Sometimes folks ask for my advice about starting a company, and for getting venture financing. Here is what I tell them. (See also my notes on hiring and NDAs.)
If you think you have a big idea ($100M+ in annual revenue), I encourage most entrepreneurs to get top-tier VC financing. The best VCs have been focused on making big ideas happen, and they will have a lot of experience, contacts, confidence and aggression to help you.
If 3-5 VCs reject your plan (see more on their criteria below), my advice is for you to revisit your plan vs. talking to a zillion VCs. Yes, there are of course a few times when VCs miss funding big deals (and for some reason, people love to gloat about those examples), but in general, if you are working with a quality VC firm, they will know what they are talking about.
If your idea is a good one that you are passionate about, but not "big" ($100M), you will probably need to bootstrap via friends and family, customers (this is the best way) or angel investors.
I continue to be amazed by the number of entrepreneurs that whine about VCs not funding their great idea, or giving them bad deal terms. This is an open market; if one VC does not give you the terms you want, try another. No quality VC will pass up a great team/market/idea. Valuations and terms today are similar to the average over the past 20 years, so if you are still in denial about the end of the bubble, you might be disappointed when you find that your toothpaste website idea does not raise $20M, and that VCs once again expect your team/market/idea to actually make revenue, and profit.
How VCs evaluate you
IMO, the best venture capital (VC) firms make investment decisions based on three criteria:
How you should evaluate VCs