The VC Giraffe Killer – No Asshole Policy and the Importance of Getting a Good Fit with Your VC Partner

The VC Giraffe Killer – No Asshole Policy and the Importance of Getting a Good Fit with Your VC Partner

Reading the news of US dentist Walter Palmer killing Cecil the lion for sport and social media descending on him forcing the closure of his dental business made me think of this contribution to my last book about a VC who paid €200k to kill a giraffe. In this case I will keep the identity of the VC confidential. Good behavior in the business world and the VC industry matter more than ever in a new world of camera enabled smart phones connected to endless lists of friends and contacts on social media. It can be a matter of life and death for your business #ReputationsMatter.

Here is the contribution from Dutch entrepreneur Martijn Tjho, former CEO of Fuga (IndependentIP), to my last book. I never included it in the book, because McGraw Hill, my publisher, forced me to cut more than two thirds of my word count to shorten the book to roughly 200 pages. So I’m happy to share this great story with you now. A few lessons here. When you are taking a salary cut or no salary to work on a startup one of the few things you can control is whom you decide to work with. When you work in banking, consulting or a big corporate I can almost guarantee you will be surrounded by assholes and be forced to deal with it. As a co-founder of a tech startup we adopted a “no asshole policy” in 1997 and have stuck with it. Things can get rough at a startup. If you have a world class asshole on your team or board it will just weaken the fabric of your team when you need to sail through a hurricane and come out alive and thriving. I co-founded Rubicon Venture Capital with my best friend. I could not agree with Martijn more!

From Martijn in his own words…

One day during 3GSM [3GSMA Mobile World Congress] in Barcelona we had a day of meetings in the “Arts” hotel. We just started Independent IP (IIP) and were raising money. We invited the VCs to come to our room and discuss the proposition. At the end of the day, right around cocktail hour two guys from a fund in Sweden came by. I did my pitch and we drank and socialized. After a couple of cocktails and a summarizing of assets he owned, the VC guys told me about their summers. The first couple of weeks one was at his “Chateau” in the South of France (pics on the phone proved the existence) enjoying food, good people and his own wine. Three cocktails later the rest of the summer was revealed. He was at a safari in Africa and paid 200,000 euro for killing a Giraffe.

Obviously we didn’t do a deal, the click wasn’t there, but this guy is now known as the “GK”.

For me this was the clearest moment of where I was sure this deal would never work for me. It’s like the worst investment of 200k Euros I’ve ever seen. The key of a successful relationship with investors is mutual respect and love (passion) for what you do. The next morning my partner and me laughed about the “GK” and decided to institute a “No Asshole” policy.


Martijn Tjho, former CEO of Fuga (IndependentIP)



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