When I was a fund manager, we used to say that we invested in jockeys more than horses. And when it comes to “jockeys,” we learned that it’s amazing how much you can tell about them from their professional bios.
After 100s of multimillion-dollar bets on high-growth, publicly traded companies, here are some candid takeaways about those seemingly innocuous little paragraphs.
- Professional bios are for facts. As adjectives appear, savvy investors stow their wallets and run. If you’re a “visionary” or “paradigm-changer,” it’s best to let investors supply those modifiers.
- Institutional investors generally don’t care about hobbies, children, or religious affiliations, unless you start talking about them. And then it’s unlikely to be the result you hoped for.
- Seasoned fund managers really care about all your precise job titles and employers for the last 15-20 years. They’ve learned – the hard way – that when you omit or generalize about them, there is a reason and… it’s rarely positive.
- Reasonable people will differ about whether it matters where an executive went to graduate school when Reagan was president, but portfolio managers aren’t necessarily reasonable. If Tim Cook has to put his education bona fides in his bio, so do you.
And a parting word about IPOs and M&A. Particularly in the technology and life science industries, going public or getting acquired are coveted boxes to check. All “exits” are good, aren’t they?
Well, no, they’re not.
Where executives get into trouble is when they imply an exit was good, and diligence depicts the opposite.
I routinely come across bios that trumpet that “[the company I led] was acquired by [giant, impressive company]” only to find out that it was actually an asset/fire sale. Or, an IPO is regaled, despite the fact that during the executive’s tenure the stock went from $97 to $0.83.
Stuff happens. Fund managers get that. Everyone gets that. But being misleading about the “stuff” is a terminal offense. And in the hands of an experienced
forensics expert investor, Al Gore’s superhighway will rat you out in the time it takes to drink a large coffee.
And it gets even worse for executives who dabble in grey. If a fund manager lost money in your company and subsequently reads your rosy characterization of the same, they will spread their ire… liberally.
So, before you press send on your new company bio, consider channeling Eliot Ness instead of Adam Neumann.