What to Do When Investors Say 'No'

Succesful pitch investor

Start-ups should not lose heart when they do not find investors right away. Keep doing business, keep pitching your idea and above all don't lose your conviction.

“No.” It is unfortunately the most common response we as investors have to give to a lot of startups. Of course, that response affects the entrepreneur, but such a rejection is also frustrating for the potential investors. In fact, in most cases we say 'no' to courageous and ambitious entrepreneurs we highly respect, and without whom we would not even have a job. Would it not then be easier to approve as many dossiers as possible? Would it not also be better to avoid saying 'no' so as not to miss out on a successful exit? 

Let's take a deeper look together at the origins of the “no”, because start-ups must not lose heart. The honest, but painful "no," avoids wasting time for both parties. Volta Ventures receives over 2000 business plans a year. We have no choice but to be selective. Each investment fund also has its own business plan. For example, we want to invest in three to six new start-ups a year. In 99 percent of the cases we have to give a painful 'no'. An investor simply does not have enough funds and time for that many cases. Some of the reasons for saying 'no' are very objective. You can normally find them on each investor's website. For example, each fund has its focus. The proposition must fit the chosen sector, region, and life stage. For Volta Ventures, the sector is B2B internet and software, the region is Benelux, and the life stage is early-stage companies.  

Furthermore, it is essential that it clicks with the team right away, because as a fund we are entering into a long-term collaboration with your start-up. We want to gain confidence in your team and feel that the team has the necessary knowledge, passion, and drive to execute on the plan and conquer the market. Even if the business plan is still largely imperfect, as a fund we wish to get a good idea of the market size, competitive advantage, sales and marketing strategy, number of customers, downloads and trial runs. In addition, the expectation about the valuation of the start-up should not be too far from what the start-ups themselves think about it. No matter how much sympathy we may have for your start-up, at the end of the day we must be convinced that together we can realize a nice return. 

Maybe your file just isn't coming up at the right time. Ongoing files always get priority. For example, one of the portfolio companies is closing a financing round with a US fund, or a company is in turbulent waters. Sometimes you knock on the door of a fund that is at the end of its term. As a result, investors don't have enough available capital to accept new filings or are in the midst of working on a new fund. A “no” is not a discouragement, it is just part of the process. 

Sometimes the start-up does not pass the tough test of the market. It might even take you longer than a year to raise funds. Life is for the persistent. A "no" is not a discouragement, but an opportunity to learn and do better. Keep undertaking, keep pitching your idea, and above all don't lose your conviction. There are plenty of other venture capital investors, business angels, crowdfunding initiatives, loans, government grants, and - best of all - customers, who generate revenue. And if it's any consolation, there are as many companies that got our "no" and still became showstoppers as there are companies we went in with that didn't make it.

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Logo of Volta Ventures, Venture Capital Firm in the Benelux with offices in Amsterdam and Gent
Venture Capital Fund


Gebroeders Vandeveldestraat 68, 9000 Gent
Rouaanse Kaai 1, 2000 Antwerp 

The Netherlands

Herengracht 236, 1016 BT Amsterdam
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