"The quality and quantity of the financial backing that HomeGrocer.com has received for this latest round of financing clearly indicates that we have a model that is both viable and sustainable."
Chris Dixon's blog post from today about how to select your angel investors talks about a common mistake entrepreneurs make - choosing an investor based on their "celebrity value (by "celebrity" I generally mean in the TechCrunch sense, not the People magazine sense)."
The same is true for choosing VCs, board members and advisors. We've invested with plenty of famous VCs and board members who were extremely well connected to the CEOs and boards of companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Intel and many other Fortune 500 companies.
In our experience, celebrity investors and board members do little to help entrepreneurs do what they need to get done. They offer little in the way of strategic or practical advice about hiring, firing, product development, closing deals and financing. Even worse, sometimes the advice can be out of touch with what is going on in the industry or company but due to their celebrity status, some off the cuff comments can carry too much weight.
Perhaps the most value that celebrities bring to the table are connections (even Chris in his blog post applauded "connectors" who can "introduce you to key people when you need it"). In practice, however, most people with great connections guard their rolodexes.
Even when an intro is made directly to the CEO of a BIG company, it will get passed down the organization (usually down several levels) to the real decision makers. If the company is well run, the CEO will let his/her people make the decisions.
If you do choose to use high level connections to force a deal through you should be warned that such a deal can backfire. If you don't take the time to build real support with the right people in the organization, they can do many things on a day to day basis which can ultimately sabotage the deal down the road (and distract you from what you should have been doing in the first place).
My advice to entrepreneurs is to build your own buzz, based on fundamentals (an excellent banker advised one of our companies to "build your own heat" - it was good advice). You have to deliver real value!
Also, please, please, please focus on generating your own leads. No matter how big your board or how well connected your advisors are they will NEVER produce the quantity or quality of leads your own team (and sales/marketing engine) will produce for you if you are going to be successful building a real business.
In my experience, the entrepreneurs who see the most value from celebrity investors/board members and "advisors" build nothing of real value themselves. On the flip side, the best entrepreneurs see little value from celebrities (in fact, they probably find them distracting, if not somewhat annoying).
Ironically, celebrities begin to embrace entrepreneurs once they think they are going to be successful anyway - with or without them. As it turns out, most celebrities need you more than you need them.
As far as I'm concerned, the real stars are entrepreneurs who create something from nothing.
Disclosure: As Chris D. admitted, as a non-celebrity but hard working small investor, this post is almost entirely self serving.