Why Branding Matters for VCs
Nobody ever got fired for signing a Term Sheet from Benchmark or Sequoia
As hinted by Louis, we’re currently going through a bit of a soul-searching exercise here at Point Nine Capital. It was triggered by the fact that our logo, website, and overall visual identity has become pretty outdated (and was never amazing in the first place). It’s never been a top priority for us as our core job is to find great companies and help them become even better. That hasn’t changed and will never change, and Benchmark’s website proves that you don’t have to have a great website (or any website at all) to be an excellent investor. But we’re not Benchmark (yet 😜) and lots of founders have never heard about us, which is why we’re putting in more effort to have a website that explains who we are, what we do, and how we work.
If we do have a website, we better have one that truly reflects who we are. That’s why we’ve recently engaged a great small agency to help us redo our visual identity. They’re also helping us think through our positioning and brand, although I hesitate to use these two words. “Positioning” always sounded a bit fake to me, like trying to appear different from what you truly are, and “brand” can evoke similar associations.
That said, if you think of positioning as “defining who you (and only you) authentically are and who you want to become”, it is extremely important for companies, which is why we like to go through a positioning exercise with our portfolio companies. And brand is, I believe, one of the most undervalued moats in B2B SaaS.
One might argue that for VCs, brand is even more important. Think of venture capital as a product that consists of two parts, money and value-add. Part 1 is obviously the same for everyone and the only differentiating factor is valuation, but I would consider valuation to be the price of the product (that you pay in equity), not a feature of the product. Part 2, what value-add you get from different investors, varies hugely, but it can be hard for founders to really assess VC A vs. VC B before making a decision. There’s no 30-day free trial and no money-back guarantee, nor a reliable Capterra or Glassdoor for VCs. Founders should spend a lot of time with their potential partners and do lots of reference calls before deciding for an investor, but to a certain event, a VC‘s brand (or reputation) can act as a shortcut — because one’s reputation is the result of gazillions of interactions with thousands of people over years and decades. Obviously, brands can be misleading (which is why DD-ing your VC is important) but as a matter of fact they have a big influence on founders’ decision making. As you know, “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”. I doubt anyone ever got fired for raising money from Benchmark or Sequoia.
Back to soul searching at Point Nine. As part of this project we’re going through a couple of exercises, and earlier this week we did a fun one which I thought is worth sharing. The task given to us by the Koto team was to imagine what Point Nine would look like if we were an airline. Each of us got a sheet of paper with questions like “What in-flight entertainment would you provide?” and “What would the crew members wear?”.
We spent 10 minutes writing down our answers, after which the answers were collected and aggregated. After some discussion, we ended up with something like this:
What’s the check-in process like?
- Passengers will check-in by completing a Typeform. Friendly and conversational at scale.
- Like EasyJet’ Speedy Boarding — simple, fast.
What does the interior look like?
- Nordic/Scandi look-and-feel. Clean, airy, with an element of hygge. Natural colors with some more colorful highlights.
- Different types of seats for people with different needs (e.g. families with small kids, people outside the normal ranges of body weight or height).
- A small social area where people can meet.
What food does it serve?
- Healthy food with a large share of vegan and vegetarian options.
What’s the in-flight entertainment like?
- Recordings of Michael Wolfe talks from the last P9 Founder Summits
- Meditation apps
What do the staff wear?
- Casual attire, simple, good fabrics.
- No uniform, but subtle P9 Airways branding on it.
Who are the passengers?
- International, ambitious founders
- Discounted tickets for people from underrepresented minorities
- No assholes
Where does it go?
- Daily flights to all European startup hubs.
- Weekly connections to New York and San Francisco.
- Further connections to cool, hidden places.
What classes does it have?
- Business Class for #p9family founders.
- Economy Plus for everyone else.
Note that this is not the definitive answer to what we’d look like as an airline. It’s really just the result of a 30 minutes brainstorming session. So don’t sue us if P9 Airways won’t offer a meeting area, but if you have any feedback we’d love to hear it! :-) And if you’d like to dig into your own brand or just make sure everyone in your team is aligned, consider designing your own airline at your next company offsite!