Little less than two years ago Markus joined Senovo as a partner. Until then at Senovo we followed a marketing strategy which could be best described as “it is deeds, not words” that should convince entrepreneurs to work with us.
We felt that for a new VC (we started 2012) this strategy would be more promising than trying to get a signal out online among all the “noise” with the enormous number of VC blog posts, tweets, podcasts, etc. every day. Without doubt, there is brilliant content out there (contributors like Jason Lemkin, David Skok or Christoph Janz, to name a few, set gold standards for high quality) but there are clearly also lots of words in the ether with very limited value and the potential to waste their readers’ time — curious whether you will rate this post into the latter category ;-). So, we decided to count on the old-fashion personal word-of-mouth about our deeds rather than contributing to Twitter & co.
While our strategy worked well in the beginning and maybe it has even helped us gain initial credibility (do first, then talk about it) we started to shift our approach with the advent of Markus. He is a strong believer in the merits of blogging about our work and of attributing to the VC community.
I admittedly had a certain reluctance. I liked the idea of building a brand on concrete achievements and the vast amount of venture related publications sometimes seemed like a “Who is the smartest VC out there?” game to me. However, having observed the merits of blogging for quite a while now my takeaway is that it is not about such game. At least if it is done right (and I am not saying that we are doing it right at Senovo (yet)).
It is about getting to know the VC
Let’s pretend Senovo would never have done a single blog or Twitter post but would have exited several of its portfolio companies at unicorn valuations. Senovo would probably have a heavy brand name just because of the exits. Entrepreneurs would flood Senovo with deal flow. However, entrepreneurs wouldn’t know who we really are, how we think, what we stand for, what we expect from them and their business and what it’s like to work with us. I am convinced that blogging and being transparent around questions like these benefit both sides: the entrepreneurs and us. Why? Because with all this information at hand (good) entrepreneurs may decide not to approach us at all (as there may be no fit or they may not like the way we work, etc.) and (good) entrepreneurs who decide to approach us will be better prepared. Both scenarios help the entrepreneurs and us to be more efficient and to not waste time. Thus, I believe one kind of valuable blogging content is information which helps the VC to connect with entrepreneurs in a very operative way to show them how the individual VC works and “ticks”.
It is about thought leadership
We’re expecting from our B2B portfolio companies to be the thought leaders in their space (and to communicate it). Why? Because thought leadership creates credibility and trust, it creates a network of influencers and ultimately boosts the business. In addition, it helps to educate market players which — especially in new markets — may be required to make the market sustainable at all. What’s true for our portfolio companies should be true for us as a VC. Entrepreneurs should trust in us and be convinced that we are at the spearhead of B2B SaaS venture capital. Helping to build a sustainable VC market is vital for us.
However, it is extremely hard to become a thought leader since it requires content with real value. New wine in old skins won’t help. Quantity won’t help. The content must help the entrepreneurs to be better in what they do than they would be without it. The creating of such content requires experience, expertise and probably also focus (i.e. you can’t become the thought leader on VC in general but rather on certain aspects of the VC business). Content that truly aims to be intrinsic and thought leadership is valuable without doubt.
If you are an entrepreneur reading this blog I’d like to ask you a favor. The above is my personal view and I am curious to find out yours. What field are you most interested in? Is it sales & marketing, HR, finance, product or fundraising — are there any particular topics you’d like to read about? Are you more looking for “large scale success stories” or are you more interested in “playbooks” on how a certain task such as a financial plan or virtual stock option plan is done best?
It’d be great if you could spare a few minutes and take this online survey. We’ll publish the results.