What tradition is there in the startup world more timeless than dunking on VCs? Whether it’s the infamous @VCbrags Twitter account or startup founders themselves mocking the industry, there’s no shortage of hot takes on there around venture capital.
But if you’re a fledgling founder yourself, or work daily with these sorts of people, you may reasonably be wary of blasting a major VC on your Linkedin or Twitter page. After all - you do need their money to survive, right?
That’s where VC Guide comes in. This site allows founders to submit anonymous reviews about their experiences with certain investors from certain firms, assigning them a rating on a scale of 1-10 and writing a description about their experience. Though VCs are encouraged to respond to these claims, they seldom do. While the reviews on the site tend to skew positive - this is, after all, supposed to be more of a tool for startups than a VC Burn Book - there are still a number of overwhelmingly negative reviews and VCs who have apparently built up quite an infamous reputation for themselves.
For your reading pleasure, we’ve scraped the site’s reviews and data to create a list of the worst-rated VCs on the platform. Let’s briefly explain how the metrics work.
For each VC, we’ve listed three metrics: Average Score, Sentiment, and Review Count. The first and last ones are self-explanatory - Average Score is an average of all the reviews any given VC has. Sentiment, however, is a little more complicated. Our sentiment rating uses a tool for Python called VADER to quantify how the language in any given review skews. In short, it analyzes the language used in all the reviews for a VC and gives them a score ranging from -1 (overwhelmingly negative) to 1 (overwhelmingly positive).
Also worth noting is that our data is up to date as of September 17, meaning that any reviews added or removed since then are not reflected in our table or in our scores. This is why you may see a review count lower or higher than what VC Guide currently displays. We have also excluded any VCs with only one review in order to get a more complete sample. You can access our aggregated data here.
With all that out of the way, let’s find out who the worst of the worst are.
1. Erik Torenberg
Firm: Village Global
Avg Score: 2/10
Review Count: 6
Ringing in solidly as a definitive “worst” VC on the site is Village Global co-founder Erik Torenberg, who has managed to rack up five reviews with a score of 1/10 or 3/10, and only one positive one. Torenberg’s reviews characterize him as all show and no substance, and criticize him for caring a little too much about his Twitter following.
“After any reasonable conversation, you can tell he’s just full of regurgitated bullshit he read on Twitter,” one particularly scathing review reads. “Many folks have imposter syndrome, he really is an imposter. Should be an “influencer” rather than a VC, I think deep down that’s what he really wants.”
“Erik cares much more about his Twitter following than his companies,” reads another. “I feel like if an investor has time to tweet so much instead of you know...working with his portfolio companies that's pretty much always a sign that they're in it just for social status.”
The one positive review in Torenberg’s favor, a 10/10 sticks out like a suspiciously sore thumb. In contrast to the others, it paints him as a much more proactive and valuable investor than any other review. The anonymous poster claims to have received funding from Village Global, and states that Torenberg has been there day and night to help out.
If we’re to draw any conclusion from this group of reviews, it’s that Torenberg is perhaps a good name to have backing your business, but will provide little value. He’ll definitely tweet about you a lot, though.
2. Ursheet Parikh
Avg Score: 2/10
Review Count: 2
Wow. That is a low sentiment score. With only two reviews, Mayfield’s Ursheet Parikh manages to rack up the absolute lowest sentiment rating on the entire site. Both reviews share similar complaints as well.
“Smart guy but incredibly rude,” one review reads. “Cut me off 10 minutes into my pitch and told me all the reasons we were going to fail.” Somehow, this short but scathing review ranked Parikh at a 3/10. Maybe those were 10 very valuable minutes.
The other review says they got even less time. “Worst pitch I've ever had. Rudely cut us off about 5 minutes in and spent the rest of the hour lecturing us about how our product would never work, our technology wasn't any better than what existed and that the incumbents were going to crush us out of existence.”
If you’re going to meet with Parikh, take these reviews as a warning to get your pitch under 5 minutes. Maybe practice it in an elevator.
3. Lucy Guo
Firm: Backend Capital
Avg Score: 2.67/10
Review Count: 6
Backend Capital and Y Combinator founder Lucy Guo finds herself at number three on our list. We’d link to their portfolio, but it’s not available on their site at the moment. Apparently they’re getting so much interest, they’ve replaced their entire site with a simple Google Form. Like Torenberg, Guo has some strong negative reviews and one glowing one. Let's start with the bad.
“Lucy pulled Backend’s investment, then invested in our direct competitor a few days later,” Says the lowest-rated review. “She has some great ideas... but if you're looking for a trustworthy business partner, keep pitching.”
“Entitled and arrogant,” reads another. “Gets up and leaves if she’s not interested.”
Still, Guo is well-connected with links to Y Combinator, which is appealing to almost any startup. It seems to have worked out well for at least one reviewer, who gave Guo a 10 and wrote, “[Lucy is] super energetic and passionate about helping her portfolio companies with their pitch, deck, etc. She's also very well connected and her name alone got a few firms to close our Seed round.”
4. Alfred Lin
Avg Score: 2.75/10
Review Count: 4
Sequoia Capital’s Alfred Lin is next up on our list at number four. While Lin’s overall score is negative, it seems to be for a wide range of reasons, unlike for our previous three VCs. These reviews claim that Lin is either arrogant, unmotivated, or just didn’t get the pitch.
“Alfred was very underwhelming,” one reviewer wrote. “Asked a bunch of dumb questions, didn't understand the business, didn't take the time to get context to understand the business, and just generally felt like he didn't give a shit.” Apparently all this was enough to give Lin a 5/10.
Hilariously, one writer expressed legitimate concern for Lin’s wellbeing. “I want to send Alfred on an Eat Pray Love journey to rediscover himself as a VC because he just seems bored/jaded. I almost felt bad for him because he seems so over it. "It" being investing in startups and meeting founders who are putting everything out there and giving their all.” Despite the concerned rhetoric, this reviewer gave Lin a 2/10. Cold.
5. Brianne Kimmel
Avg Score: 3.5/10
Review Count: 2
Kimmel's previous reviews have been deleted and new ones have come in since we scraped VC Guide earlier this month, but overall Kimmel’s reputation seems to be that she's someone with a useful name, but not who you want to lean on in a time of need. Her two new reviews are middle-of-the-road and paint her as pleasant to work with, but extremely flaky and inconsistent.
Her now-deleted reviews, however, are not nearly as glowing. “Very loud on Twitter, but have heard that she’s all-talk/no-substance," one reads. "Has a bad reputation for being unavailable/under-delivering as an investor from her founders. But her brand name might mean something in the enterprise world.” This one may have been deleted as it hints that the writer did not work directly with Kimmel, but it speaks to her reputation nonetheless.
At best, it seems like Kimmel can be an enthusiastic VC who takes on too many projects at once. "When she engages it can be tremendous, but when she flakes on a meeting or doesn't follow up on a commitment it's frustrating. If I was her I would cool it with new deals and focus on NPS of current portfolio," wrote one reviewer who gave her a 6/10 rating.
6. Niv Dror
Firm: Shrug Capital
Avg Score: 3.5/10
Review Count: 4
Shrug Capital founder Niv Dror finds himself on the better side of this worst VC list, but that’s still not much of an accomplishment. The reviewers seem to have largely had a bad time with Dror, who appears to come to meetings rather unprepared and unenthusiastic.
“Clearly was unprepared for the first meeting - didn't review any of the slides or other materials sent ahead of time,” one review reads.
“Quite unprofessional, quite useless; Niv appears to want to look like a VC while not doing much in reality,” reads another scathing one.
Dror’s relatively young firm aggressively brands itself. It’s website shows a feed of people with the firm’s stickers, which read VALUEADD - apparently the firm’s logo. One reviewer had some choice words for those stickers.
“Niv treated me like he was better than me from the moment we met. He ended up writing a check and only ever reached out to criticize. When I was hoping to get insight from "mr value add" he would never respond. Ever.”
7. Ilya Fushman
Firm: Kleiner Perkins
Avg Score: 3.75/10
Review Count: 4
Our data from earlier in the month places Fushman at a solid seven on our list, but recent reviews have bumped him score up to a more middling 5.42. Overall, Fushman’s reputation is as someone who can turn on his word at a whim if he doesn't like your business. As is tradition, let’s go over the bad first.
“Very flaky and snakey as an investor,” the lowest-scored review reads. “Awful.” Nice.
Fushman’s more glowing reviews paint him as someone exciting to work with who is enthusiastic about their companies and willing to do whatever he can to help them out - especially if you’ve been with him a while.
However, one review in particular which rated Fushman at a 6 seems to meet both the glowing and the glaring reviews in the middle. “Quick to take a meeting, but doesn't follow through on what he says. Typical "let me know how I can be helpful" but likely won't be helpful unless he really likes what you're doing. Also can go back on his words.”
8. Pejman Nozad
Firm: Pear Ventures
Avg Score: 4/10
Review Count: 2
Founding Managing Partner at Pear Ventures, Pejman Nozad weighs in at a solid 4/10 with two reviews. Despite his low score, however, the sentiment rating seems to reflect that people have don't feel as strongly about their negative experiences with him as with others on our list.
The one substantive review for Nozad, which seems to be from some health tech startup, describes him as confused and ill-prepared. “His team mistakenly identified us as a YC company and as soon as we mentioned that we were not at the in-person meeting, he immediately lost interest,” the review reads. Didn't get a strong sense that he understood tech or healthcare.”
The other reviewer appears to bear a personal grudge. “Seems to spend more time relaxing nowadays than helping founders (maybe still riding off his Dropbox IPO from years ago),” they wrote. Is the reviewer upset that they’re not jet-skiing during COVID-19 off the back of a tech IPO? Maybe. Either way, it looks like this reviewer and Pear weren’t quite a match.
Note: Pear Ventures led Thinknum's seed funding round.
9. Jason Calacanis
Firm: LAUNCH Fund
Avg Score: 4.25/10
Review Count: 4
The Co-founder of LAUNCH, Jason Calacanis is one of the most prevalent names in VC these days, and his firm’s investments are highly sought after. One reviewer puts it simply - “He’s Jason Calacanis.” Apparently being Jason Calacanis nets you a 9/10.
But still, his average score is below 5/10 and his sentiment score is the lowest of anyone on the upper end of this bottom-tier list.
“One of the most predatory investors working right now,” a 1/10 review reads. “Exceedingly non-standard term sheet that harms companies that don't know any better. Avoid at all costs.”
One very thorough review, which rated Calacanis at a 4/10, describes him as an extremely well-connected VC whose usefulness begins and ends at his rolodex. “All in all, a very smart & well connected person, with his heart at the right place, who is very knowledgeable in the VC scene, but never really built a meaningful tech-product himself and won't be there with you "in the trenches.”
Interestingly enough, Calacanis actually responded to a reviewer who claimed that he kept pushing them to join his accelerator and wanted too much power for a seed investment. Calacanis seems to have doubled down on his advice, however.
“Many founders are getting bad advice, telling them to push off forming a board until they raise their Series A,” He responded. “Getting a couple of short, one-hour board meetings in before you get your Series A done will help your startup land quality investors and avoid many pitfalls. All the best, Jason.”
If some of the names on this list have shown us anything, it’s that big names are useful up to a certain extent. They may provide you with connections, but they won’t be there to tend to your wounds. If you’re after these types, it’s for the rolodex.
10. Nan Li
Firm: Obvious Ventures
Avg Score: 5/10
Review Count: 2
Obvious Ventures manager Nan Li ranks completely in the middle of our list at a perfect 5/10. Unlike other inductees on this list, Li’s reviews don’t paint him as a bad VC per say, but just as an extremely opinionated one.
“Comes into a meeting with a strong thesis and won't deviate from it. He seems to know his shit, so if you fall within this view of the world, this is good,” One reviewer who gave Li a 6/10 wrote. “However if you don't fit in as a module to his already understood view of how ML will affect healthcare, no chance. That said, honest and straightforward with his process, gave reasonable feedback.”
Another paints him similarly, but somewhat aloof. “Overly theoretical at times, and up in the clouds, but good to think out loud with.”
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.