A 22-year-old who once pitched Justin Caldbeck has built an anonymous tool for rating investors


Anthony Zhang Know Your VC
Anthony
Zhang, one of the creators of Know Your VC

Anthony Zhang

Like so many male Silicon Valley founders, Anthony Zhang was
shocked when he read that a prominent tech investor, Binary
Capital’s Justin Caldbeck, was
accused of harassing female founders
.

And then he read that another famous investor, 500 Startups’ Dave
McClure, admitted to being a
“creep” towards women.

“I’ve actually gone through 500 Startups,” Zhang told Business
Insider. “I knew Dave McClure personally, and had pitched Justin
a few times.”

Zhang went through 500 Startups with his food delivery startup
EnvoyNow, which he then sold to JoyRun for an undisclosed amount.

It troubled Zhang that he knew these investors, but knew so
little about their bad behaviour.

“It was a complete blindside to not know that side of their
character … before pitching them,” he said. “I got to talking
to other founders and sharing stories. Lots of [stories] showed
behaviour that was very biased, or flat out disrespectful. Like
having five meetings, being really interested, requesting lots of
information, then never calling again.”

His solution? A kind of Glassdoor for VCs where, instead of
rating places of employment, people rate investors.

Zhang has spent the last month building Know Your VC, a platform where founders
can anonymously or publicly submit reviews and comments for any
investor.


Know Your VC
The Know Your VC
homepage

Shona Ghosh/Business
Insider


Founders who want to leave a review or comments need to sign
up (and be verified by Zhang’s team). For now, anyone can
search for and read reviews for any investor.

This is one of the reviews that shows up if you search for Justin
Caldbeck.


Know Your VC Justin Caldbeck
A
review of ex-Binary Capital partner Justin Caldbeck, who resigned
after admitting to sexual harassment.

Shona Ghosh/Business Insider

There are some obvious gaps here. There’s nothing here flagging
the allegations against Caldbeck, or the fact he’s stopped
investing for the time being. It’s the same for Dave McClure,
who resigned from 500
Startups
. Zhang said his team plan to add tags that will flag
negative news coverage, and whether the person is still an active
investor.

While founders can submit open reviews, they can also ask to
submit comments privately in a kind of personal log. They
can then ask to be alerted if someone else submits something
similar about the same investor. For a female founder hesitating
about whether to go public about harassment or discrimination,
that could provide important support.

Zhang is also hoping to add an anonymous chat function so
founders can swap tales through the platform, but that’s a way
off.

He’s already had to deal with at least one VC trying to trash
another’s reputation.

“We have filters and flags for when, say, five emails get created
and they all review one person poorly,” he said. “We can tell
who’s signed up. We had an address bashing one VC but could see
on their LinkedIn that they were interning for another VC firm.”

Still, defamation seems like an obvious problem, particularly
since investors rely heavily on their networks to strike new
deals.

For now, Zhang is relying on the company’s terms and conditions,
which stresses that users are responsible for the truthfulness of
their reviews. And he said no one’s complained about negative
reviews yet.

There’s a team of five behind Know Your VC, who are building out
the platform in their spare time. Zhang said there are almost
1,000 reviews on the platform, and “a few thousand” founders and
investors using the platform already.

It’s already spread to Europe. Business Insider heard about Know
Your VC from an early stage, British female founder, who thought
the project was broadly positive. Though she also likened it
to a particular episode of dystopian drama “Black Mirror”,
where people rate each other every few
minutes with their phones

Harry Stebbings, a young British VC who has cofounded a new
investment fund with Fred Destin — an
investor accused of inappropriate behaviour
— is an
early adopter for the service. He told Business Insider: “It
is incredibly hard for founders to know the right VC for them and
so any product that brings transparency to the market will be
welcomed by the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

While there are existing resources for founders such as
AngelList, there aren’t any platforms that vet angels or
investors publicly. Most founders rely on private networks and
groups to share information. Ultimately, that’s probably still
the best way for founders to get the most candid views on an
investor, but Know Your VC is a good first step towards
transparency.

For now, Zhang’s focus is on growing Know Your VC and on quality.
“If it becomes the Glassdoor of VC, that would be amazing,” he
said.

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