Questions I Wish VCs Would Ask Entrepreneurs (Hint: They’re Not About ‘Shareholder Value’)


Upendra Shardanand is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Daylife, which helps publishers add content and inventory without additional staff or engineering. He also co-founded Firefly Network, a spinoff from his work at the MIT Media Lab, and sold the company to Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) in 1998. Upendra was the founding partner at the venture firm The Accelerator Group, and was the Director of Technology at Time Warner (NYSE: TWX).

Several years ago, when I was with the Accelerator Group, we were in discussions with a music-industry executive about a music-related venture. At some point he e-mailed a request: He wanted my colleagues and me to send him a list of our favorite bands. A slightly puzzling request, but we complied


Upendra Shardanand

In this spirit, a piece in the NYT (

"At Harvard and other top business schools, there has been an explosion of interest in ethics courses and in student activities — clubs, lectures, conferences — about personal and corporate responsibility and on how to view business as more than a money-making enterprise, but part of a large social community."

(However, it seems only 20% of the graduating class has taken an oath to act responsibly, ethically and refrain from advancing their “own narrow ambitions” at the expense of others.)

Eva Blaisdell

Your comments refreshing and bright – I agree – boring and really old style non essential approach most of the VCs take make them unattractive source of funding – and not a desired partner as their creativity sacks especially if one is really creating a new

arun misra

Very thought provoking. Without the attraction of shareholder value investment will dry up but equally shareholders will not want to take the risk of being 'shot'. Strategy is the all important mean to the the end. So the questions like: What do you do make the place of work attractive? are important to strategy and delivery of SV.


what do you do to make your office a fantastic place to work?” or “would you disclose the identity of one of your users to the Chinese government


a revised formula taking into account factors as you mentioned seem rather unrealistic to me. Employee satisfaction = the majority does not want to be stressed or to be put under pressure, but (often)times it is needed (especially in crisis situation that we face)

for me sv if seen as longterm profit maximization (not accounting but free cash flow wise;) is still a valid financial goal. The reason why it has such as bad image is because of short-term goals of managers and greedy investors

Sagar Jethani

Very thoughtful piece, Upendra.

I am in an executive MBA program and am studying the argument for maximizing shareholder value in my finance class. It certainly is the prime objective for managers, as you mention above. I agree with your assessment– that running one's enterprise according to this sole objective is terribly myopic. Until someone creates a revised formula for value creation which incorporates terms for employee satisfaction and the public good (clean air, water, etc.), this obsessive focus on shareholder value will continue to wreak havoc.


As noted last week at ContentNext's econSM conference, several prominent investors stated that the traditional VC model is going to change and your observations & suggestions can help them to make the change. Imagine that others will have detailed thoughts on what ails the VC community and how to change their ways to adapt to the new world order.

Then again, there will probably be lots of anonymous comments given no one wants to irritate a potential investor with candid observations…

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