Mixed Feelings About “The Funded”

10/1/07Follow @daphnezohar

Am interested to hear what people think about this website (www.thefunded.com) where entrepreneurs rank venture funds. I like the concept of shifting the power dynamic and keeping venture funds on their toes but I have a few issues with the execution. My biggest problem is that there doesn’t appear to be any objective quality-control mechanism. There’s an anonymous individual who runs it and there’s no way to check if he has issues with specific funds or if the thousands of entrepreneur-members even exist. He could also choose to selectively post comments/scores or delete others and nobody would be the wiser.

On the other hand, assuming that these are all real individual entrepreneurs and that this guy is above board, the concept is intriguing and has the potential to be powerful. I found it interesting to read some of the comments while others were so biased (to one side or the other) that their value was limited. There’s a clear delineation between the endorsements that are coming from funded companies at the urging of their backers and the comments from disgruntled entrepreneurs who were poorly treated (mostly during the pitch/diligence process). The most interesting potential comments would be those that can serve as due diligence for entrepreneurs. For example the post-term-sheet and post-funding interactions with specific funds. I didn’t see too many of those yet.

Daphne Zohar is the Founder and Managing Partner of PureTech Ventures, a Boston-based life sciences venture firm focused on translating academic innovation into commercial success. Follow @daphnezohar

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  • http://www.ecoastangels.com George McQuilken

    I wish the anonymous founder of “The Funded” was as respectful of other people’s privacy as he (she?)is of his own. Alas, I found my name and home phone number posted as the contact information for our Angels Group, the eCoast Angels here in Portsmouth, NH. Like many Angel groups, we don’t have a staff or maintain an office. Almost all of our investments are local. While we do appreciate the kind comments that entrepreneurs have posted about us, we don’t need a flurry of plans, proposals, and calls from all over the world. In fact, our ability to provide advice and assistance to local entrepreneurs is reduced considerably if we get on mass distribution lists.
    “The Funded” did let me update the listing, but first forced me to provide much more information about our group then I preferred in order to get my home phone off the contact list.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/dzohar/ Daphne Zohar

    That’s interesting – wonder how they got your home number….

    I actually think it’s a great site and I can understand the need for member anonymity but I don’t see how both the site administrator and all of its members can be anonymous and retain credibility. At a minimum the people running it should say “I have to protect my members but this is my reputation and you can trust it” or set up some sort of external objective audit committee (members who are known and respected) that does have access to all the information.

  • Chas Doubletree

    Welcome to the internet. How would they have gotten your home number in the first place?

    I take the opposite tack: I think TheFunded has to be anonymous to maintain credibility. Anonymity is necessary when telling the unvarnished truth as you see it. Telling the truth can get you into a lot of trouble. VC’s would love to know who runs everything because they probably dislike the scrutiny. As the Turkish proverb goes, tell the truth with one foot in the stirrup. This is a similar concept.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/dzohar/ Daphne Zohar

    Chas, that’s what makes the content interesting but it doesn’t address the quality control issue re: management anonymity.

  • Chas Doubletree

    When commentary is anonymous the expectation of objectivity is more contextual. In particular comments, you downgrade the importance of one really bad or really good comment knowing it is anonymous, but in the aggregate with hundreds of comments, overall patterns emerge. For example, if a particular firm is bad, this will be revealed in the aggregate aside from individual comments. Similar to how Amazon ratings work. Is it game-able? Certainly. It is better than a system where people must attach their name to their comment? Definitely.

  • Mike Bell

    Since when is ‘quality control’ applied to real world sentiment? If someone has a gripe with a firm I’d like to hear it first hand from the horses mouth – unfettered. I am perfectly capable of assigning my own “discount” to opinions if they appear to be a rant or from someone who might be a quack.

    Smart people don’t buy off on any one post as gospel. But if patterns or repeated issues emerge, they may be a good indication of something real to be aware of. This is potentially of immense value to an entreprenuer. And let’s face it, this honesty simply wouldn’t exist on a site that required identification.

  • http://OnStartups.com Dharmesh Shah

    I think there’s good potential here for some much needed transparency and visibility into the VC industry.

    There are clearly some tradeoffs with respect to quality and anonymity.

    However, one way to do this (along the lines of what Mike Bell said regarding patterns):

    Since the site allows people to agree/disagree with individual comments, it would be nice to start providing some type of “credibility” score over time. For example, if a given user has posted comments that many people agreed with (despite not wanting to post their own), that might mean something over time.

    The challenge with this is that individual entrepreneurs don’t often have direct experience with many VCs (so there’s not enough contributed content to establish a usable credibility score).

    Nevertheless, it’s interesting.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/dzohar/ Daphne Zohar

    I agree that a) the entrepreneurs/members should be anonymous, and b) that this a useful and important service that has potential. In fact, as an entrepreneurial venture group we would love to be able to share experiences and warn or recommend about those firms that treat early investors poorly or fairly. I would also like to exchange notes with other entrepreneurs/early investors and diligence firms easily.

    My comment about quality control can perhaps be best demonstrated by an example. Imagine that I want to launch a website that enables Boards of Directors to rank individual CEOs. I launch the site and get it up and going very quickly. I claim to have thousands of members who are Directors of major companies and only they can post comments and rank the CEOs. I am the only one who can determine who will be a member, I am the only one who can determine which posts or comments stay or go and I am an anomymous person. Furthermore, this site discloses business practices of private firms and makes personal comments about the CEOs available to anyone who googles them. How does anyone know that I am legitimately providing a forum for these board members and not influencing the results in any way to use this forum as my own personal vehicle?

  • Chas Doubletree

    “How does anyone know that I am legitimately providing a forum for these board members and not influencing the results in any way to use this forum as my own personal vehicle?”

    You can’t know. This is the way it is with all information. Just like in normal ‘journalism’, objectivity is a conceit. While we should attempt to represent the Truth, it is naive to expect anyone to write completely free from POV. As a reader, you need to be able to do your own research and take everything you read with a grain of salt.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/dzohar/ Daphne Zohar

    Chas the objectivity of journalism or lack thereof is an interesting topic but you’ve missed the point. We are assuming a sophisticated audience here in any case.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve joined thefunded.com and it appears to be a relatively good resource. The voting mechanism hopefully will provide some semblance of objectivity/credibility to comments that are made.

  • Mike Werner

    Daphne, good discussion. The key here is that these sites are *all* personal vehicles, your job as the reader is to try and figure out the motivation behind the ratings/comments and determine if they match your beliefs, experience or place in the game.

    Thefunded.com will work when you build a feedback/ranking site that can actually bridge/service both sides (entrepreneur and the VC). When you establish something from the outset that seems to position the site as “finally, we get to publicly roast a VC”, you open up questions into the viability of the feedback.

    The model assumes that the VC’s who are doing good work, are respectful and have good track record need not worry… but the anonymity of the person who posts provides cover for flames, retribution and all sorts of deviant behavior.

    Coming from Microsoft, I can give you a zillion examples of people out in the ether who sit behind the cloak of the keyboard and snipe, simply to snipe. You’ll always have these.

    You can’t look at the funded comments/ratings and apply it in a linear fashion to your own experience; but in conjunction with other data points, experiences and reference to come up with guess what… your *own* opinion of a partner or firm.

    So that being said, I have had pretty deep experiences with just about every one of the firms who are popular on that site… and frankly the comments are generally pretty right on from both the good/bad of these firms.