Do Venture Capitalists Have Feelings?

Just in time for Valentines Day, the answer to the question about VCs and emotions. Recently in a blog comment, I was asked a great question. What is the sense of appealing to emotion while pitching to VCs who have removed emotion from the process?

My response… yes we silly humans would like to believe we are purely logical, rational, thinking beings, Neuroscience says differently. We make decisions with the same part of the brain that we share with alligators, the limbic brain. That part of the brain has no capacity for language, is highly affected by vision, and is programmed to avoid risk, preserve its own life and continue the species.

This hard-wired programming is working unconsciously in the background and is illustrated in a recent experiment where a group of men were shown pictures of women and asked to rate their attractiveness.  The men, who were not told that there were two different pictures of each woman in the stack consistently rated the B version photo of each woman higher than the A version.

The difference? The B photos were women with a dilated pupil. The A versions were normal state pupil photos. The men didn’t consciously choose the photos with dilated pupils, they didn’t process this message in thier neo-cortex, the part of the brain where logic and problem solving takes place. This decision to choose the woman was made in the ancient part of the brain. The part of the brain that was developed millions of years ago, the limbic brain picked up the visual queue that dilated pupils are a sign of sexual attraction.

In other words, the old brain took over and chose the woman who was most likely to propagate the breed. Now yes, VCs have systems in place including group votes, formulas, due diligence, reference checks, yadda yadda. They limit emotion and gut feelings from having a major impact in the process. Yet the companies that get into the funnel frequently get into the funnel because they appear with the pitching equivalent of dilated pupils. So lead with pain if you can, appeal to emotion, get placed on the top of the pile.