Dressing to Fit into Company Culture When You're Seeking Venture Capitalists
When you are pitching your company to venture capitalists, how you dress can make or break your chances. The accepted style is different in different areas of the country — sometimes from city to city — and it may be specific to the type of company you’re representing, as well as the industry.
Boulder, Colorado, for example, has a culture built around young software start-ups. Founders are expected to wear jeans and cotton T-shirts or hoodies with the company’s logo emblazoned across the chest. The idea is that founders are walking billboards for their companies. When founders and investors mingle in funding networking events, this dress code makes clear who the funders are and who the founders are. Founders who ignore this system and wear suits instead of logo T-shirts run the risk of being overlooked by investors, first because they look like investors instead of founders, and second, because investors may believe that the founders are bad at marketing their products, given that they aren’t wearing their own logos.
Only 30 miles south of Boulder, the situation is different. In Denver, Colorado, the culture is older and less concentrated in young technology start-ups. Here, founders are expected to dress more formally. A founder in a T-shirt and sneakers would be taken less seriously in Denver than in Boulder. Instead, suit jackets and button-up shirts, but no ties, are the thing. The same is true for San Francisco and Los Angeles. East coast events are more formal: In New York City, for example, you want to stick with a well-fitting but non-flashy suit and tie.
When you’re seeking venture capital — or investment from any source — your aim is to match the other successful people around you. An easy way to show that you fit in is by dressing for the part. After all, you want to be remembered for your great investment deal, not for your outfit.