Five Ways in Which Investors Say No… and What It Says About YOU!

If you’re a CEO, a founder or someone in the startup ecosystem, it’s likely that you’ll have investors who will pass on your investment opportunity. When that happens, these folks may make easy comments, like, “You don’t have enough traction,” or “Your market isn’t big enough.”


But more important than the NO itself is how an investor delivered it. Each NO gives you clues about the type of investor you’re dealing with, clues that will help you strengthen your next pitch, perhaps manage and save the relationship going forward, and possibly open the door to even more powerful opportunities.

Let’s start by looking at five types of investors.

Think back over your last pitches. Do you recognize these five types of investors?

  • The Ghost. This investor listens to your pitch. They may provide great feedback and ask questions. But they don’t say they’re not interested; instead they send subtle cues like yawning, being hard to schedule, checking their email messages, not asking questions, or dropping verbal queues like, “this is something I’d want to run by my partners and see if there is any interest.” If this particular Ghost has more than a kernel of empathy, you may get a cryptic note after you delivered your best pitch, almost always in email, with a warm excuse or pass, such as, “I don’t understand the market,” or “there’s too much competition,” or “Your company lacks the amount of traction we like to see.” Regardless of what you do, you’ll never hear from this investor again, and they are probably not interested. Don’t hassle the Ghost.
  • The Roadrunner. This investor listens to your pitch, is likely engaged and energetic; afterwards he or she tells you to call or email them as a next step. They give you hard-to-decipher feedback about their interest. You chase, and you chase, and you chase, but after calls and emails nothing ever happens. An encounter with a Roadrunner leaves you with the worst feeling, giving you hope when there is none. The more you chase a Roadrunner, the more tired YOU will be.
  • The Critic. From the beginning, this investor provides feedback, usually in the form of unwelcome criticism. They may seem keen on schooling you on the number of words on your slides or the fact that you used Google slides and not Microsoft PowerPoint. They lack belief in your market or your team or your product’s viability. They are not a believer but often insist on offering you a wealth of feedback and advice, yet no capital. In most cases, the Critic truly believes they are helpful, but without “investment” in you or your business or you. The Critic has the best intentions.
  • The Bridge Builder. The Bridge is an investor who passes on your deal, does so honestly but offers feedback and recommendations, and is willing to make connections when asked. They are clear and honest in their pass, and help you build bridges to their peers and other high-value assets.
  • The Amplifier. This person is the best type of investor and colleague. First, they tell you quickly that they’re NOT interested in your deal, and often straight up “why.” It’s rare for this investor to say you don’t have traction; the feedback is usually more detailed, maybe about believability, risk in you or the team, vibe, or comfort levels with how much you’re raising. The Amplifier proactively offers suggestions, and shares insights on how to improve your pitch and the business. They answer when you call and text, respond to your emails, and are POSITIVE about your prospects.They BELIEVE in your ability, and so focus on–and amplify–the lack of FIT.

Which type of investor will you get? You get the type you created.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re LUCKY if you get the Amplifier, right?

No, you CREATE the Amplifier, and the Bridge, too — the way you are introduced to the investors, your intentions for the relationship and the ability to read the clues and ask the right questions will dictate, in many cases, which profile an investor chooses and how they interact with you. You prep other investors to NOT be Ghosts or Roadrunners by getting permission to follow-up and by allowing the investor’s process to run its course. If you chase an investor who’s never shown interest, they’ll likely Ghost. If you chase an investor who needs more time to make up their mind, they may become the Roadrunner. The Critics? Well, just avoid those folks.

Know this: You are a leader. You can create relationships. You can design and co-create the types of relationships you want to have with investors. People often talk about investors and their tendencies, criticizing both. But if you want to raise capital, know that capital exists inside an ecosystem of relationships. Shape those relationships. Build them!

You can also create the types of introductions you’re after by prepping your network. Think about your network for a moment. Which trusted source could you ask to personally introduce you to an investor? Ask them to make that introduction through the process of brokering. Here’s an example of what they might say:

Thank you in advance for agreeing to meet Elysia, my mentee. She has an incredible business and is in a big market. I’m passionate about what’s she’s up to, and see a strong synergy between your fund and her vision. If it ends up that it’s an advice versus money situation, please share your feedback. I want the opportunity to continue to support the growth of this entrepreneur.

Ask your source if they’re willing to broker for you, and if they’re open to you sharing such language. If so, do it.

How to turn the NO response to your pitches into YES

Pitching also ushers in other opportunities, such as introductions to other investors, advisors and leaders. You have to listen to spot these openings. When you feel an investor moving towards a “no,” or that gray area that comes before a pass, the most powerful thing you can do is to pitch the relationship you want to have with them.

  • Hey, regardless of what happens here, I’m really excited to have you as someone to learn from.
  • You know a lot of other folks in the space. If you think about two or three people you could see me working with, who would they be? 
  • I saw that Bret is in your network and you were on a board together. Would you be open to connecting us?

Bottom line? To thrive in uncertain times, honor the fact that the right investor exists for your business. Your job is to be prepared, knowledgeable, fundable. Then do the work. Prepare your ground. But whatever you do, don’t chase investors. The right ones will make their intentions known soon enough.



Promise Phelon

There are so many amazing entrepreneurs out there grinding away each day. Each week, we are going to feature a different founder who asks us a questions here on AMA. You can choose to be anonymous when you submit a question or be named and put into the spotlight. This week’s question comes from Carla.

Carla: What do you need to do to get ready to launch?

Promise: That’s a loaded question! First, you need to do an internal audit to align yourselves where you are from a product readiness standpoint, where you are financially and what your marketing plan is before you head to market. That alignment is critical so that you can identify the gap and take effort to close that gap before you go out and launch without having a plan to carry through.




We’re introducing a few new elements in our TGW Weekly Warrior Update. The Weekly Wrap-up will highlight key news stories in tech over the past week. Of course, no surprise, the emphasis will be on the underdog entrepreneurs, their challenges and their victories.

  • Forbes’ experts offer great tips on how to lead your business – from home. LINK
  • How to make it as an entrepreneur, what behaviors you really need to succeed. LINK
  • Defy Ventures is working with super underdogs – inmates at dozens of prisons – and training them to be entrepreneurs. The result? Business success and a 5-fold reduction in recidivism rates. LINK



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