Bull City Venture Partners: How Can We Help You Scale?
Bull City Venture Partners (BCVP) is an early stage, tech-focused venture firm that invests in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast U.S. David Jones and Jason Caplain, Bull City’s two founding partners, have been working together for over 14 years and are now investing out of the firm’s third fund.
Prior to founding Bull City, David and Jason were, and still are, partners at Southern Capitol Ventures where they manage two funds. Before the duo started working together, David was the founder and CTO of Orthocopia.com and was a pilot in the U.S. Navy. Jason worked in the finance group at Red Hat and worked in investment banking at Harrison Hurley and Company.
As BCVP continues to invest in an under-ventured region, they love to spend time getting to know other VCs who want to work together to help grow companies in the Southeast. They partner with firms who understand the scaling process. The team has seen a host of companies in the Southeast getting to $15–20m in revenue, but then they stall a bit. Getting through that plateau typically requires a larger capital injection and David and Jason spend a lot of time getting to know the larger VC firms to bring them in at that time.
BCVP is focused on the seed and earlier stage companies and will occasionally invest in a capital efficient growth stage company. As the team looks to work with partners to help scale businesses, they understand alignment is important. Bull City is a smaller fund, and they want to understand how other investors are thinking about the business and how they can work together to help each business prosper.
When pitching to BCVP make sure you understand their focus on software and internet and make sure it is a fit. Let their team know why you and your team are the best ones to tackle and accomplish the problem you see in the market.
They love getting into the mind of the customer. They can help your team talk to customers, so make sure you spend time thinking about it from the customer perspective so your first meeting with the BCVP team can be as productive as possible. Just as important as knowing your customers is knowing your competitors. Make sure you understand the metrics of your competitors better than anyone else.
As we have discussed throughout our blog initiative, entrepreneurs tend to get frustrated when a firm passes on an investment opportunity without much, if any, explanation. In the spirit of workings towards more complete transparency, here are two common reasons why BCVP passes.
First, the company is simply moving too quickly in the fundraising process. David and Jason invest in founders first. Most of the time, that takes a little extra time so the teams can get to know each other. Companies pivot and change constantly and BCVP wants to back the team first, knowing that they may change the direction of the company over time. Next, what makes the founders qualified and the best people to execute on the idea? They want to know that the founders ideally have some experience in the market they are tackling and understand the problem implicitly.
In the end, Bull City likes to hear the founding story. How did you come up with the problem you are solving and how did your team come together? They want to leave the meeting and have the feeling that they would quit their jobs to work for that founding team / entrepreneur.
Bull City’s Startup Spotlight:
BCVP had known Spoonflower, the leader in on-demand printing to fabric, for eight years ahead of their investment in the company. Spoonflower lets you find a design you love and order it on the material you need, whether it’s wallpaper for a nursery, cotton for a quilt, or the perfect paper to wrap a gift. Spoonflower is an incredibly scrappy, bootstrapped team that grew in spite of it being a more capital intensive business than a pure software company. The management team has done this before, and BCVP saw unlimited possibilities for growth in the business.
Spoonflower is one of those rare businesses where it may not seem like there is a competitive advantage in printing to fabric, but there is a strong software and technology infrastructure they have built as well as a capital intensive aspect to it that differentiates it from its competitors who are trying to enter the space.
Post-investment, BCVP helped the team put in the CFO and brought in a board member to help continue to grow the business. Spoonflower is opening up its first international office in Germany and just released their first product printed in Germany soon thereafter. Since the Company’s $25m raise from BCVP and Northbridge last August, Spoonflower has continued to grow at an exciting pace.
Thank you to David Jones and the Bull City Venture Partners’ team for assisting us with this post.