BY THEO PISTORIUS
“Back the jockey, feed the horse”. – Unknown, but often bandied in VC meetings.
“Back the jockey AND the horse”. – George Deeb
“We better hope that that jockey survives his horse.” – T. Pistorius
Sit in any venture capital meeting, bank manager’s office or business meeting long enough and somebody is bound to spout, with a smug look on their face, a variation on “well, you know, back the jockey, feed the horse.” As if the sum total of investing in you/it/them comes down to horses, jockeys, and a quick gallop around the race track before a roll in the hay and a nap in the stables.
However, there is merit in it. But allow me to let you in on a dirty secret: before seeing all your shining awesomeness, your million-dollar pitch deck with seven-ways-to-Sunday financial modeling, and the scuff-marks on your trousers as you prostrate yourself for the smell of capital, (s)he checks your gut. No, not your intuition. Your actual flab.
“HOW DARE YOU?! I am immediately stopping reading! How shallow can you be! You must be lying!” Sure, go ahead. You are welcome to your opinion. But in every single investment meeting I have sat in (there have been a few), anywhere in the world, the first look from the investor was always around the mid-riff.
Reason for the look? Investors do their research. They know that the risk for heart attacks among entrepreneurs and business-people are six to eight times greater than other people in that weight class. Other health failures around 5 times from weight and lifestyle baseline. How healthy you are either minimizes or grows that risk.
The bank manager, investor, or loan provider wants to manage his or her risk. And no matter the soundness of their investment, that risk starts with you.
If you don’t look after your own health, and you are already a walking heart attack waiting to happen, it doesn’t matter how brand-spanking-awesome your idea, company or project is, the answer will most probably be “No”. It doesn’t matter if it flies like Pegasus and poops rainbows like Hello Kitty. Money talks. Money looks at your “pens”. And money doesn’t like a fat one.
Now before you shout at me (or any investor) about body positivism and fat-shaming, please understand: No, I’m not into body- or fat-shaming. Quite the contrary. You are welcome to the body you want or have. Absolutely. And yes, everybody is built differently. And you probably do have an excellent medical reason that I completely support and understand. But I am into managing my capital risk. And yes, investors do often mention it in their deliberation with each other, either by inference or plainly.
Why? Because if you pop your clogs, the investment/loan partner sits with double the risk: your lack of discipline around your own health, and his/her capital invested in enabling your habit.
Now if you managed to read this far and are not busy capital raising, investing, or borrowing, well done! You, however, aren’t exempt. The sad thing is that if you have a family, and are also not looking after your health, you just have to substitute “investor” with “life partner and/or kids.” What’s the cost? What’s the risk?
So let’s get it straight. It’s not about whether we like you or not. We really do like you. No matter how you look. And we think your business is awesome!
We are merely managing our risk. We’d like you to manage yours as well. We’d love you to survive this run around the race track. Who knows, there might even be a nap for us both at the end!
Theo Pistorius is an entrepreneur and investor who invests his time and resources in other values-driven entrepreneurs, causes and companies. He apologizes for his rudeness. He really hopes he can suck in his tummy too. His wife says it makes funny noises when he does so. And yes, he also likes hamburgers.