Once the exclusive domain of academics, office hours last year were appropriated by venture capitalists who wanted to be more accessible. The idea was to let entrepreneurs schedule small blocks of time to discuss just about anything that was on their mind. Not to do formal deal pitches, per se, but to get feedback on ideas, introductions, a better understanding of VC deal terms, etc.
Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital deserves credit for the innovation, which has since been mimicked in VC offices and adjacent coffee shops throughout the country. But this post isn't about Josh. Instead, it's about the next evolution of his idea, from someone who is an investor in First Round itself.
That someone is Chris Douvos, who manages private equity investments on behalf of The Investment Fund for Foundations (TIFF). Chris is the only limited partner I know of with a personal blog, on which he just wrote the following:
I thought I'd hold office hours for private equity and venture capital GPs who might have random questions about anything from fundraising pitchbooks to annex funds to partnership tumult -- it can be anything that you wanted to confidentially ask a live LP, but were afraid to ask one of your own.
But here's the deal: no pitching! Let me be clear: this isn't an opportunity to get in front of me to sell your fund. Doing so will dump you in the interminable expanse of despair known as my to-do list. In fact, just like your introductory macroeconomics or organic chemistry professor, I will probably not even remember your name afterwards, but I will take comfort from having been able to dispense a pearl or two of wisdom in 15 minutes or so.
Like Josh before him, Chris is blazing a new trail. Limited partners are notoriously private, scurrying like mice whenever a nascent fundraiser approaches. Don't believe me? Go to a private equity conference and tell me how many LPs you see milling about during coffee breaks (no, speakers don't count). Or even try to find attributed LP quotes in trade publications (again, outside of a conference panel).
Unlike Josh, however, I do not expect many LPs to follow in Chris' path. In fact, I don't expect any LPs to do so. It's just a different type of crowd.
So if you're raising a fund and have questions to ask, be sure to catch Chris on his "tour." There may never be a better chance to get unbiased advice from an active LP ...