Understanding Investor Etiquette - Accelerating Asia

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It’s normal that as disruption continues to move across borders there arises new homegrown founders across emerging ecosystems like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Pakistan, Vietnam, to name a few. We have seen the first wave of unicorns built by diaspora founders returning home.

These founders were able to effectively self-fund and more importantly communicate and build relationships with stakeholders outside their domestic ecosystems. It is particularly important as the domestic angel investor and venture capital markets may still be maturing. As Founders, we all want to communicate, build trust and work with the best investors, I know I did. Adding to a person's trajectory becomes a whole lot easier when there’s a shared standard of communication, for our words, behaviours, terms, body language, and teams. Shared etiquette is the easiest multiplier to unlock and attract the best stakeholders, for the next wave of rockstar founders.

The adult mind makes about 35,000 conscious decisions each day. Now let’s think about that for a second. That’s 35,000 decisions and innumerable insecurities and aspirations bouncing around within the human mind inside 24 hours. As founders you can structure your communications and stakeholder engagement to capture value within the swathe of decisions your stakeholders will make in the next 24 hours.

What we’ve talked about above are the reasons for biases and pattern recognition. The next is an awful truth and one of the biggest opportunities. Wait for it…… capital allocators (founders and investors) do use obsolete rules of thumb and nepotism. From brand names in your work history, ye ole alma mater, or sourcing from an existing social network. There’s no intentional malice in this, it’s just how trust was scaled before we had other mechanisms, like an active GitHub account.

With all that said, [Whisper the next part] There are disproportionate returns available to capital allocators that can actually decipher real value before those making their 35,000 decisions on outdated pattern recognition realise.

Forgive me for bluntly paraphrasing but I recall a prominent Silicon Valley angel investor saying “I invest in female founders, founders of colour and other minorities exactly because the rest of the market under-values them”. It’s no different than investing in an emergent technology whose value is yet to be seen.

With all that said one of the main jobs founders have is to make it easy for capital markets to connect with labour markets. Capital markets full of investors and labour markets full of founding teams. And one of the easiest points of friction to remove in making it easy for capital and labour markets to connect is having behaviours that make it easy for people to become your advocates.

This is an easy multiplier to be unlocked by rockstar founders in emerging markets. So I’m going to detail my own logic for how differences in etiquette form, starting with upbringing, environmental factors and finally some of the quick fixes that can be applied outside of longer form coaching.


Most of the time when we see a difference in etiquette from founders or founding teams, it’s relevant to their upbringing. And it’s quite relatable for me because I had a working class upbringing. It can be intertwined in a drive to seek out an institutional education because our parents said so, the validation seeking that comes with that and the resulting eternal search for self-worth through recognition. Some sub optimal signals of this I’ve seen are;

  • A sense of entitlement or status signalling in communications with suppliers or advisors.
  • Hierarchical statements such as “I told them/he/she” as if to say the telling connotes the doing.

Both of the signals above reduce, hinder or often stop any flow of value.

Environmental Factors:

Our environmental factors like where we grow up, who we meet and how we engage with them either support the above or they create the necessary stimuli to resolve it. This is also the reason why throughout history wealth can stay within families due to learned behaviours, because we learn behaviours and mental models of the world from our family, peers and immediate community. We’ve all heard that you become the average of the people that you hangout with. Founders that are able to effectively evolve as the business grows are able to;

  1. Maintain their composure through systems, emotional intelligence and awareness.
  2. Build new mental models and behaviours by interacting with role models and peers, with a growth mindset.
Quick Fixes:

Remembering that the reason we have shared etiquette and pro-active communication is so that we can remove friction to capital flow and economic activity. The outputs rockstar founders get right in bringing investors into emerging markets are below;

  • Building advocacy among stakeholders even when they are being paid. I see this when founders are conscious of asking for someone’s effort rather than expecting it.
  • Having a less than 24 hour email response time. Even if you don’t have an answer to the question, acknowledge the email or query and then get back as soon as possible.
  • Proactively sending a tentative invite or suggesting available dates and times for meetings, when an introduction is made or with follow ups.
  • An inferred respect of other stakeholders time. This is usually evident when someone provides context and details for a meeting or you can tell they’ve placed effort into research and work prior to asking for support.
  • Having the documents and collateral ready to close. When founders have their marketing collateral, pitch decks and basic deal room ready.
  • Sending monthly stakeholder and investor updates. Making sure that your supporters have plenty of avenues to support your journey and cheer for you and your team.

As you can probably tell from the steps it took to get to the quick fixes. Most differences in etiquette have no real malice attached, just a difference of the path in life we were given. With that said, the next wave of rockstar founders continue to multiply their impact on the world by being amazing conscious communicators.

Note: The above are quick fixes for dealing with parties external to your organisation. People that you may at times need to charge your “trust battery” with.


As part of the Accelerating Asia flagship program, we work with our startups to help them develop the skills necessary to deliver value to investors and effectively manage and community with them.

Startups in Accelerating Asia’s flagship program receive investment from our early-stage VC fund.  During our last recruitment round for cohort 3, Accelerating Asia received 450 applications from over 25 countries and we have touch points with 2000+ startups per year.

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