At Edison Partners, we believe that there’s no stronger relationship than the one an investor has with an entrepreneur and the management team. Trust and empathy are the foundations to a successful partnership.
There’s a reason for that. Mutual understanding is the prerequisite for a great outcome.
You each must work hard to deeply understand one another’s goals—which can seem at odds sometimes—as you navigate the growth-to-exit journey together.
Great entrepreneurs often have a vision bigger than money, which is a good thing; you can’t change the world without an idea. But that sometimes means an entrepreneur feels like an investor can be too focused on the financials. Entrepreneurs have to understand that we also have a responsibility to our investors.
There’s a story I like to tell about Flint Lane, CEO of Billtrust. We were about four years into our investment of Billtrust. Flint and I have a very tight relationship. I was on their board and we knew each other for a long time before Edison invested.
One morning Flint sits me down in a diner, looks across the table and asks me pointedly, “So is Billtrust no longer important to you?”
I nearly spit out my coffee. “What the hell are you talking about?” I replied.
Flint continues. “You know what, Chris? For four years, you were my go-to and you had lots of time for me. But in the last six months, it feels like you just have other things you’re up to. And I can never seem to get enough of your time. And your time is really important to me.”
Flint’s questioning started with the punch in the nose, but then he—smartly—backed off. What he was really saying: “Because I value your feedback so much, I’m making this statement. Not because I want to tell you I think you’re a jerk.”
I tell this story to younger members of Edison’s team as an example of a healthy relationship. Trust and candid communication are critical to a productive board, investor and management team relationship. The investor-entrepreneur bond outlasts a lot of marriages, so does your part to keep it healthy.
And Flint? He’s still the CEO. Edison exited Billtrust in 2018 with an over 10x return for our investors. My colleague, Kelly Ford, is now on the board, and he and I remain very close.
Chris joined Edison Partners in 2002. He is the Managing Partner and Chairman of the firm’s investment committee. He is the leading fintech investor on the East Coast, having led over 25 new investments over the last 17 years.