Today we cover Part 2 of Building an Investor Brand with Jay Acunzo & John Gannon of NextView Ventures. In this segment we address:
- Jay, how do you approach outsourcing for the Traction Podcast?
- John, what other elements are important and what other suggestions do you have for newer investors that are trying to establish themselves?
- Jay, any other thoughts on the topic and/or advice for both entrepreneurs and investors?
- What are the common missteps that platform VCs are making as they think about establishing an investor brand?
- What are some of the things each of you are currently most focused on?
- Is there a different approach toward platform pre-investment vs. post-investment?
- Part 1 of the interview
- Jay on Twitter
- The Traction Podcast
- NextView Ventures
- John on Twitter
- John’s Yet Another (ex-) VC Blog
1- The Platform VC
This is a relatively new term in the industry that’s become ubiquitous as of late. Venture Capital firms have acknowledged the need to create a brand for theirselves and now have “platform” initiatives. And most are hiring non-investment professionals like Jay, to lead these efforts. From my exposure to this trend so far, it seems that platform efforts include one or more of the following:
1) Content: Creating original content that entrepreneurs want to consume.
2) Events: Hosting events and plugging into the activities around the ecosystems
3) Community Building & Services: This could be as simple as coordinating a tech meetup or as involved as creating an connected community amongst an investor’s portfolio companies. Many venture firms are creating virtual and in-person methods for their entrepreneurs to interact with one another and leverage shared services that can help during the early stages.
And John cited a couple investors that are doing all of these things. Creating original content, hosting large conferences and creating a community of entrepreneurs. This included investors like Jason Lemkin and Jason Calacanis that are, effectively, becoming media companies. In Jason Calacanis’ case, he is running a blog, a podcast, a large conference called launch, an accerlerator, and he manages one of the larger angel syndicates on angel list.
This isn’t to say one needs to build a media company. Some of the strongest brands have a single approach and are very targeted in their efforts. Jay encouraged investors to think about why they exist. What value will they add to the community and to the customer. And, as Maia Heymann emphasized in episode 65, the investor’s customer is the entrepreneur.
2- White Labeling & Re-purposing
Jay and John had some great content advice on a) how to check if one’s content is original and b) how to leverage great content for the best reach. On the former, Jay suggested that every content producer asks theirself, “if you were to white label this content, could you still tell who the source is.” There are many cases where I’m reading an article and it feels like something I’ve read before, with no original voice. A couple topic examples of late, that have been beaten to death are the standard “we’re founder friendly” or “be prudent w/ your burn rate as an entrepreneur.” I feel like I’ve come across those articles a hundred times. And, to Jay’s point, if it were to be white labeled, I wouldn’t be able to tell you who the author is. It’s just the same recycled content over and over. So, one can test their content by asking if others can tell who’s written it, if you strip away the attribution.
On the later point, how to leverage great content for the best reach, Jay and John had some great insights. When one has a piece of content that does very well, they shouldn’t immediately move on to the next article. Rather, they should do more w/ what they have. Jay gave the example of converting articles into a deck on slideshare. There are also other repurposing mediums like Medium, LinkedIN or even Facebook. The methods are numerous forgetting more miles out of great content. And John also mentioned that you can get more use out of successful content by generating new material about how you created it in the first place. A familiar example of this that I recently came across had to do w/ Gabriel Weinberg’s book, Traction. Of course, he has been a guest on the program multiple times, which is an example of him getting more miles out of the content. And he’s also created a long medium post about how he conducted the interviews for the book, how he put everything together and subsequently how he marketed it. This is a great example of what John was talking about. Take a success, repurpose it and eventually talk about how it was created in the first place.
3- Types of Investor Differentiation
As discussed in this episode and others, there are two clear categories of differentiators. Capital-based on non-capital-based. The capital centric differentiators have to do with an investor’s check size, speed-to-close and ability to attract other sources of capital. Yes, everybody’s money is green, but a $1,000 check that takes four months is quite different than a $100k check that can close in a week.
And then their are the non-capital differentiators. Sometimes this manifests when an investor has been an operator and has a directly attributable experience set. Or maybe an investor has a very narrow investment thesis, centered on a business model, sector or trend and uniquely understands the area better than most. Other times it has to do w/ network and an investor’s ability to connect entrepreneurs to customers, partners or the media. And, of course, as we covered, it can relate to the extent of one’s reach and medium by which an investor reaches others.
And, from personal experience, relating back to one of the very first tips of the week titled “Don’t be a jerk,” one of the strongest differentiators that I’ve come across is just being good to work with. There are still a surprising number of angels and VCs that operate with an elitist approach. Of course, to each their own, but I have trouble seeing how this helps. Personally, I prefer to work w/ people that are smart, helpful, inspiring and fun to be around. If just being a decent, supportive human being is your biggest differentiator, my opinion is that it will serve you well in investing and in life.