According to for example Wikipedia, a customer is a current or potential buyer or user of the products or services of an individual or organization. However, as Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures pinpoints in two great posts (The VC’s customer and The VC’s Customer continued), not everyone agrees on who’s really the VC’s customer.
At Creandum we tend to think that we have two customers, investors AND entrepreneurs.
It is clear that we are selling a product to our investors. Every 3-5 year we are in fund raising mode (although we are keeping in constant dialogue with investors also between fund raising) and present our product (the next fund) to existing and potential investors trying to convince them about investing.
As for entrepreneurs, maybe it is not possible to define our relationship as a customer according to a strict definition but I think it makes a lot of sense to still think about it in that way to ensure good customer service and attitude.
We try to view every encounter with entrepreneurs as a mutual selling meeting. Usually the focus is on the entrepreneur to introduce his/her company and as we want the entrepreneur to have as much time as possible to present, we tend to use very little time talking about our firm. Instead we hope to sell our company through they way we act (politeness, attitude, fulfilling of commitments, answering back to entrepreneurs, keeping timelines etc) and interact (ask questions or even challenge, have suggestions, provide feedback etc). I am convinced that if VCs are getting sloppy about this, it will get noticed and eventually have a negative impact on the VC’s performance as entrepreneurs turn elsewhere for investments.