Who: Jim Breyer, Managing General Partner, Accel Partners
Players: Breyer and two entrepreneurs
Purpose: To get beyond the business plan
Why I Never Miss It:
These meetings generate a dynamic exchange between pure business logic and deep personal motivations.
Like any topflight executive, Jim Breyer spends the bulk of his working hours in meetings. Unlike most, the 36-year-old managing general partner of venture capital heavyweight Accel Partners comes to the table only if the stakes are high and the action is guaranteed. "Venture capitalists are critical-path driven," says Breyer, who migrated from product marketing posts at Hewlett-Packard Co. and Apple Computer to become one of the most influential voices in the high-tech investment vanguard. The most important meeting in his day is
The Entrepreneurial Pitch
It starts with a business plan — more than 5,000 cross Accel's transom every year. But Breyer knows that his search for the next big thing depends less on his ability to read plans than to read people. "The quality of the people is the single most important element in making an investment decision," he says.
Make it personal. It's impossible to divorce business discussion from personal history.
Due diligence. We get 5,000 business plans every year from startup companies, we meet with about 250 teams, and we invest in just 10 or 15. Before meeting with entrepreneurs, I make sure I know the answer to some key questions: "Do they know the business cold?" "Have they considered all the risks?" "How competitive will their market be?" Then I can focus on what's important — the people.
Informal. Restaurants are best.
Classic Silicon Valley casual.
Slide shows for the business presentation — not in a restaurant.
The business presentation is very interactive. Someone who is so structured that they have to go through each slide will not only have trouble in this meeting but also will have trouble as an entrepreneur. We look for entrepreneurs who may be somewhat short on experience but who exhibit tremendous flexibility and a desire to make things happen quickly.
The first measure is time: if they can't get the message across in one hour, then there is something wrong. The second is gut: we come away from every meeting with a strong feeling about the team.
Matt Goldberg is an editor for Tripod (http://www.tripod.com).
A version of this article appeared in the August/September 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.