We’ve been curious and asked some of our VC partners about that sour moment when they decide to swipe left on a startup. Turns out (as expected) it’s not just about the fancy pitch deck or product market fit; it’s about the vibes too. So what are those telltale signs aka red flags in founders that make VCs say “Thank you, next!”? Let’s dive in!

1. The market mystery

Picture this: You’re in a pitch meeting, and the VC asks you about your market. If you start fumbling and can’t answer basic questions about your competition, target audience, or where the money’s at, that’s a red flag. Market research is your treasure map, and without it, you’re just wandering in the startup wilderness.

2. Obsessed with your baby

We get it, your product is your baby, and it’s adorable. But if you’re so head-over-heels for your creation that you forget to talk about how you’re going to make money, that’s a problem. VCs want to know you’ve got a plan beyond showing off your product’s cute features – how do you monetize it?

3. Financial wizardry

Your financial model should be more than just numbers on paper. It’s your startup’s GPS. If you can’t explain the assumptions behind your financial projections, VCs might think you’re just playing a guessing game. You need to show them that you’ve thought this through.

4. The negotiation tango

Negotiations are like a first date. If you’re making it too complicated and turn everything into a battle, that’s a red flag. VCs want a relationship, not a wrestling match. They want to make a deal that works for everyone.

5. The honesty policy

Trust is a big deal in startup-VC relationships. If you start dodging questions or, worse, fibbing about your numbers, it’s a huge red flag. Keep it real; VCs appreciate honesty.

6. Mr. or Ms. Know-It-All

Overconfidence can be a buzzkill. If you act like you’ve got all the answers and don’t need help or guidance, VCs might think you’re not open to learning and growing. Nobody likes a know-it-all.

7. All or nothing

Avoiding full commitment to your business by having side hustles or other businesses you’re chasing is another flag. Running a successful business requires your full alignment, focus and time. After all,  if you’re not giving this your all, why should they?

8. Telenovela time

We’re all about work-life balance. But if your personal life is spilling over and messing with your business, VCs might raise an eyebrow. Keep that drama in check; your startup’s success depends on it.

9. Event junkie syndrome

Networking is fantastic, but if you’re spending all your time partying at events and not getting stuff done, it’s a red flag. VCs want to see results, not just selfies from the latest tech mixer.

10. Sherlock Holmes mode

Concealing info is a no-go. VCs will do their homework, and if they uncover any hidden surprises, it won’t end well. Keep it transparent; it’s good for business and for making friends in the VC world.


In the high-stakes world of startups and venture capital, recognizing and addressing these red flags is essential for a fruitful and lasting partnership. VCs want to support founders who are not only passionate about their product but also savvy about the market, financially astute, and honest in their dealings. Humility and openness go a long way in building trust, and a well-balanced approach to networking and work is crucial. Remember, it’s not just about securing funding; it’s about finding the right partners who believe in your vision.

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