Skip to Content

Should Venture Capitalists Avoid Publicly Criticizing Startups?

Boom With A View by Erin Griffith: Startups and Venture CapitalBoom With A View by Erin Griffith: Startups and Venture Capital

This article first appeared in Term Sheet, Fortune’s newsletter on deals and dealmakers. Sign up here.

Last week CB Insights asked its readers to vote on a Twitter debate I got myself sucked into.

The background: Phin Barnes of First Round Capital criticized Goodwater Capital, a fellow VC firm, for publishing a detailed analyst report about Blue Apron. (First Round is a Blue Apron investor. Goodwater published a similar report for Snap.)

I asked Barnes whether he thinks every VC firm is required to support every startup, and he said, generally, yes: “Those in the industry should support the industry.” I disagreed.

So the question, posed informally to the readers of CB Insights’ newsletter, was, “Should VCs avoid public criticism of the industry / startups?”Here are the final results, which show 12% of voters agree with Barnes and 88% believe investors should feel free to criticize:

I expected it to be a lot closer. I understand how close-knit and intertwined the startup “ecosystem” needs to be in order to work. And I’ve been called a “hater” by plenty of thin-skinned founders. (Shout-out to the one that called me a “bat-sh*t crazy b*tch” for writing the truth about his acqui-hire deal! 😘)

But in the era of “open secrets” being exposed amid real questions about Silicon Valley’s culture and ethics, I think many in the industry are now wary of suppressing criticism of any sort. The era of blind cheerleading may be over.