I’m pausing my open office hours – at least for now. I’ve held open office hours for early-stage founders since May 2019. By “open” I mean just that. Any founder can sign up for a free slot – no warm introduction required, no fee, no hoops to jump through. It’s cold outreach that results in a guaranteed meeting with an investor.
Over the last two years, I’ve met with a lot of great founders. I generally schedule office hours for 4-5 hours per day, 3 days per month. Each slot is 30 minutes long. That’s well over 400 hours of open office hours and more than 800 meetings with founders. Pre-COVID, these were mostly in-person, first at random coffee shops around the city, then at Luminary, a co-working space in Nomad. Since March 2020, they’ve been virtual.
The overall response has been strong – all slots typically get filled at least two weeks in advance. I get to meet many interesting founders in retail tech, DTC brands, marketplaces and ecommerce platforms. Most are usually too early to fund, but hopefully the feedback they receive from me is helpful. In many cases, I’m the first investor the founder has spoken to, so I can help them hone their pitch, practice answering investor questions, etc.
But they’re not all gems. There are certainly founders who haven’t done their homework on what I invest in and pitch me startups that are completely in the wrong industry or stage. That’s a waste of both our time, but it happens occasionally. But the absolute worst is the no-shows. I have a strict cancellation policy that is listed in the Calendly invite to the meeting – if you cancel at the last minute or no-show, I will not take another meeting with you (note: a few times founders have reached out to cancel because of a family emergency/illness – I will reschedule for those types of reasons). I thought that instituting this policy would be enough to discourage no-shows. But it’s clearly not.
I’m seeing more and more no-shows over the last year. Last week, I held office hours from 1pm to 5pm – that’s 8 half-hour sessions. Three were no-shows. It goes without saying that it’s disrespectful to schedule a meeting and then not show up for it as it takes away a slot from another founder, but it’s also a complete waste of my time. And honestly, who doesn’t show up for an investor meeting?!
While I’ve met some great and interesting founders through my open office hours, I’m ending them for now. I hope I can find a better way to run them in the future, especially because I love to help and work with early-stage founders, especially women and underrepresented founders that don’t have the investor/startup networks that other founders may have.
In the meanwhile, I have lots of resources for you – here and here – and let me repeat that you don’t need a warm introduction to reach out to me. If you want to pitch me or simply get feedback on your early-stage startup, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and if there’s a fit, we’ll go from there. I’d love to hear from you!