Investors are more cautious than they used to be, but a higher bar for startup founders means more chances to prove your mettle.New startups courting investors may face even more scrutiny and skepticism than they would have even a year ago. These seven venture capitalists explain what their due-dilligence tests consist of right now, and what it takes to pass them.


"The number-one indication of the company being successful or not is its customers. That’s where I start with due diligence," says Sonja Perkins, founder of the all-women angel/VC powerhouse group Broadway Angels. "I’ll directly talk or meet with customers and ask them the following three questions: First, ‘What is your problem?’ Second, ‘How are you solving this problem today?’ and lastly, ‘How would this new solution solve this problem for you?’" There better be a lot of customers to interview, she says, even potential ones.

"My favorite company is the one that’s doing well despite itself."

Perkins continues, "I don’t ask two or three customers, I interview several. My favorite company is the one that’s doing well despiteitself. Maybe the company’s founder isn’t too polished or the infrastructure is a bit weak, but if customers are dying to have the solution, I know I have a winning investment."

Laurent Grill, an investor at Luma Launch in Los Angeles, goes even further when companies are young. "Likely, early adopters of a product (e.g., Kickstarter) will skew into a smaller demographic than the eventual larger market," he points out. "We need to know an extended demographic that could adopt the company's product at scale." Grill continues:

Therefore, asking current customers of early companies about their experience can be misleading due to their intrinsic [knack] for risk-taking on companies or early products. Instead, I do a scalability risk analysis and reach out to the potential demographic for the company. This is an effective way to make educated assumptions on the ability for a company to bring their product to larger mass market.


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