Dear VCs: Look at the idea, not the postcode

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Some posts write themselves: Tape Tape Dispenser

I’m interrupting the normal coverage today to write about something I care deeply about. The long feature I wanted to post today will have to wait.

Let’s make one thing clear. The reason TechCrunch was started by Mike Arrington three years ago was to cover the wave of new startups appearing on the Internet scene in his stamping ground of Silicon Valley. Fast forward to 2007 and TechCrunch is a very well known blog with international reach and now country-specific sites like TechCrunch UK & Ireland, TechCrunch France and TechCrunch Japan. But the core proposition of what TechCrunch started with – covering startups, venture funding and ‘disruptive’ technology news – remains the same, whatever language you speak or wherever you come from.

That means here at TechCrunch UK & Ireland, even though often it ‘appears’ that I as editor will often cover news about startups coming out of the main conurbations like London and Dublin, frankly their location really doesn’t matter.

Let’s be crystal clear: I couldn’t give a shit.

In fact, I couldn’t give a shit where you come from or who you are. It’s what you do as a technology entrepreneur that counts.

It may well be that some of the more interesting companies will come out of the big cities, because, well, they happen to attract a lot of people. The chances are just higher as a result. There is also the issue that – let’s not be naive about this – the big capital cities usually provide access to the largest funds and backers.

But that’s not what this post is about. What I am driving at here is that even though a technology entrepreneur or a developer with just a plain good idea might not come from, say, London, they should still be given a fair hearing.

If you are sitting in deepest Cornwall, the most forgotten street in Glasgow or a suburb in Sligo, you could still be sitting on a potentially disruptive idea. And that’s what I love about this market. Anyone can have a go.

Which is why I was saddened to get this email today from an aspiring entrepreneur who is trying to win funding for his idea. I have decided to remove his name and location so as not to prejudice his chances:

Hi Mike

I am just dropping you a quick email to help expose what I think is a serious issue with the UK tech industry. As a developer I have been working on a web based product for over a year. There is a huge (untapped) market for this product, it requires minimal overheads and has potential for a massive amount of growth.

So, what’s the problem you may ask?

Unfortunately I am based in XXXXX, which has virtually no VC organisations. Therefore I am having to approach VCs in London. The problem is that they do not have the slightest interest in talking to people such as myself, unless you are refered to them or meet them personally. This is a very big problem from my location! I am taking the time to travel to London in November, but getting VCs to meet you is an even bigger problem.

I’m sure you have lots of other issues and topics to address, but people in this industry exist across the country and its very hard for us to break into the market.

With your position at TechCrunch UK, you have a lot of influence and if you ever have the time to address this problem with the correct people, you would have the support of a very large number of entrepreneurs / developers / CEO’s from north to south.

Many thanks for your time.

XXXX XXXXXXX

OK so I have no idea if this guy’s idea is any good. For all I know it sucks. It could be the next Google or the next Boo.com (version 1). Who knows.

But what really makes me boiling mad is that he is not getting a fair hearing from potential backers. Yes, maybe he is barking up the wrong tree and doesn’t need VC funding. Maybe he just needs a friendly push towards a different type of backer.

But it behoves people like VCs to give an entrepreneur a straight answer, not waste their time, and – from first principles – hear their idea first and not care where they come from.

Let’s also be clear that most VCs or venture backers do not behave in the way that this guy’s experience suggests. This week I had lunch with a guy from one of Europe’s biggest venture funds and even he will take a phone call or look at a PowerPoint of an idea, even if only for a half hour. But that’s the crucial thing. He looks at ideas, not the person’s postcode.

Unfortunately there remains a significant minority of potential backers who do still behave in this appalling way.

I really hope that this post will go some way to convincing people who are prejudiced against technology companies, concepts and ideas coming from “the regions” to realise that this prejudice is almost as bad as racism. Because from where I’m sitting, the end result is the same.

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