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Chris Smith


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Had a couple of meetings


Playfair had a strong intake process via Jeevan (Associate) and Khushi (Analyst), whose insightful two-way dialogue distinguished Playfair as a potential partner. However, the investment committee session with Chris’s partners was a one-way dialogue, in which the founders (including an English-as-a-second-language founder) were ‘grilled’ instead of productively engaged. The rejection email from Chris offered no constructive feedback and included a blunt statement that the session was “a little odd”. When we asked him to expand constructively, Chris stated that we appeared to lack enthusiasm in the final segment of the 3-hour Zoom session, and that we inquired too much about Fede (Playfair’s founder and sole LP). While this may not be everyone’s experience, we did arrive at these four conclusions: (a) Chris and his partners on the IC may not have figured out yet how to productively engage companies in a virtual setting; (b) Playfair’s stated decision-making process is dependent upon emotional impressions instead of business fundamentals, which is inconsistent with its ‘institutional’ branding; (c) the founder and sole LP of Playfair is unavailable or off-limits to founders doing their own due diligence; and (d) Chris’s feedback demonstrated an arrogance and/or unintentional lack of care for Playfair’s reputation, and stands in contrast to the professional communication standard of other funds and more junior members of Playfair. These conclusions are in conflict with Chris’s public advice for startups, particularly around founder due diligence and relationship building: https://www.forbes.com/sites/chrissmith1/2021/04/27/5-ways-to-avoid-buyers-remorse-when-raising-venture-capital/?sh=5a4786e64253. We ultimately closed the round, and with hindsight, Playfair was the least constructive engagement in the investment process. Chris’s communication standard, as the current leader of the fund, causes us to recommend that founders focus on raising elsewhere to make best use of time (~6 hours of meetings, ~4 hours of research, plus private data sharing). If strong investor communication is a priority, you will find a better partner for your company.
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