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Written By: Marc Halpin


What do VCs really look for?

It was 2015 and my second tour of the Sand Hill Road. The 5.6 mile highway will take you from Downtown Palo Alto to Woodside and sits halfway between San Francisco and San Jose in sunny California.

Home to Sequoia, Greylock, Kleiner Perkins, NEA and many more of the biggest and best, oldest, and most storied venture capital firms in the world. If you need to raise a chunk of capital to build out your tech company, you come here.

For about three months in the Summer of 2015, I’d jump on a plane every couple of weeks and fly from ORD to SFO. Some 4 ½ hrs later I was driving South to Palo Alto. I was raising a $21M Series B round.

The meetings went well that Summer. I’d meet analysts, partners, schedules would change, I’d be called back the next day, the next week. I was asked about TAM, CAC, and LTV – it was a total distraction from my business. It was crazy, exciting, exhilarating and I loved it!

I’d get back to Chicago quite often late Friday night or on the redeye Saturday morning and over the weekend conversations with my friends would revolve around who did I meet and how was it going, was I making progress? My friends seemed as excited and interested as I was.

Then it happened! My good friend Eric asked me a simple question over a beer.

‘What do VCs really look for?’

It was a simple question and I gave him a shortlist of answers. But he pushed me and suggested that “It must pareto to something right?” I didn’t answer, we finished our beers, but the question stayed with me all weekend. It was a question I should simply have known the answer to, but I didn’t.

My first time touring Palo Alto was back in 2011, my company was nascent at best then, in truth I had a PowerPoint and a friend who was connected which made me connected and for that I got meetings. The guys I met were kind and listened to my story, but I wasn’t ready. I bombed. I bombed badly!

This time was completely different, and Eric’s question helped me realize something critical about raising money, and when I really thought about it it was obvious. All VCs consider market size, some VCs are super focused on tech, others are all about the team. Some are thesis driven and are narrow in their deployment; others love particular business models.

There’s one thing though that captures all of their attention like nothing else.


What I realized was, what set me apart and what captured the VC attention was that my business was growing exponentially and that compelled some of the biggest and best VCs in the world to pay attention.

Growth creates curiosity. Growth challenges negative bias. Growth questions the concerns of a competitive market and growth creates confidence. To use a poker analogy, growth is a fantastic ‘tell’.

What do VCs really look for?



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