Part of a VCs job is making it onto “the list”

A few weeks ago, as I have often done before, I sat down with an entrepreneur, opened a Google Doc and we started writing out “the list.” The list includes other VC funds who might be relevant or interesting to approach for an upcoming funding round. It usually includes the fund name, usual entry point (Seed, A, B etc), relevant (or conflicting) investments and…quite critically the Partner or team member whom the entrepreneur should approach.

This last part is important: Firms are made up of a collection of people, but even in thematic or sectorial firms, each individual team member has a different area of interest, or a personal background or past chemistry with the founder which might make him or her the ideal person to approach with your shiny new Series B pitch deck.

I also like to use “the list” as a way to capture feedback across the various meetings and to help refine both the message and the round structure (on size, valuation, key KPIs, etc) that the market is feeding back.

As we were collaboratively completing the Doc, it dawned on me that a large part of our job at White Star Capital and my own job as a Partner at the firm is to ensure that we are considered for the dozens and dozens of similar lists currently being prepared across board meetings. This is not simply dealflow, it’s qualified dealflow from a fellow investor who understands what type of deals your firm likes and what type of deals you personally like. Most importantly, it’s a vote of confidence saying that they are willing to sit across or next to you at that Board table for years to come.

So how are we as a firm, and I as an individual, thinking about trying to ensure we are on “the list”?

Part of it is work-in-progress but it comes down to:

  • Clarity about what you invest in as a firm: We like companies that see data as a competitive advantage and apply it as a differentiator across a number of broad verticals both in B2B and B2C.
  • Transparency on what stage you invest and how much: For us, we seek to deploy $1–5m initial checks to help the companies scale internationally which implies A- to A+ rounds and likely a product in-market.
  • Repetitive drum-beating about the type of areas I am personally interested in: I’m currently actively pursuing data-as-a-service companies, intelligent contextual agents from consumer services to factory floors and smart cities, and the intelligence layer that will connect the billions of sensors around us [blog post forthcoming]

If I have done my job correctly, fellow investors will have heard of White Star, and hopefully think of me and associate it with the words ‘data’ and ‘international.’ If you’re a fellow VC reading this and that has not come across… can I buy you a coffee for that long overdue catchup to ensure I am on “the list” next time?

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Christian Hernandez is the co-founder and Managing Partner of White Star Capital, an early-stage Venture Capital fund backing exceptional entrepreneurs with global ambitions. www.whitestarvc.com