I have a tiny tattoo — it’s on my ring finger, as a replacement for my wedding ring, because wearing jewelry has always bothered me (no watches, rings, necklaces… and, for that matter, I don’t like wearing headphones while walking around or exercising… just too much ‘stuff’).
I’ve thought about getting additional tattoos in the past, but was never motivated enough to pursue them. And I wondered if investors would care. I figured they wouldn’t, but never followed up.
Then, this week, a younger entrepreneur asked me the same question, since he’s thinking about getting a more visible tattoo. So, I posed the question to 4-5 VCs and angel investors who I trust:
“do you think it’s a risk, for entrepreneurs who will invariably be raising money/meeting with investors, to get visible tattoos?
location – inside of left bicep, normally half-hidden by t-shirt, normally not visible as inside bicep is only visible when arm is lifted
tattoo itself – a stanza of a poem, 3 sentences => certainly nothing offensive at all, but not really huge either, I’m imagining 1.5×4.5″
i get the feeling it’s not a problem in startup land or even in technology, but can’t really imagine how major investors/funders, or professors (if a person ever returned to school) would react or, for that matter, other areas I can’t foresee but might want to venture into someday.
i’m asking not just your personal opinion, but what you think your peers think about these sorts of things… and, do their opinions change if the person is a first-time entrepreneur vs. repeat-entrepreneur
this is one of those questions i specifically didn’t want to post on an entrepreneur thread, because i specifically wanted the opinions of those on the funding side of the table”
Here are the anonymized replies, in case you’re interested:
1) I don’t think getting this type of tattoo would be a problem. I am not a fan of tattoos but I would not factor a tattoo into my investment decision. I was at TED last week, and there was a short presentation on tattoos (NOTE – if anyone finds that video, please share in the comments and I’ll add it here!). The presenter mentioned 40% of people age 18-35 have a tattoo, so it is quite commonplace.
2) My view is that the world is increasingly becoming informal as our personal and professional lives blur with social media, facebook, foursquare, etc… As such, I don’t think that a tattoo creates the same issues that it might have 3 or 5 years ago.
I think your question is the right one… If I view my peer group as consumer internet folks, then a tattoo is no big deal. If I include a broader set of folks in other technology sectors (semiconductors/telecom equipment), foundations, professors, etc…they probably would/do react differently to tattoos TODAY.
Sometimes the best advice I get from my lawyer friends is “I’m not the right lawyer for you” instead of giving me an opinion. I think in these other sectors, I can’t really give you great insight as to whether they would care about a tattoo or not.
My sense though is that in another 3-5 years, things will only get more casual…and it will be a non-issue in other sectors outside of consumer web. Look at dress codes as an analog….and how few industries still wear suits…
3) I think it doesn’t matter because in that location you can always chose to hide it with a long sleeve shirt. I can’t really speak about most VCs – but no one at our firm would care.
4) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist VC to observe that tattoos have increasingly become part of popular culture – a decade or two ago, there was a social stigma/perception around a tat (iconoclast, unorthodox, doesn’t care about conventions/conformity/public image, association with bikers/prison gangs/urban culture, etc) which no longer exists for tasteful, discrete tats. Obviously, if it’s a Mike Tyson type of facial tat, or a tear drop, or a visible neck marking, there is a different messaging where the conservative investor is going to have questions about personal judgment/impulsivity.
Based on your description of the location of the tat, the size, the imagery and such I’d say “onward” – I don’t believe there would be an issue. The bigger issue would be the wearing of a tee shirt while raising venture capital to begin with ! If its only visible with a t-shirt, just remember to “show respect to the money” and dress in a nice shirt.
One final note — another discussion mentioned that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has a big tattoo on his forearm and that doesn’t seem to have stopped him from raising money — of course, he has a tiny success or two under his belt 😉