Female Founder Office Hours Edition V: Meet the Investors Part II (ft. Dawn Capital, DIP Capital, Octopus Ventures and Project A)

It’s official: Female Founder Office Hours Edition V in collaboration with Tech Nation and Google for Startups is well underway.

With 90 investors signed up, this is our biggest event to date. On 6th May 2021, we will bring together investors and founders with four key pillars in mind:

  1. Access. No warm intros needed.
  2. Remote. Geography is not a barrier.
  3. Collaboration. All investors, groups and initiatives working together.
  4. Founder-driven. Ask for advice, feedback, funding, or introductions.

After the success of the first four events, we are more focused than ever on ensuring that this initiative leads to meaningful relationships and more pounds being invested in women led businesses. As a result, each participating investor is committing to mentor at least one founder from the event on an ongoing basis and we will use AI matching to generate relevant meetings between investors and founders.

In preparation for this event, we want founders to know who they will be meeting and what to expect. Therefore, we have created a public Notion page collating useful information for this event and for those approaching their fundraising journey overall.

Additionally, relevant not only for this event but for any founder on their fundraising journey, we published our team’s tips and advice when we first launched and are releasing weekly ‘Meet the Investors’ series, where we have been interviewing investors. This week, we sit down with investors from Dawn Capital, DIP Capital, Octopus Ventures, Project A.

Read on for insights into their investment strategy, what they enjoy discussing with founders and their top tips for office hours.

1. What is unique about your fund?

Daniela Raffel, Dawn Capital

We’re Europe’s largest B2B SaaS and Fintech focused fund. From a founder’s perspective, this means you’re surrounded by a team that has focused exclusively on scaling B2B companies and as a result come across many of the hiccups companies might experience on the way up (and crucially how to resolve them). It also means as a portfolio company, your portfolio ‘peers’ are all in the same space meaning it’s a great space to learn form each other, work with each other, and share talent all around.

David Boulton, DIP Capital

DIP Capital is a young European Series A + venture capital investor, focused on high conviction-led investing in the most disruptive companies in the digital space. We are a founder friendly investor, and enjoy close relationships with the entrepreneurs we back. We bring our own passion and resources and make them available for the growth of the Companies and the entrepreneurs.

Lucy Clarke, Octopus Ventures

Octopus Ventures is a £1.3bn Venture fund investing in pioneers breaking new ground within the Future of Money, Future of Health, Deep Tech and Consumer. We invest from the Seed to Series B stage (£1m-£10m) from our evergreen fund, which fundraises every year, freeing us from timing constraints over the long term. Our greatest successes have been driven by the people in those businesses and that’s why we have built our own Talent team to work with the companies we back.

Luc de Leyritz, Project A

Project A is a European early-stage venture investor with offices in London and Berlin. We have $500M AUM and are currently investing out of a $200M fund at Seed and Series A and everything in between, in European start-ups. We’re known to be the Operational VC, because we have over 90+ high-caliber operators who can help portfolio founders, at their discretion, with all elements across the startup building stack.

2. What investments do you enjoy looking at?

Daniela Raffel, Dawn Capital

There’s so much variety in B2B that it’s hard to pick a favourite. We do get really excited about anything and everything to do with the data and analytics stack — which really doesn’t narrow it down but I guess that’s what makes it so interesting?

David Boulton, DIP Capital

Personally, I enjoy looking at B2B or Marketplace companies that have strong dynamics when it comes to network effects, such as a B2B player that is becoming a fundamental part of the infrastructure for businesses with the opportunity to develop a multitude products layered on top, or a marketplace where the network effects are built from smooth customer experience and can create great user stickiness and retention.

Lucy Clarke, Octopus Ventures

At Octopus Ventures, we are deliberately looking for ‘pioneers’ who are truly breaking new ground — entrepreneurs that are disrupting the status quo and trying to change whole industries as we know them. Personally, I am particularly excited by companies who are democratising access to goods and services, whether that is within consumer, healthcare or financial services.

Luc de Leyritz, Project A

I enjoy any data-related topics — they tend to be the right balance of complex, interesting and high impact. I am specifically spending a lot of time on MLOps and DataOps. Besides, I am also interested in future of work — with a specific appetite for workplace collaboration tools (see our piece on the topic), as well as in Fintech — specifically embedded finance and insurance, as well as B2B payments.

3. Which part of a business do you most enjoy discussing with a founder?

Daniela Raffel, Dawn Capital

Personally I’m always super interested in the sale dynamics. It’s easy to say that you can summarise sales into bottom up and top down but there’s so much nuance in them so really understanding what makes a sale ‘go’ is always a good discussion.

David Boulton, DIP Capital

I really enjoy it when each of the key elements such as market, product, and team come together in alignment and I have that feeling that it all just makes so much sense. I always begin with understanding the “AHA” moment of how the founder(s) came up with the idea, how they thought about the team they needed, before moving along the customer journey from first contact, down through the onboarding and product features, before touching on the current needs of the founder and how they need support to iron out any bottlenecks.

Lucy Clarke, Octopus Ventures

I really enjoy discussing the problem the company has identified and are trying to solve. That usually leads into the genesis story of why they went about starting the company and what their vision for the future is. It can also be really informative on how well they have researched their market and target customers as well as how big their vision really is.

Luc de Leyritz, Project A

I am all about vision and model. I love to hear an ambitious founder who has a clear vision of how her company will become globally relevant. Then, I find it tremendously exciting to have them lay out the precise plan of how she will achieve this.

4. What are your top 3 tips on how to make the most of office hours?

Daniela Raffel, Dawn Capital

I think the best thing, as in life, is come prepared. Ultimately you want to make sure that every person you speak to is giving you something of value so asking everyone the same question (unless it’s super controversial and you’re crowdsourcing opinions) won’t necessarily be that helpful after the first few conversations. So I would say, have a list of questions with concrete examples of how you’re currently struggling to answer them. See if you can tailor them to the expertise of the investor you’re speaking to. I think where possible, try to avoid seeing this as an opportunity to pitch to an investor, but do for sure come in with questions about how to pitch / story tell etc.

David Boulton, DIP Capital

Bring your “A” game: every meeting with investors is an opportunity to showcase your Company and who you are. Being well prepared can help elevate you above the multitude of other founders investors see and keep you on their radar.

Don’t be afraid to leverage off the investors network: investors have great networks, so if you’re requiring a product expert, sales expert to whoever… ask for a contact, with bonus points if you know exactly who you would like to be introduced to!

Always consider the next steps: consider what are the ideal next steps for you and how will you prepare the investors for moving forward in the right way. If you come with a great strategy to continue working with the investors, this will provide an excellent opportunity to gain longer term benefits.

Lucy Clarke, Octopus Ventures

1. Come armed with questions so you can make the most of your time — no question is a bad question!

2. Goes without saying, but make sure you know your business inside and out and have your relevant metrics to hand.

3. Know who you are meeting but above all, relax, be yourself and enjoy the conversation — bringing the right VC onboard is an important decision and you will want to get to know them as they will be on your board for years!

Luc de Leyritz, Project A

  1. Have a specific ask: most people love to help but can’t figure out what you need. The more specific your ask is, the higher the chances of it coming through.
  2. Research your interlocutor: make people feel valued, it will make this chat easier. I would find out one thing I really like about each of your interlocutors and let them know.
  3. Enjoy the ride: each person you meet is an opportunity to help and get help. Relax and enjoy the chat.

5. What advice are you giving to startups on how to navigate Covid-19? Are you giving the same advice to scale-ups (post-series B)?

Daniela Raffel, Dawn Capital

It’s difficult to say because lots of companies have had difficult experiences as a result of Covid-19. Luckily for B2B companies, businesses the world over have kept on ticking, but that’s not to say companies aren’t seeing the way in which they have sold, or their value proposition completely disrupted. I think the main thing is to understand how the needs of the companies you have sold to have changed, and make sure that your company is still positioned as essential, whether that’s revenue generating or cost cutting, so that your offering doesn’t come under the cost cut!

David Boulton, DIP Capital

The key advice for both startups and scaleups that have been impacted negatively, or positively, is to focus on securing a cash runway of at least 12–18 months. Whereas if your Company has been positively impacted, then now is the time to consider increasing the sales efforts and start aiming at capturing as much of the new market as possible. If your Company has been impacted on the negative side, then this is an opportunity for you and the team to realign the business model to a new post-Covid-19 world and focus on the factors that will help you succeed. Moreover, in all cases, it is important to think about your own, and your employees’, mental wellbeing during these difficult times!

Lucy Clarke, Octopus Ventures

The advice I am giving to both start-ups and scale-ups is to be as conservative as possible in managing your cash burn during this uncertain time and difficult as it is, always be in fundraising mode — during times of uncertainty, decision-making considerably slows down which affects both start-ups and scale-ups: sales cycles may be longer and fundraising may take longer, meaning your runway may not last as long as you have planned so be sure to think ahead.

Luc de Leyritz, Project A

With a year of hindsight, we now see that COVID had a smaller than expected impact on most startups. If anything, many experienced tailwinds driven by consumer and business behavioural changes. I would still prepare for the unlikely but possible scenario of a funding drought if we were to experience a strong recession.

If you either are or know a female founder who would like to join us for Edition V, please register here.

You can follow the Playfair team on LinkedIn, Twitter, Forbes, Vimeo and here on Medium. If you’re a male founder and would still like to pitch us, please submit your application on our open-to-anyone pitch page.

You can find out more about Tech Nation’s Founders’ Network here and Google for Startups’ Immersion: Women Founders programme here.

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