Yelp for VC
So, there’s a Yelp for venture capitalists. Yep. We officially live in the future. It does exactly what it says on the nonexistent box. The service was built by Anthony Zhang, a successful Bay Area business founder inspired – “horrified” might be a better word – by the spate of sexual harassment exposed in Silicon Valley and, above all, the fact that he didn’t know about it when he was looking for funds.
It was clear to Mr. Zhang that for anyone unwilling to perpetuate that behavior or work with those who do, above all for people who have been or could be victimized, an environment was needed where entrepreneurs could speak openly about the personal and professional behavior of the venture capitalists they interacted with.
Enter Know Your VC
Know Your VC is basically a review site, like Yelp or Glassdoor. Contributors rate investors on a list of professional topics based on the usual five shiny stars.
Know Your VC also provides space for users to comment directly about their experiences.
In practical terms, it’s the same system throngs of Internet-enabled folk use on the daily to rate everything from multinational corporate culture to their most recent burrito.
In terms of the evolution of business culture, it’s a whole lot more. The investor/founder power dynamic has always been lopsided, as such dynamics are wont to be when they involve giant Scrooge McDuck piles of money on one side, and a person asking for help on the other.
In situations where social power is lopsided, that power gets abused. Not by everyone, not even by a majority, but it happens, and too much. That’s not a VC thing, it’s a human thing.
Addressing the human need
Know Your VC is a way of addressing that, ideally before it happens. What’s remarkable about Yelp and Glassdoor is that they’re a method of redress that didn’t exist a generation ago, empowering people poorly treated by, say, a boss or a landlord to register their complaint in a way that exerted a market-significant effect.
How fair that is, and how much power it should have, are open questions.
One of the vital issues in the Yelp/Glassdoor model, how reliable reviewers are and how many axes they presently have to grind, has yet to be fully addressed by Know Your VC, or indeed by Yelp or Glassdoor.
New kid in class
But Yelp and Glassdoor are still vital services (here are the numbers on what Yelp does to revenue, positive and negative) and Know Your VC could join that club. More importantly, it could also provide a vital check on abuse of power by some of the most powerful people in any business: the initial investors.