I enjoyed taking Guy Kawasaki’s VC Aptitude Test (VCAT), but was aghast to find that I got a 39 (out of 40) on it. (“Call Sequoia and Kleiner, Perkins and tell them that you’re available,” Guy advises for people in my score range. Thanks, but I’m not!) Obviously the test is based primarily on self-identification of skills, so I’d probably score lower if someone else were examining my answers. If I can score that high, though, the test is too easy, since I’d be a terrible VC, at this point anyways. So what’s missing?
I’ll suggest one addition, which I find is a good test of my own feelings about VCs: pretend that I just came to you with my life-long dream company and presented it to you, and you hated it. Tell me that you’re not going to invest in the company while making the meeting worth my while and leaving me with every reason to call you back if I have a better idea in the future. +2 points if you can do it. (It amazes me how often VCs will burn contacts with a bad first idea, considering that most entrepreneurs fail several times before succeeding.)
One more: take an energetic entrepreneur out to a fancy lunch so they can pitch their idea to you. -1 point for every bite of their lunch they get to eat. (Kidding, kidding. As an entrepreneur I love getting a free, fancy lunch, but if I get to eat the whole lunch, that means I’m not the one talking. It was usually a bad sign, in my view, if the VC I was pitching spent our first meeting talking — it meant they didn’t care what I was doing and wanted to tell me about themselves more than anything else. The best VCs I’ve met are all fantastic listeners, and I usually didn’t start hearing what they had to say at any length until after they’d decided they liked me.)
I can’t really come up with good suggestions for the test, since I think it’s nearly impossible to really test for VC aptitude other than by watching someone do it for ten years, unless the tester is themself a fantastic VC. I’m pretty sure I would score better on Guy’s test than Michael Moritz (backer of Google, Yahoo, PayPal, and others) would, and that says a lot more about the idea of the test than it does about Mr. Moritz or me. Likewise, how do I identify great engineers? There are questions I know to ask and tests I know to try, but I regularly, and successfully, hire people who fail what I would consider to be my standard tests. I have no idea of what formula or test I would suggest, other than looking for passion, and how do you test that but with your gut?
The real premise of Guy’s test is to discourage people aspiring to VC jobs now that the market is picking up again. There’s a quote I haven’t been able to find again though I’ve looked several times (any help would be much appreciated) from a successful author who also teaches writing classes. He said, when my students come to me and ask if they should become authors, I always tell them no, because if they’ll listen to me than they shouldn’t. I feel the same way about Guy’s test. Anyone who would take it and get discouraged by their score should certainly bail out. The next generation of great VCs won’t care what score they get.