Blog by Jackie Vouthouris / July 23, 2019

Building a VC Platform (Part II): Focus, Test, and Iterate

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Building a VC platform from scratch is a lot like operating a mini-startup: it’s a continual quest to prioritize, stay focused, test concepts, gather feedback, and iterate on your product. I joined Corigin Ventures a little over two years ago as their first platform hire, and prioritizing and staying focused are skills that I still need to diligently pay attention to and work at every day.

You can read more about my first few months here, but long story short after I started I honed in on three major platform pillars to build and offer to founders: organizational design and talent curation, fundraising strategy and assistance, and founder wellness and development. I recently completed a review period where I audited each of these areas to understand what we’ve learned, what worked, what didn’t work, and what’s next.

What We’ve Learned

  • We were pretty accurate with our major pillars listed above, but the exact components have changed meaningfully over time. We’ve also lessened the focus on some ancillary areas that weren’t driving as much ROI to re-prioritize the main three.
  • For Seed-stage founders, the most asked for area they still want VC support from is raising their Series A. No surprise there.
  • Regarding talent support, we tested sourcing candidates, hosting hiring workshops, and deeper organizational and role design work. Statically speaking, we don’t have material success with placing candidates in roles, but we’ve significantly grown our expertise in helping startups build game-changing, scalable, repeatable hiring practices.
  • In the world of founder wellness and leadership development, we tested executive coaching, wellness coaching, founder roundtables, Monday meditation email prompts, meditation classes, and financial subsidies for a mix of these offerings. Our biggest takeaway is that there is no one-size-fits-all offering. I’ll dive more into this and other major insights in another post soon.
  • As I noted above from personal experience, focusing and prioritizing are hard for everyone, including founders. We’re very good at lending an ear and a whiteboard as founders talk through and narrow down their priorities for the next 12-18 months.
  • Over the past year I spent a lot of time working on internal projects like branding and CRM-building which took significant time away from building the platform offerings. The focus theme popped up again here in the trade-offs of that decision.
  • I thought I could breeze through building our offerings in a lot less time than it’s actually taken me. There are always nuances to pay close attention to, unexpected problems that pop up, and pivots to incorporate.

Select Data From Founders That Work With Us

Where do founders most need help from Seed stage investors?

  • 88% said Series A support (strategy and intros)
  • 56% said access to knowledge support (Corigin team, advisors, peers)
  • 44% said hiring talent

What did founders expect from us/what did we promise them?

  • General guidance/support
  • Fundraising assistance
  • Seed stage capital and not much else

Did we deliver on founders’ expectations?

  • Mostly “yes,” some “still in progress”
  • No “no’s” (yay!)

Where would you rank us compared to other Seed investors?

  • 25% of founders put us in the Top 5%
  • 63% of founders put us in the Top 10%
  • 94% of founders put us in the Top 25%

What’s Next For The Corigin Ventures Platform

While our core identity remains the same, we’ve refined our platform pillars. We still believe that Seed stage is the most formative period in the startup life cycle. We’re still making a promise to founders to strengthen the most important relationships in the company’s earliest days (team, investors, and self) as a foundation that catalyzes their success.

We’re doubling down on “how to raise your Series A” for Seed stage founders. We’re tweaking our talent support and we’re spending the most time on “how to hire the right people,” from planning an org chart all the way through onboarding new employees. We’re working closely with startup teams on KPIs, the art of prioritizing, and developing a highly functioning team. We’re continuing to refine our offerings around founder wellness and leadership development.

Most importantly, we’re doing this as a full-team effort that includes everyone at Corigin, not just the platform team. Our platform offerings are not an addendum to the work our investment team does, but a guide post for where we should all be spending our time post-investment with the startups we support.