18 February 2018
Alex Letts


Alex Letts - U

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Innovation in Financial Services

Innovation in Financial Services

A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.

VCs: how not to behave

30 May 2017  |  7643 views  |  0

I have anonymised my email chain below to spare the blushes (one hopes) of the individual and (reputed) VC firm involved. Otherwise it is intact. 

From: Alex Letts [mailto:alex@uaccount.uk

Sent: 24 May 2017 09:17

To: xxx

Subject: Re: Alex Letts | U-account meeting 25 May 12:00

Just confirming midday tomorrow (Thurs) at your office. Assuming that remains good, I will book a train ticket

Best wishes to U


Alex Letts

Chief Unbanking Officer | U

m. 07801 49 6464



24 May (1 day ago) to Alex

That is confirmed at our office.


+44 (0) 20 000000000

(24 hours later, speeding to London on the train from Sheffield for the agreed midday meeting, then this arrives.)

On Thu, 25 May 2017 at 10:05, xxx wrote:

Dear Alex, 

Unfortunately xxx has an event he now has to go to & will not be able to meet today.

Could we please re-schedule?

Please accept his sincere apologies.



+44 (0) 20 ooooo

Alex Letts <alex@uaccount.uk>

0:22 (3 hours ago)

to xxx

In the first place I am already in the train to come down from sheffield to meet him. 

Secondly I checked specifically yesterday that this meeting was good and it was confirmed 

Thirdly: this sort of arrogant and thoughtless behaviour is precisely why VCs have such an appalling reputation and I can assure you this only reinforces it.

I cannot even express in words how disgusted I am, and no, I do not, in the slightest bit, wish to rearrange.

You should be ashamed that you so treat your brand and reputation in such a cavalier and revolting manner.

Please pass this email on to him.

Best wishes to U


Alex Letts

Chief Unbanking Officer | U

m. 07801 49 6464



OK, so I went over the top. But when you pay £120 for a train fare, give up a day of rare time, and then get treated like a piece of dog excrement, trust me, the occasional outburst is really extremely good for the soul. (The individual has subsequently apologised with some lame excuse about a terrible misunderstanding with his, um, PA….quite what industry can justify using human PA’s these days is beyond me, but I guess if you are on 3% management fee, gotta spend it somehow). 

The reason for posting this is to highlight what appears to me to be an increasingly unhealthy attitude that is gaining traction in some VC firms. Many VCs have a start point that ventures are beggars with their hands out, not, essential partners. This attitude appears to be more and more widespread (though by no means universal). The industry should think carefully on this. The market has its cycles and entrepreneurs have long memories; thankfully also there are plenty of alternative sources of capital.

People may view my response to the firm above as (pick one or more, or add more): rash, rude, fatal, immature, a sign of not being investible etc etc, or even a sign of mettle and courage, but the truth is that sometimes VCs forget that without us, they would not get their management fees, let alone the chance to speculate with their LPs cash. It is us that take the risks (not them), we build new stuff, we disrupt, we jeopardise our families for dreams that may disappear in a puff (or in a share grab), and yet we innovate and keep going, whatever. And that (in my book at least) deserves respect, not this kind of contempt.

(The paradox is that we have built a stackless non-bank on behalf of the underbanked masses who get a rubbish deal from the banks. Until today I rated retail banking the worst industry for caring for their customers. Maybe it’s time for a radical disruption in the VC sector too)

Postscript: it wasn’t all that bad, I got home early, sat working in the Peak District sun (until my Mac shut down and needed to be put in the freezer – no really) and wrote this post.  


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