Progressive VCs and private equity are using tech and analytics to revolutionize investing
Private equity and venture capital investors are copying our counterparts in the hedge fund world: we’re trying to automate more of our job.
When I was single, I registered for (a lot of) dating websites. When I met my now-wife, I realized that any technology that can find me a spouse is a killer app. That’s why 40 million Americans use online dating sites. But, most of use raise capital and source deals the same way people looked for dates 20 years ago: networking at conferences (or bars).
Most of us want one spouse and we’re done, but in business, you want a lot of partners. I’d argue that the same type of technologies that have revolutionized dating can revolutionize our industry.
In liquid markets, most of the calories expended on technology and analytics are focused on trade selection, or “origination.” However, in private markets, there is more room to optimize across all 11 steps of the investing process. Below, I’ll walk through how progressive investors are using technology and analytics throughout all of their operations. To learn more about this space, I suggest joining an online community I co-founded, PEVCTech.
1) Managing the firm
Before you can actually invest, you have to manage your fund. This is harder than it sounds. In the private equity universe, most partners have primary training as deal-makers, not as managers. When I talk with junior personnel at private equity firms, the quality of firm management is a frequent complaint.
I’ve used Asana extensively to manage activities firm-wide. I also use several living Google docs to maintain the minutes and the group agendas for my fixed weekly meetings. I use another live Google doc to maintain my database of companies I’m marketing to other VCs. That Google document provides cut and pasteable text I can share with other investors, based on their stage, focus and appetite.
Other investors use Trello, Basecamp, and Monday for making sure that everyone at the firm knows each others’ long-term OKRs and short-term projects. Point Nine Capital uses 15Five for continuous employee feedback.
One aspect of management which merits attention is your own cybersecurity, which should not be left until a crisis to address. Small investment firms often have interns and entrepreneurs in residence passing through, each of which is a security risk. (See A comprehensive guide to security for startups by Bessemer Ventures.)
Kyle Dunn, CEO of Meyler Capital, says “investors should focus on building a large audience within a CRM system (having the ability to categorize your different constituents); communicate consistently to that audience; and implement an automation platform that can leverage lead score to profile interest. It sounds simple; however, very few asset managers actually do it.” I agree.
Many tools designed for B2B marketing in general are also relevant to investors. I know of funds using Constant Contact, Goodbits, Pardot and Publicate to create light newsletters for internal and external consumption. A major angel group uses Influitive, an advocate management tool, to track, activate and motivate their members. Other VCs use Contently* or Social Native* to create relevant content. Meyler Capital is taking the analytical rigor of modern internet marketing and applying it to fund marketing.
Point Nine Capital’s website is now powered by Contentful — it uses Unbounce for landing pages and Typeform for surveys and other data collection. “We’re using … TinyLetter for our “Content Newsletter” … and Buffer to schedule social media posts. Last but not least, we still use MailChimp to publish our (in)famous newsletter.” I also use Mailchimp for the teten.com and pevctech.com mailing lists. Point Nine Capital uses Mention for media monitoring. Teten.com is built on WordPress as my content management system.
I use Hootsuite to coordinate my social media activity, which consists of Teten.com, PEVCTech.com, Linkedin, AngelList, and (passively) Twitter and Facebook. I use Google Drive to host my conference presentations, which are all embedded at teten.com. I use Diigo, a social bookmarking tool, to keep a record of useful websites. I have also configured IFTTT to share on Twitter anything new I post on Diigo.
“There are two crucial aspects of marketing that investors often overlook: automation and analytics,” wrote Sabena Quan-Hin, Marketing Manager at Flow Capital. “Automation allows you to spend less time on tedious tasks and will help boost productivity, especially within a small marketing team. At Flow Capital, we use HubSpot’s sequences and workflows functions to automate a bulk of our emails and internal tasks. This provides us more time to develop meaningful relationships with prospects and customers. We use Google Analytics, HubSpot, and LinkedIn Campaign Manager for the majority of our analytics. For our content creation, we use tools such as Canva (graphic design) and GoToStage (webinars platform) to create and share content for prospects to find.”
3) Raising capital
Tim Friedman, Founder, PE Stack, said, “If I could offer one