Seed Stage Founders Undervalue Angels With Marketing & Comms Expertise

Why Bringing These Two Skillsets Onto Your Cap Table Early Is Worth It

In 10 years of venture investing I don’t think I’ve ever participated in a seed round which had less demand than supply. From a macro sense, you can thank the bull run our industry was in for the last decade. And then specifically there’s surely some social proof dynamics as well — I’ve always believed that if Homebrew commits to your seed round the risk of not raising the amount you want basically goes to zero (equally so, since we see many opportunities from coinvestors, there’s often already capital coalescing around the startup).

In addition to our dollars, we are eager to help founders with the construction of their cap table, not just generically with the highest profile folks available, but more specifically where they might get some help along the way. Some angels are what I’d call Type O Negative in that they are so universally beloved and dynamically useful that we’d welcome them into *any* investment. More often though it comes down to a combination of circumstances: in what industry is this startup building? What expertise do the founders personally have? Who else is already committed to the round and what do they bring to the table? And of course the angel needs to be interested themselves. Plus all the puzzle pieces in terms of allocations need to fit. It’s not as easy as it used to be!

So while every seed round, and every startup, is its own special unique situation, I will say that there’s a set of skills that I often see underrepresented and which we advocate for including: marketing and communications. I could speculate *why* this gap exists (there are a number of reasons), but rather use the following paragraphs to make the case for including these folks (people like Jen Grant and Ashley Mayer, who we’ve had as advisors for Homebrew companies, and routinely seek to bring into funding rounds whenever they’d like).

  1. Founders Often Don’t Come From These Backgrounds…

Founders seem to disproportionately come from engineering, product and sales/business unit career paths. Seed cap tables are about adding new perspectives and abilities, not just another 10 angels who share the exact same background as the founding team.

2. ..Nor Do VCs

While there are excellent counter-examples, your VC also likely didn’t spend their career as a marketing or communications leader! While I believe I personally was one of the best product leaders of my timeframe when it came to understanding the nuance and strategies of comms [yes, I just broke my arm patting myself on the back], I’d still defer to people like Ashley or Aaron Zamost if they disagreed.

3. Seed Stage Startups Don’t Hire Fulltime For These Roles, And Certainly Not Senior Hires

These roles typically become FTE in your growth from 10 to 50 employees, not 1–10. So get them on your cap table instead of your org chart, versus just lacking access to this DNA until post-Series A.

4. Best Practices In Marking & Comms Are Highly Extensible

There are certain types of help that’s difficult to get if the person providing the input isn’t deeply involved in your day-to-day. And definitely once they’re on board fulltime, marketing and comms will be even more valuable. But at the same time, for seed stage needs, I’ve generally found they can provide much value ‘on demand’ without having to be caught up on the intricacies of your business.

5. Seed Stage Needs Here Are Usually About Preventing Things From Going Wrong

There are startups who are just amazing at marketing and comms from Day One, but for many it’s not an immediate critical workpath. You’re trying to build a software product, do customer development and find PMF. *But* doing marketing or comms poorly can create huge wastes of dollars or in the worst cases, get you in trouble. So think of these angels as risk management that can eyeball your general plans, and called upon strategically if there’s an unexpected issue to navigate.

6. Hiring Marketing or Comms Consultants/Agencies At Seed Is Often a Terrible Idea

What a waste of money (and time) to engage with mediocre or junior talent. The reality is that the best ‘for hire’ practitioners here are not doing seed-level consulting. It’s just not worth their time. And so instead you get what you pay for. This wasn’t always the case — there used to be, for example, a roster of excellent comms folks and even boutique agencies who enjoyed consulting for very early stage startups, but they’ve all gotten hired by VCs or growth stage companies, or themselves moved into more strategic upmarket roles, charging as much as the best lawyers, exec recruiters and other top tier service providers.

So there you go. Please make an effort to bring marketing and comms angels into your seed round. And when I specifically recommend this, and you ask ‘why,’ expect this URL in your inbox. Cheers!