Here at Homebrew, we’re pretty into the idea of constant improvement. Our years of product management experience taught us that often the best insights can come from your customers. In our case customers = founders, and supporting the ones we’ve backed is our firm’s #1 priority. But you can also learn a ton from the folks you didn’t back and sometimes even from the ones you’ve never met!
What do I mean by that last point – how do we learn from people we never talked with during their fundraise? Well, we frequently diligence those deals after the fact – the startups we think we should have seen during their fundraise but for one reason or another – in order to better understand why we didn’t find each other. How are these learnings actionable? They can help direct our proactive networking – ie maybe there’s a university campus where Homebrew isn’t well-known so we try to figure out how to solve that problem.
Given the work we’ve done understanding the patterns of seed fundraising, we wanted to share an insight to benefit our venture peers: Your Portfolio Page Is Your Thesis – Founders will often look first (and sometimes only) at your website’s portfolio page to assess whether or not you invest in their industry, business model, geography, etc. You might have detailed these ideas lovingly in a blog post or elsewhere on your site but almost all the time, your portfolio page helps teams decide if they should reach out to your or not.
Given that more early stage startups are staying quiet about their financings (not stealth per se, just not announcing they’ve raised money), there can be a substantial lag between a firm’s investments and the display of these logos on their website, sometimes sending incomplete signals to new founders about what the fund is seeking. “Oh we love Homebrew but looked at your portfolio page and didn’t see any XYZ companies, so didn’t think you’d be interested” was something we heard from a few founders we wished would have pinged us.
What did we do with this feedback and what do we recommended to our peers? When you make an investment, you can put a placeholder slot on your portfolio page which generally describes the company. For example, here are two examples of “placeholders” we use on our website.
The only downside we’ve considered is whether any potential founders would see something and erroneously consider it a “competitive investment,” (since our descriptions are so general) but most folks will ask. Or once they share their startup with us, we’ll tell them we’re competitively blocked in the very small number of cases where that occurs.
Just a small thing we’ve done that could be helpful to others out there and make sure founders are finding the best funders for their startups.