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  • Gail Wong

Glasswall: Glassdoor for VCs

Updated: Mar 4

Finally - a tool that makes founders’ diligence of VCs in Asia easier! 

Techinasia recently unveiled Glasswall - think Glassdoor for VCs - and boy, it has made for some entertaining reading and eye-opening discussions in my circle.

I, for one, think it is a much-needed feedback loop that has never existed, with the intelligence that's hard for even well-connected founders/ players to come by. 

Can this catalyse a correction in bad behaviour and rebalance the skewed power dynamic in fundraising?

At a minimum, here is a mechanism for VCs to awaken to specific feedback about their shortfalls, be it punctuality, investment process, toxic firm culture. 

It may be hard for a VC to stomach at first.

Indeed, the creators acknowledge upfront that anonymous unvetted feedback is not a perfect system, open to abuse, manipulation or misinformation...

... and in the 3 weeks since Glasswall's release, there are already indications of backlash and damage control.

I hope soul-searching is also happening quietly. Whether they are willing to face the feedback and respond, the ball is now in their court - and perhaps their LPs' too. 

In some cases, it will take much more than calendar reminders to make the change. Nonetheless, I believe that discomfort always precedes growth and hope it only encourages everyone in the market to evolve.

It does beg the question - entertainment value aside, why should one care? Isn't a VC’s job simply to maximise returns for its LPs? Does it matter what their portfolio companies (or those they declined, or their employees, for that matter) think of them? 

Those familiar with my work as a personal investor, coach to founders and healer of systemic financial trauma know that I insist that: 

We have to do better. 

People do their best work when they are well, period.

Fear-based management is on its way out - and extractive industries with one-sided power distribution are ripe for disruption. Fundraising can be traumatic, for the overwhelming majority of founders.

Let's flip the question too - is it really that difficult to act like a decent human being? For too long, "it's not personal, just business" and the concept of free market and free will (founders choose to walk a high risk-reward path) have been convenient excuses for apathy.

The best thing about Glasswall, in my opinion, is that the tool allows the market to highlight positive examples: founder-friendly, relationship-oriented VCs who act as true partners to the portfolio companies. It helps founders picture the gamut of what’s possible in an investor relationship. 

A small negative rumour (truthful or not) can spread like fire, but contributions such as:

  • adding true value to a portfolio company

  • acting in shareholders’ interests

  • providing counsel through market challenges

  • showing up for the next raise

don’t come overnight. When sh*t hits the fan for a portfolio company, how do the VCs on its cap table respond?

A good review is usually hard-earned through continued intention and labour over the life of an investment - and largely unacknowledged, much less rewarded. There are tough calls to be made, difficult conversations to be had, and in the mix - compassion often comes at the price of short-term gain and market perception.

There currently is little directly-attributable reward for following a commitment to do the best/right thing for all involved. And yet... there are firms who are leading the way, prepared to change needed to invest and grow inclusively.

One might say that firms that have paid less attention to their relationships than their pipeline will see the impact of Glasswall amplified by their business model. Those with strategies built on high deal flow volume or high conviction tend to generate greater rejections, with the potential to rub folks the wrong way.

But there are as many examples of firms with the same strategies who navigate this well.

In current market conditions of challenging performance and exits, perhaps the ultimate differentiator among VCs is their ability to manage a portfolio for profit and people. And here is how we can start benchmarking the latter.

For founders running the gauntlet, I hope this helps you know that for every VC that ghosts you after 5 rounds of diligence, is another that will decline you straight and kindly in the first meeting, and long after still find ways to open doors or be helpful.

At the time of publishing, Glasswall’s data is primarily for Southeast Asian VCs, with decent coverage for the rest of Asia, reflecting its creator’s media reach.


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