I got my start in the venture business with a summer job in 1986.
Back then the way you got in to see a VC was you sent (via mail) a business plan. It was read (often by me) and if it met with approval, you got invited in to pitch.
There were ways to bypass that process. If you knew someone who knew a partner at the firm, you could increase your chances of a meeting, but it still often required a business plan review.
To be honest, not that much has changed in the 22 years since then.
VCs are still notoriously hard to get to see. And there is a good reason for the protective barriers that VCs set up. There are an order of magnitude more entrepreneurs than there are VCs. If VCs were totally accessible, they'd be overrun with entrepreneurs.
That's one of the reasons I started this blog. Though I can't meet with a hundred entrepreneurs today, I can write something that a hundred entrepreneurs might read today. And we can have a discussion about it in the comments or via email (with disqus its the same thing except its public for all to see).
That kind of accessibility has been very eye opening to me. Entrepreneurs want access and we have to find a way to give it to them. The old approach of erecting barriers is no good for them and its not good for us either.
I was so happy to hear Saul Klein's reason for starting 0pen Coffee when I met him the other day. He wanted to provide access in an easy way for him and entrepreneurs. He picked a place where he'd have coffee every thursday morning. It worked, big time
Last night I went to a party on a bridge over the Seine hosted by Ballou PR. There were about 30 to 50 entrepreneurs there (and at least one all the way from NYC!). That's a picture of the event at the start of this post, and yes those are my kids laughing at me taking a picture on the upper right.
Collette Ballou warned me that entrepreneurs would be lined up to talk to me all evening. That was fine with me and it wasn't really like that. It was a party and I tried to talk to everyone I could.
It was access plain and simple. Will we invest in any of the companies I met last night? Who knows? But I met a bunch of people who wanted to meet me. It was great.
I know VCs who go to invitation only conferences. I refuse to do that. I'd prefer to go to a hacker meetup.
Its about access, not walls. That's what we as industry need to work on.