Building an Investor-Brand

Below is the ‘Tip of the Week’ transcript from the Podcast Ep47: The Must-Have Characteristics of Successful SaaS Startups (Tomasz Tunguz)

Tom and I had a chance today to reflect on our efforts to build an audience via blogging… him through writing and me through the interviews. This got me thinking about what it means to build a brand as an investor and how one should consider building their own reputation. Many that I know have no interest creating a public persona and are quite content with having a private reputation in the investment community. But for those that are interested in building their investment brand, here are my thoughts on the factors one should consider:

Portfolio: Clearly, what you invest in and how those investments have performed are going to weigh heavily on your brand. When I had less than 10 investments, I barely got a referral. Now, I’m getting a few pitch decks/day. And often the decks are related to deals I’ve done in the past, whether from a sector, theme or business model standpoint.

Philosophy/Thesis: Do you make 12 investments per year or only one? Is your standard check-size $5,000, $50,000 or $500,000? Are you focused only on the seed stage or are you willing to invest at any stage? Do you invest in one city, in one state, across the nation, or anywhere in the world? What sectors or themes do you advertise or are you completely agnostic? Are you a highly active, roll-up-your-sleeves board member or do you help, when asked, only? An investor’s focus-area will send clear signals to others in the market and inform the way others choose to interact.

Network: Cultivating and growing one’s network may be the most critical effort of all. There are two primary reasons for this: 1) Dealflow. I get a tremendous amount of high-quality deaflow through my network. People know I am serious about investing and when they have an appropriate opportunity looking for a $100k-$300k check-size, they ping me. 2) Is syndication partners. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a lone wolf, in an angel group, in an angel syndicate, or at a VC fund… investment partners are critical. Often, one party is not going to have a big enough check-size to cover an entire investment round. And, even if the check-size is big enough, many smart investors will recruit partners that add value. I’m often amazed by the insight and effort that other investors have demonstrated in portfolio companies. Passionate and active syndication partners are hugely valuable.

Activity: So, how does one grow their network and promote their philosophy? By being active. To build a brand that others know and look to, one must take action. And there are numerous ways that individuals carve out their niche through their value-added activities.

There are:

* bloggers,
* guest writers on media outlets,
* podcasters,
* conference organizers,
* conference speakers,
* meetup group leaders,
* incubator directors,
* pitch competition organizers,
* angel group leaders,
* university innovation coordinators,
* accelerator directors,
* startup mentors/advisors,
* etc. – the list goes on

There is no one activity that is best for all. Rather, one should find something that fits with their current commitments and the method by which they want to provide value. If a personal investor brand is important to you, consider the four factors and start building.