If startup CEOs want to anonymously rate, review, and criticize venture capitalists, they can still do that on TheFunded. But the site added a feature today called TheFunded Connect that lets members help each other with what they really want: introductions to those same VCs.
CEOs looking for funding can put up brief pitches, solicit comments from other members to refine those pitches, and ultimately get personalized e-mail referrals to VCs on their list from other CEO members.
Adeo Ressi, the founder of TheFunded, cringes when I ask him if he is trying to turn his site into a social network for entrepreneurs. “God no!” he replies. But when entrepreneurs network, it is to make business connections, which is exactly the purpose of TheFunded Connect. (Perhaps it is more a business networking feature than a social one, but you get the idea).
As part of the pitch, CEOs identify how much they are hoping to raise. For instance, Erik Weaver, the CEO of Digital Ribbon (described as an “eBay for CPU Cycles”) wants to raise $1.5 million on a pre-money valuation of $5 million. Widgeteer Khris Loux, CEO of JS-Kit, wants to raise a $5 million series A. Suzanne Xie, CEO of online closet site Weardrobe, is looking for $500,000 to $1 million in angel money.
If another CEO wants to refer one of these funding seekers to a VC he knows, an email can be generated through the site (but the referrer puts in his or her own email address to make it look genuine). To help fuel these connections, whenever members look at the profile page of a venture firm that another member wants to be introduced to, they will be prompted to look at the relevant pitch.
The theory is that a personal introduction can be the breakthrough an entrepreneur needs to get a VC’s attention. Automating this process fits in with Ressi’s belief that most startups need to do 30 pitches to get three serious offers.
Whether or not this will generate any referrals, at the very least CEOs can get some feedback from their peers on their pitches. The problem is that the pitches, at least the ones up right now, are a bit spare in their details. There is little background information on the companies other than what is in the one-paragraph pitch, no bio information on the CEOs, no slide decks, and no video presentations (cough, Elevator Pitches). That makes it difficult to recommend any startup based solely on the pitches. But those elements can certainly be added, and Ressi is exploring his options there.
If Ressi can create a community where CEOs can actually help each other get funded either through helpful advice or introductions (or, in the future—why not?—pooled capital), then CEOs will keep coming back to TheFunded. If the introductions and advice go nowhere, then they’ll stick to working their Rolodexes.