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Selling to Ahab, the Venture Capitalist

The number one comment we hear after describing our business as “selling CEO assessment and coaching to venture capitalists” is “How do you get past the VC’s ego?”

Yes, VC’s are necessarily smart and successful by definition, and many of them have very large egos. And yes, selling a service that inherently implies the VC can’t always do everything necessary to assist a startup CEO is fraught with difficulty. But, we believe FlashStarts can increase the likelihood of big returns with selected portfolio companies.

Ahab, the VC, hunting returns.
Ahab, the VC, hunting big returns.

Here is our approach.

Portfolio companies are like children; Some will end up as successes, others as failures while most will waiver precariously in between. You may claim to love them all equally, but you don’t. But, once they “join the family” you are stuck with them for good or ill.

There is a group of portfolio companies for whom our services can tip the balance between success and failure. Here are some characteristics to help you identify that group.

You would still invest today in the space. The business product/service still addresses a customer pain point and the offering has not been rendered moot by external events. But, the business is not showing the traction anticipated and board meetings, or your CEO relationship, have become increasingly unpleasant or unproductively contentious. This is a scenario where FlashStarts can help tip the investment back towards the light.

If replacing the CEO has crossed your mind, or even been discussed with your partners, but the level of resulting business disruption from harpooning the CEO has forestalled any decision, consider this company an ideal candidate for FlashStarts’ services. We come in as a disinterested third party, perform an assessment of the CEO and initiate a coaching plan to improve his/her performance.

Our approach is designed to complement yours. We are not interested in the strategy, only in improving the tactical, day-to-day skills of the CEO. We focus on sailing, not where to sail. You tend to navigation, we help the CEO tend to the rigging.

The CEO’s willingness to change, and enthusiasm for self-improvement can often be a key deciding factor for continuing to allow them to lead. Simply admitting there is a problem and accepting responsibility goes far in helping the CEO get the company back on track.

Over a period of a few short months, you can expect to see a more effective CEO emerge; a more successful company; and with that, a much greater likelihood of investment return.

Even where we are unsuccessful in transforming the CEO, our very process can help the CEO recognize their own skills mismatch and the realization that they will enjoy a greater financial return if they step aside and allow a person with a different set of skills take over the CEO role.

While some of the magic is in our process, some of it is simply structural. Relationships burn out, and the mere presence of a third party can help the CEO refocus on the startup’s success.

So cast a weather eye across the expanse of your portfolio, looking for struggling companies with flawed but eager CEO’s, and give us a call. Contact

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