Design counts. In B2B. Also for VCs — Senovo 3.0
Practicing what you preach is not always easy. We recommend our start-ups to rethink their CI and marketing appearances at least every five years. So what about us, Senovo? After almost a decade in the VC market, a repolishing of our CI was more than overdue. Finally, the new logo and website are out and I would like to take this opportunity to reflect.
2012: A new kid on the block
When I co-founded Senovo together with Frederick and a couple of private investors we were in a very lucky position: All of us had a shared passion for entrepreneurship and the conviction that there was a great opportunity in the emerging European startup ecosystem.
Based on this shared vision we agreed to build this new VC in the same way as successful entrepreneurs build their companies: focus on operations, build upon what works, iterate on what doesn’t and spend 100% attention to your customers. Our — Senovo’s — customers are the founders.
As a result we had the incredible opportunity of a complete green field: B2B, B2C, stage, geography. Everything was possible.
But similar to startups, the key to success is often in focus & specialization. Our experiences were mostly on the B2B side and we were quite amazed to find that everyone was chasing B2C deals but neglecting a new generation of B2B software founders. A gap we wanted to plug and so we naturally gravitated towards the early stage B2B focus we still have.
Hindsight 2020 this might seem like an obvious choice, but as any founder will agree: visibility is far worse “on the battle ground” and our anti portfolio grew quickly when we passed on B2C deals such as Zalando or HelloFresh. The latter mostly because of the “high valuation” which was a staggering EUR 22m. :-)
2013–2015: Our first 11 deals
At the beginning of 2013 we invested into Smartlaw Media alongside HV Ventures. The founders explicitly wanted us on board which secured us a small ticket in the deal. The company was sold to Wolters Kluwer only a year later.
We felt great: we’re investing with the best funds in our industry and already had the first exit under our belt!
Looking back, I can’t resist smiling: we still had a lot to learn. But hey — everyone starts small and so we continued to grow our deal flow, focused on supporting our portfolio companies and also invested in Riskmethods and Holidu among others.
And this is how Senovo 1.0 looked like: a far cry from some of the splashy websites out there. In B2B, design is usually not the first thing people prioritize. And we were no different.
2016–2018 — Team extension and 7 more deals
Our B2B SaaS focus proved to be the right choice. This created a few (admittedly nice to have) problems:
- We realized we don’t have the bandwidth to add another 10 portfolio companies
- Our deal flow was growing 50% YoY and we can’t process >2x deals in 2 years
- While we were working hard, we couldn’t do and know everything
So, we decided that it’s time to start building out our team and in 2016 Markus joined Senovo as the third partner. Markus had a complementary skill set due to his background in computer science, a great track record in B2B software and a hands-on, open minded approach. A perfect match for our business heavy team.
We also started to share some of our experiences on our blog at https://medium.com/senovovc/ which is read by over 100k visitors per year. And lastly, we launched a new website as a by product of a due diligence:
2019 and beyond
In 2019 Lucas and Mona joined us as associates and — very importantly — we had a first close of our current fund. Why do we mention that here? Fundraising is like selling software to a potential buyer. The product, i.e. the investment performance, must be excellent, but also the story behind it, i.e. the marketing and vision must be conclusive. Again, this is super obvious, but in the fog of daily operations we always prioritize portfolio first, “hot deals” second and as a result ended up under-investing in our brand building.
Until now, we have invested into more than 25 great B2B SaaS companies, created blog posts with 100k+ visitors, participated in conference presentations and panel discussions, hosted B2B SaaS get-togethers, and had several exits. So, it’s way past due for a proper refresh of our brand.
Hello world. This is Senovo 3.0 and we’re ready for some action :-)