I work with a bunch of founders who have incredible stories, great pitch decks and solid businesses — and they get confused when investors turn them down anyway. A lot of the time, it doesn’t matter how good your company is. What matters is whether it matches up with your investor’s investment thesis.
An investment thesis is sometimes a detailed document, sometimes a deck and sometimes something as vague as “we know it when we see it.” What it has in common, though, is that this is a set of “rules” that the VC has. It presents this thesis to its own investors — the LPs — so they have a feel for what the venture firm will be investing in. Investing outside of this thesis is sometimes possible for deals that are too good to pass up, but it will often take some managing on the VC/LP side of things.
What makes a “wrong” investor?
For some funds, this thesis might be really broad — “all early-stage companies in California” — while others get pretty narrow: “$1 million checks into crypto startups founded by college graduates from New Jersey that have blue hair.”
If you fall outside of their “thesis,” some investors might still invest — if an extremely promising opportunity comes along, they will at least consider it — but remember that the “thesis” is what the investment partners used to raise money from their limited partners (LPs). If a fund starts deploying a bunch of cash into startups that are outside the scope of the thesis, the LPs will start getting twitchy and could lose faith.
What goes into a thesis?
Investment theses will usually include some combination of the below. Some funds care a lot about some of these things, and others are less sensitive. To some, these things may be a deal-breaker — and others take a more flexible approach.