Helping our founders by supporting the whole team
By Angela, February 20, 2018
When we developed our core beliefs, we spent considerable time thinking about our investment philosophy, as well as how we should work with our portfolio companies and what kind of resource we want to be. Specifically, we included two points involving our role:
5) We can make the greatest impact as a Seed investor.
The seed stage is the most formative time for a startup and often, where you need the most support. This key stage is where we believe we can add the most value — whether it’s helping you with hiring, finding product market fit, building your company culture, or getting your next financing round. We lead or co-lead with an investment of ~$500k and often back our startups through multiple rounds.
6) An investor should be your biggest cheerleader and most trusted partner.
We’re committed to building strong relationships with all of our entrepreneurs. That begins with earning your trust — something we strive for from the very first meeting.
Our job is to support you and act as your biggest advocate, but we also never shy away from asking the important questions and providing tough feedback when necessary. Having run our own companies, we pass on as much of our operations knowledge as possible to help you build a successful venture. Our ultimate goal is simple: to be the first investor called when a founder needs advice.
In both of these points, we’re speaking about our relationship with our founders. At our stage of investment, the team is often comprised of just the founders. After we make an investment, we usually set up a “check-in” call once every two weeks with the CEO and talk about everything from business strategy to hiring, fundraising, mental wellness, and more.
Then, as a company matures and raises subsequent funding, the cadence evolves into a monthly check-in call and we attend board meetings every two months or quarter. It’s at these meetings where we get to meet team leaders who present on specific parts of the business.
Recently, I have been thinking about how we can support our entrepreneurs by supporting their team and developing direct relationships with their executives and employees.
Here are some examples of what we’ve done so far to expand our reach into our portfolio companies:
- We’ve organized and moderated cross-portfolio summits/events targeted at specific business functions (e.g. engineering, product, sales, marketing) and skill development (i.e. management). This isn’t unique: many “platform” VCs do this. Given our capacity as a small seed fund with two partners, we select topics that make the most sense for us: I run data-centric events and Boris ran vertical SaaS summits for several years.
- We created Slack channels and mailing lists. This is still a work in progress for us, but our vision is to have portfolio founders and their teams interact with one another directly. Currently, however, building this organic networking has proven difficult as our companies are geographically dispersed with varying business models targeting different industries. It’s hard to keep these communication channels front of mind for instances where pinging someone else in the V1 network would be helpful. Without a daily use case, people forget to use it… so we would love any thoughts on how to make these channels more valuable, engaging, etc.
- We host lunch & learns for portfolio companies so that every team member has an opportunity to understand what it means to be a VC-fundable business and why we invested in their startup. Hopefully, these events inspire (since they’re on a potential rocketship) and push everyone toward the shared company vision.
- We meet one-on-one with select employees and executives to get to know individual team members. We’re then in a better position to provide them with direct support and access to our network.
The advantage of helping operators deep in the weeds of sales, marketing, data, engineering, product, etc. is that we can learn about the specific challenges they face and help them move the needle directly. Something as simple as making an intro from one engineering manager to another who we know had experienced a similar problem can save copious amounts of time. In addition, when employees and other C-level execs have a direct relationship with us, founders don’t have to use their bandwidth to get involved each and every time.
I am curious to know how other VCs support their portfolio beyond its founders? And for founders: what are some things that VCs have done to support your teams that have been extremely helpful?
VC is difficult to scale. But when I think about the unique value add we can provide, I recognize how important it is to take the initiative to get to know our companies deeper… by supporting our founders’ teams, we can better support our founders.