How do VC firms support marketing for the startups they invest in?
April 6, 2015 5:56 AM   Subscribe

How do venture capitalist firms support marketing and communications for the startups they invest in? Is there an established model, or does it vary by firm? Is it direct support, or coaching? Looking for examples, first-hand experience, insider knowledge.

I'm interested in what VC firms do to support marketing and communications at the startups they're invested in, if anything. Do they offer strategic counsel, parachute staff in, do training/ capacity building/ coaching?

If VCs are providing this support, how is the position staffed? Is it a separate role within the VC firm, or is it handled by a marketing/ communications team that also does investor-to-investor and other types of communications work for the VC firm?

I'm looking for online articles, blogs, Twitter handles that might offer some insight to this type of support or first-hand accounts on either the VC or startup end of what marketing and communications support looked like in your experience.

Bonus points if you can give me a general sense of the compensation of the VC staff providing marketing and communications support.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Depends on the size/stage of the startup, the venture firm, and the orientation of the VC companies' portfolios. Often VCs have an agency they've worked with before (sometimes one that specializes in working with startups in a specific industry) that they'll recommend to do contract PR and communications before hiring a full timer makes sense. Then the startup might have its own employees (founders, product managers who also do early customer engagement work) take a first pass at things like website copy or case studies, and then send to the outside agency for review. That's what I've seen in the life sciences where you don't need a sales team or serious marketing and sales collateral for years, anyway.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:23 AM on April 6, 2015

Effort put in by VC firms toward the marketing of their portfolio varies from firm to firm. In my experience it spans the spectrum between nothing and somewhat less than you've described. The expectation/average/mode behavior in the firms I have worked with was "we have a high-quality PR firm that we work with (and recommend to our portfolio companies) who understands the space, the relevant publications, and will work with you on cost because of our relationship".

Marketing does not equal PR, but this is what I have seen "offered".

For anything more detailed and company/industry specific than that only a tiny fraction of VCs have in-house staff that will come in and get hands-on for things like direct user acquisition or email campaigns or ad-placement or social strategy. More likely, a VC might line up a particularly marketing savvy portfolio company with one in need to share tricks and tips across the portfolio but that would not be more casual than formal exercise.
posted by milqman at 7:33 AM on April 6, 2015

Definitely the answer here is "it depends on the deal cut in the first place" but I can tell you from a friend's startup that I know, they got funding from a huge company's VC fund (not this, but similar to AOL's venture cap incubator) and offered them the services of their in-house marketing research team to help figure out strategy, find resources etc. This was not free but billed back to the startup at a discount that got less steep every year. The in-house firm also offered startup consulting services to startups who aren't even funded by the fund so it's a service that is out there.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:20 PM on April 6, 2015

I work for a VC funded start-up, in London, UK. We are basically a self-sufficient company and are expected to use the funding to arrange our own marketing, PR, advertising etc. In my experience, the extra value that you might get from VC firms is not so much any service they provide than the networking and introduction opportunities to other businesses that you can work with in your industry. In fact, that's the secret of start-up culture really, that the success of any early business is 90% networking, 9% product development, 1% great idea. There are business incubators, business coaches, etc. who will provide these on marketing, PR, communications etc. support, or consultancy on these services, but certainly for us we had no expectations of these being provided by VC firms.
posted by iivix at 1:25 AM on April 7, 2015

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