would happen. I would get a no,” but I’m like, kind of the straight-A’s type kid. I keep thinking, “Of course I would get a yes every time,” and then after you get them over and over, you’re like, “Oh, maybe this just happens. Maybe this is true that you get way more noes than yeses.” What do you think?

Ooshma Garg: Man, you know, your company is like your baby. It’s a reflection of yourself, so the first no, and even ongoing noes, they’re always so personal. I think you get a little bit used to it because you just build some armor and build some strength every day and every year as an entrepreneur, but especially in the very beginning, it’s kind of like a survival-of-the-fittest process. You have to be able to psychologically get through the noes, take some feedback, and develop that never-quit attitude early on if you’re going to be successful ultimately.

How to get over rejection when fundraising and keep going

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah. So, how did you get over that? How do you even know that you should just take the feedback, deal with the rejection, and keep going?

Danielle Morrill: I made a fundraising playlist on Spotify.

Poornima Vijayashanker: OK.

Danielle Morrill: I think it’s Jay-Z who says, “On to the next one.” I used to blast that song, like after every pitch, actually after the good ones, too. But honestly, you kind of just have to keep living, and I think part of it is just putting it in context with the rest of your life. Having a playlist for me was sort of a reminder of, “Oh, life just kind of goes on.” It’s fun with your team too, I think, to just be…I guess not everyone does this, but with my team at the very early stage, it’s not like you can hide the fact you got turned down.

Later on when you’re raising, maybe you don’t tell everybody that you’re raising a series A, but when you’re raising early stage money, you get your team to cheer you up. They buy you beers. You do silly things. You kind of have to let life keep happening so that it doesn’t get too serious.

Ooshma Garg: Yeah, I agree. What’s funny is my fundraising song is “Survivor,” by Destiny’s Child.

Danielle Morrill: How many people do you think have a fundraiser song?

Ooshma Garg: I don’t know. This is the first time we’re talking—

Danielle Morrill: We need to make a playlist.

Ooshma Garg: We need to make a playlist.

Danielle Morrill: That’s a good idea.

Ooshma Garg: We need to make a playlist for our portfolio.

Poornima Vijayashanker: We’ll link with the playlist to you guys. So, do you ever go back to the people that said “no?” Because you guys have done multiple rounds now, where you might have had to go back to those early investors who said “no” and ask for more.

Ooshma Garg: Absolutely. In our case, even our first check as a seed investment, it took me three different introductions, multiple follow-ups, to even get in the door before the no. After someone says “no,” it feels very final, but I think that the big secret is that you have to go back and that you should keep following up. Time and time again, I hear friends talk about series As, series Bs, and so on, where they got a no. They were…they kind of welcomed it and took all the feedback. They updated different investors every week for two months, three months, sometimes six months, and then they close that same investor. They might be a Sequoia, or Andreessen Horowitz, or what have you.

All those funds are looking for stamina and looking for breakout businesses. A breakout business has to have someone that’s willing to listen, iterate, and improve. So, the funny thing is, you should see that as just the beginning of your relationship. For our venture financings, we had multiple failed fundraising attempts and then ultimately successful ones. Our funds that invest in us now, Andreessen Horowitz, Trinity Ventures, etc., absolutely said “no” once or twice before. But I maintained that relationship.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah. What about—

Why it’s valuable to reconnect with people who said “No”

Danielle Morrill: You have to think about it like sales. Like, would you have never contacted a lead again because they didn’t convert at the end of the trial? No. If you are in my database, I am going to be talking to you for the rest of your life. If you’re in this business, there’s a certain set of investors that you really wanna work with. Frankly, they’re looking for the people who don’t take it so hard that they never come back, to your point about stamina. I think also, once you go back to people a few times and kind of…you have that feeling of like, “This feels like it’s against the rules to go back.” Then you realize that it’s actually respected, and so it’s a self-fulfilling thing, and you start to find yourself going back more and more.

How to push for specific feedback

Poornima Vijayashanker: Well, it’s great that you got feedback, but I think a lot of times, you get this generic feedback, where it’s like, “I wanna see more traction,” and you’re like, “I’m already at, you know, 10k in monthly recurring revenue,” or, “I’m already at, like, a million-dollar run rate,” like, “How much more traction do you want to see,” right? So, how can you kind of push an investor to give you more directed feedback in that note?

Danielle Morrill: Well, I mean, I think…We sit on both sides of the table now, so I think sometimes it’s laziness that causes people to ask for these things. So, for example, the “I wanna see more traction.” It’s kind of like going into Macy’s and being like, “Why isn’t this a Dior dress?” It’s like, OK, if you want a Dior dress, maybe you should go buy one. If you wanna find a company that has, like, $5 million a year of revenue, and you’re at seed stage, sorry, this is what we have, and this is what I’m selling, and if it’s not what you’re interested in, it’s fine for you to turn me down, but I’m not…this is not a buffet where you can come back anytime between 10 and 1. I’m trying to raise a round.

You kind of have to, at least inside, hold a certain amount of entitlement over your time. It’s not that you need to be entitled to their money, but you’re running a process, and I think that that is really important. So, for a lot of these unclear feedbacks, I think it’s more important to say, like, “What do you think of what I’m selling now? And if it’s not clear what I’m selling, let me remind you and redirect.” Honestly, you have just as much a right to claim your time as they do.

Ooshma Garg: Absolutely. And you have to kind of draft or pick your draft, in a way, with your investors. There are ones that I really wanna follow up with, and I would love to work with, and it’s not just from my side of the table. I think, just like with employees or anyone else, or with a relationship, you want it to be good with both sides. So, you might see something that they don’t, but they’ve only known you for 30 minutes. You’ve done all your homework. You know what they’ve invested in. You know the other founders.

So, you don’t just follow up with everyone. You hear the noes. Sometimes, it’s not even worth following up. Sometimes it was an introduction, and you didn’t really connect. A no is OK. Other times, it comes with something that says, “Our fund requires x, y, or z. Someone at this stage. We need this much ownership.” It’s important to know what’s a BS no and what’s actually a valid no. Sometimes…it took me a long time to learn that funds vary drastically in size, and that actually has a huge impact on who can invest in you at different times in your lifecycle. So, timing is important.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah, hold that thought. We’re gonna come back to that in a little bit, the whole fund size, and what makes sense and what doesn’t. So, but let’s go on to some of the more easy things that you hear and might get rejected. So, I don’t know if either of you have faced this, but the whole, “You don’t have a technical co-founder.” And somehow that’s like a gating factor to even get a dollar out of this investor, right? You hear things like this where you’re just not meeting a certain checkbox. What’s been your response to that sort of stuff?

Danielle Morrill: It depends on the checkbox. Basically, what I would say for technical co-founder or a lot of these is, they’re like risk boxes. So, each one…it’s almost like if it was a survey, and you added up enough points, then there’s too much risk here. It’s probably no one reason that’s gonna knock you out, but they’re trying to figure out where you fit. So, technical co-founder is not necessarily a problem if you nail everything else, but if you don’t have a product, and there’s no one to build it, then of course, that’s gonna be expensive.

So, I think it’s—sometimes the way it seems to be coming across to the investor is like it’s a checkbox thing, but they’re really trying to ask a bigger question. So, I think one thing I’ve found is that it’s good to say, like, “Tell me more about why you’re worried about that,” rather than just answering the question, making them elucidate more. Cause I’ve been surprised by some of the answers that I get. The technical co-founder question, I think the assumption is, who’s gonna build the product? And they might just be thinking, “Dang, we’re gonna need to go raise a big round because you need to hire two or three engineers instead of building it yourself.”

They’re not actually worried about you not being technical. They don’t care that you’re not technical. They’re more like, “OK, so now I have to assess fundraising risk cause this person’s gonna need to go build a team.” So, it’s easy to think it’s about you, and, “Oh, you can’t code.” And then you kinda like lock down and feel guilty, but I think that’s not always the case. A lot of these things are not actually what they seem on the surface.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Right. Yeah, I think another one along those lines is also, “Why are you working on this idea?” Right? So it’s, what puts you in that unique position to kind of own domain expertise? Have you guys ever gotten that question, like, “Why this? Why Gobble, Ooshma? Why help people with cooking at the end of their day?”

Ooshma Garg: Right. Well, Gobble is a lucky one for me because it’s a mission-driven company, and it started out of my family. What we do is we help people cook home-cooked food in 15 minutes in one pan, and we bring this tradition, and ritual, and love of a household into the modern, busy life. That’s something that’s very near and dear to me. So, because of that, it shows that I’m just gonna give it my all and not quit.

I think some folks stumble on an opportunity sometimes. You are…you’re just a inventor, and you want to tinker around, and you try finding what’s gonna fit in today’s zeitgeist. Just like founders come in different flavors, I think investors come in different flavors, too. There are investors who are great at investing in arbitrage opportunities. There’s investors who really wanna back founders, or social good, or mission-drive folks. Or they wanna back moon-shoots. Or some people wanna back things that have a linear, direct, immediate path to growth.

So, I think having that context when you assess someone’s response to you is really important because you kinda, just like with your friends, you have to find your tribe with your investors, as well.

Is the market for your product big enough?

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah. So, there’s definitely this sizing-up thing, and I think one of the early signals is, they don’t feel like your market is big enough, maybe because they’re not aware of that market, or maybe they don’t get the space. Have either of you had that situation where you come in, you’ve already got traction, you’ve got the go-to market team, products in the hand of customers, and they’re just kind of scratching their head, like, “Oh, is food…do people eat dinner still these days? Is that still a thing?” How do you deal—

Danielle Morrill: Oh my gosh. I actually don’t think it’s worthwhile to continue to have the conversation, and I have to shout out to Hunter Walk, who wrote an excellent post about this, I don’t know if you guys saw, around a woman who was pitching, and someone said like, “Convince me this market’s big enough.” And she just said, “Look, I don’t wanna work that hard. I’ve already got traction, people eat dinner, right?” I think there are times when you’re looking at this investor, and you have to consider, if they don’t get it at this point, especially if you’re doing something where you have traction, and it’s fairly obvious that the market is big… I mean, most of us…if you’re building breakthrough tech, you might find a situation where markets are unclear in terms of size, like Blockchain, for example. But in most cases, these are professional investors, and they may be testing you, and they might wanna know what you know, so it’s worthwhile to at least give them a rough answer, but I would take it as serious data, if they need to be convinced that the market’s big enough.

The other side is that, not all markets need to be big to be interesting. It’s more about if you can create something that can grow. Obviously creating a market that doesn’t exist is a really valuable thing. So, again, I think it goes back to flipping the script a little bit in terms of trying to make sure you understand what they’re really getting at. Like, do they not know? Are they testing you? Are they gonna be a huge waste of your time?

How to get to the real question they are asking

Poornima Vijayashanker: How can you kind of suss that out? Are there questions or techniques?

Danielle Morrill: I would just start getting curious, like, “How much do you know about the market? Have you invested in this space? Obviously you’re interested in us. What do you think?” And it doesn’t have to become combative. It’s much more of just, like, how does this become a dialogue instead of playing 20 questions, where you’re doing all the talking? I think about it kinda like a job interview, I think, in both parties are confused about who’s interviewing who, and you really wanna make sure that you find a balance where it’s not you, as the founder, talking 80% of the time.

Ooshma Garg: The framing is so important. So, if you’re getting some feedback repetitively that, “I don’t understand your market,” or, “I don’t understand your path forward, or your path to revenue, or how you’re gonna hire,” then you do have to take that feedback and try to iterate and improve your pitch itself. I think that every company…it’s very hard that you meet a perfect de-risked company at an early stage. They all have some mini risks, and often times, one big risk. So, sometimes it’s, “Wow, there isn’t a market for this, but we see that being the future.”

Other times, there’s a really big market, but maybe it’s crowded. So, the question is, how are you gonna be, for example, defensible in the food space? Other times, it’s…you have something defensible and proprietary. It’s a huge market, but no one’s willing to pay for it. So, people aren’t willing to pay for music, or TV, or whatever. So, how are you even gonna make money for something that everybody’s using?

Whether it’s revenue, market, defensibility, IP, every business typically gets stuck, I find, on one big discussion. The better you can hone your slide and your couple lines to make sure that your message is getting across properly, and that resonates, it’s just to your advantage cause people have such limited time with you and attention span. You know what is gonna be the hot button in your pitch, so identifying that early and practicing that part the most would probably do you well.

How to get at an investor’s hot buttons

Poornima Vijayashanker: So, we previously had Marie Perruchet on the show, and she talked about taking your pitch and then seeing how other people reformulate it, or what are the pieces that they extract? That usually becomes these hot-buttons, or the thing that is most memorable that maybe you need to dive into. Are there other ways that you guys have found to extract that information?

Danielle Morrill: I think…reformulating, literally having someone pitch it back to you, is that what you mean?

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah. As one technique to, like…what’s sticky, what is impactful, but then there’s the other case of, yeah, what is the hot button that people are probably gonna step away from?

Danielle Morrill: I mean, I think one of the things that is really interesting is whenever you’re opening the conversation with an investor, at the very beginning. If you can get them to tell you, like, “Hey, what do you know about my company?” Because that actually is gonna tell you a ton about what they’ve already decided you’re doing, and it’s sometimes really wrong, or it’s like…you know, there’s a lot there, and then you can kind of work from there. If you notice that, pretty consistently, people are having the wrong idea, I mean, kinda to your point about feedback, it’s another way of getting—

The reality is, people act like you setup your pitch, and then you go out. But you actually create your pitch, start to go out, and then you’re continuously iterating on the pitch. So, you have so many opportunities to make the pitch better. I actually look at the first 10 pitches or so. I kind of set up pitches with targets where I would be interested in working with them, but they’re not my top picks, so that I’m actually running the pitch against those folks. That way, if the first three or four say that their first impression of you is different, then you can realize, “Oh, the market already knows who I am.” Very rarely do you get to just go pitch, and no one knows who you are. That’s another tactic that I think can be really helpful.

Finding investors who are a fit

Poornima Vijayashanker: So, coming back to kind of Ooshma’s point around finding investors who fit into one of many opportunities, like arbitrage, moon shots, love the space, etc., there’s also people who really get beholden to certain stages, right? They’re like, “Oh, come back and talk to me once you’ve figured out your customer acquisition cost, or your lifetime value,” right? Are there ways in which you’ve been able to address that, even if you don’t have those metrics yet?

Ooshma Garg: One concept I keep running back to is that MVP concept, or minimum viable product, or even like a prototype. So, with my first company, the vision was to make this recruiting platform for universities all around the country. I made…I started by making wireframes, and envisioning the product, and keeping it simple, but thinking through those wireframes. But then, an advisor kind of looked at that, told me to scrap the whole thing, and said, “Why can’t you just start with a mailing list? You’re making a recruiting platform. Why don’t we just see if there’s people interested in your concept, and can you get 10,000 people, or 50,000 people, or how ever many students on your mailing list?”

At first, I was offended because I thought, “Oh my gosh, a mailing list is not a tech company.” But often times, you can think about some scrappy proxy or prototype to prove what the person is asking, even if you don’t have that exact number or the software or resources to get what exactly they want.

Poornima Vijayashanker: So, what’s an example…yeah, if somebody throws out, like, “Ooshma, early days, three years ago, what was your LTV?” And you’re like, “I don’t have an LTV because I don’t know,” what would your response be to that?

Ooshma Garg: You know, I probably do two things. So one is, I would look at comparables in the market, and so, just doing studies of the general food industry, in my case, like how often people order takeout, or how often…what are people paying for SAS for these particular products each day, or whatever’s relevant to your market. I mean, I’m assuming that you’re…that you have some prototype. Very few companies pitch pre-product, so whatever data you have for three months or six months, there has to be something there, some monthly active users, how many times people are logging in, how many purchases people have made.

So, you just have to…I mean, our seed round was raised off of two to three months of early prototype data. I think that’s all you need. It’s just some prototype that shows some user willingness to pay or engage for three months, and then you can extrapolate that into your vision.

How to handle disagreements

Poornima Vijayashanker: Now, there’s obviously times where people may disagree, right? They may say something like, “You know what, Danielle, I don’t like your distribution strategy. I really just don’t think it’s gonna work. So, you know, cause I think it’s gonna be expensive. Come back when you’ve figured out something that’s a little bit cheaper. Then let’s have the conversation. But, for now, no.”

Danielle Morrill: It seems like an opportunity for them to prove their value-add as an investor. You know, I think that’s valid for people to challenge strategy, but I think, what I would wanna know in that situation is, “If you were my investor, what would you suggest that I do? I totally hear your concerns.” Make sure to show them that you’re listening, but I think that’s their opportunity to step up and actually offer something constructive. I think if they’re gonna be in an investor where they’re gonna be critical without being constructive, that’s actually data for you.

The truth is that strategy’s tough. Strategy often breaks down, and we change strategy all the time in startups. That’s a huge part of what you’re testing. So, I think being gracious and not taking it personally is important, but also making sure that you’re asking them to demonstrate their value. I actually think that’s gonna make them want to work with you. If that goes well, that’s actually gonna be a way to test out, what would this working relationship be? So, I think that’s…see it as an opportunity.

Poornima Vijayashanker: I like that.

Ooshma Garg: Yeah. And most people kind of…they send you that no via email, and I’m sure that the large majority don’t even ask further questions. Some may not even respond, and others might respond and say, “Thanks for your time. I’ll move on.” But some small percentage are asking follow-up questions, and I think that’s just making them stand out and starting that relationship that we said is so important.

I think that if you really did like someone, and their no isn’t tactical or directional enough for you, to ask for a 10-minute phone call just to get a little bit more detail or their advice on strategy towards de-risking that investor’s concern, I think can go a really long way. So, I think folks should just practice embracing the no and getting that 10-minute call and feedback as much as possible because that will help give them building blocks for another three months, if they can, and not just sort of wander aimlessly, wondering what someone was saying, or worse, completely ignoring it.

Danielle Morrill: Right. If you’re gonna go and worry a bunch about the feedback but not ask for the follow-up, go round and round in circles over three glasses of wine, it would be much less painful to just have that awkward 10-minute call and just know where you stand. I think I’ve seen founders go in circles over this stuff. Literally years later, they’ll tell these stories. It’s just not worth the energy. The investor’s also probably super uncomfortable giving the rejection. We’re gonna talk a little bit about saying no on the other side. So, they’re kinda beholden to you to give you that 10 minutes, honestly, so you should take it.

How to know when an investor isn’t a fit

Poornima Vijayashanker: Now, there’s a lot of times where it’s very obvious, you know, they tell you, “Here’s the no,” but…aside from some of the ambiguous feedback around the traction, there are times, though, where they may see a signal. Maybe it’s something that happened in a meeting between you and your co-founder, or something else. Maybe they did some back-channeling, right? How do you handle those situations where they might feel like, “Oh, there’s no chemistry,” or “I’m not sure where this is going?”

Danielle Morrill: It’s tough cause they usually don’t tell you.

Ooshma Garg: Yeah, they usually don’t tell you. I think that’s quite rare, as well. I think the way…the best way to handle that or avoid that is actually to construct your own back-channeling. So, like I said, some of the biggest investors, they will only invest based upon referral. Then, when you get so, kind of, well-known and in high demand, they’ll only invest based upon two or three referrals. So, every single step is just like hard work. You can’t ask for one intro. You can’t just take the no on face value. You have to ask for three intros. Then you have to ask for follow-ups. Then you go to the meeting. Then you follow up on the meeting, and if they say “no,” you follow up again. There’s all those little, little, extra steps that other people are doing that I think more folks should know about.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah, and invest their energy in that versus what Danielle said, around the drama in their heads. So, anything else you guys have heard from your experience? Any other noes that we maybe haven’t covered? I know there was some of the stuff that Ooshma was talking about, like the type of investors. Maybe we can dive into that a little bit?

Ooshma Garg: Yeah. I think…Well, with regards to the noes that people give, one of the toughest ones is simply just environmental. There are times when you’re starting a company, and it’s just a rough funding environment where it’s just rough for your market. There might be bigger companies who are…for whatever reason, they’re not doing well on the public markets, and that’s affecting you. So, like the stamina, managing your psychology, being frugal, focusing on just the minimum prototypes, all of that’s so important because the main thing you need to get to yes and get funding is time. You can correct a lot of things in the noes overtime, but there’s some environmental factors you just have to weather.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah, let’s dig into that a little bit more. What do you mean by like, public companies? “How does that impact me? I’m just a two-person start-up, why should I care what Google or Facebook is up to?”

Ooshma Garg: Yeah. Well, hopefully your aspiration is to be a big public company, or to just be a big organization in general, and to be, one day, going from wherever you are to making hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars of value for your shareholders, for your employees, for your customers, and so on. So, investors will look at the current state of the market, at the public market, to understand what’s happening in your industry. How are those companies valued? What are your chances of getting there, of breaking out? What is it gonna look like when you IPO? That trickles all the way down and influences your valuation, even as early as at the seed stage. So, it’s very well-advised to not be delusional and to take a look at the public markets of your industry—

Poornima Vijayashanker: The landscape, yeah.

Ooshma Garg: —and be able to speak to that. I think people will be very impressed.

Paying for a previous founder’s mistakes

Poornima Vijayashanker: I think another situation is, often, we have to pay for previous mistakes. So, the investor might have invested in a space when it was too young, or maybe the founders that they invested in weren’t that knowledgeable or were the first. You know, just a number of factors to where, now, they just aren’t willing to look at the space, or even…no matter how amazing you are, they’re like, “No, sorry, not interested in the space. You might be amazing, unicorn person, but I’m just gonna say ‘no.’”

Ooshma Garg: I would take that no. It’s kinda like in relationships. Someone had some issues with another girl that looked like you, or whatever, like it is not your—

Danielle Morrill: He is never gonna stop saying that.

Ooshma Garg: That is not the best guy for you. So, there are many investor fish in the sea, and I think that’s just when the numbers game comes into play, and you have to make sure that you’re not just talking to five, you’re not talking to 10, but you have a big target list that you’re just setting up and rolling through.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Awesome.

Danielle Morrill: I think one other thing that is valid but complicated is, people might say to you, “This isn’t venture-backable.” I actually think that’s very helpful feedback to hear. Whether you agree is sort of beside the point. Find out why they think that. Sometimes, investors know things about markets that you never…can’t learn until you’re in them for a long time, and they can save you years of your life.

So, part of why people get a bad taste in their mouth often has to do with, like, a poor-margin business that can never get better, or a business that caps out somewhere, and there’s this trough of sorrow that seems to go on forever and ever, and you don’t get to find out until you’re a $50-million company, which is great, except for when you have a huge burn rate and expectations. So, especially if you’re entering a market where you’re fairly new, maybe you’re a software-centric person, but you don’t have domain expertise, those types of noes can tell you a ton about things that.

It’s easy to say, “I don’t care. If I get to $50 million of revenue, I’ll deal with that then.” And you can still make that decision, but I think the key is to actually make sure you understand that no because they are in the business of billion-dollar outcomes. They might know something that you don’t, and they might be able to help you redirect towards something that is worth it.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Alright, well thank you, Danielle and Ooshma, for walking us through all those noes. For all of you out there who are watching, if there was a no that you recently received that maybe we didn’t unpack, feel free to share it with us in the comments below this video. That’s it for today’s episode. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel where we’ll continue the conversation and talk about what it’s gonna take to get that yes from an investor. Ciao for now!

Build is produced as a partnership between Femgineer and Pivotal Tracker. San Francisco video production by StartMotionMEDIA.