The Importance of Personal Brand in VC: How the Media Company of One will be the New Standard
Harry Stebbings is probably the best and most recent example of this. What a story: an 18 year old from England uses his podcast to meet & interview some of the best VCs in the business. He built a network and a real podcast business as a launchpad business and started a VC firm (Stride VC) in 2018 and then more recently on the side, Micro VC fund of 8.3M with some of the best VC & angels in Silicon Valley.
“20VC’s tie to the name of the podcast is intentional. The podcast has developed a brand of its own in the world of tech, with some 200,000 subscribers and 80 million downloads to date of the twice-weekly program. And 20VC isn’t just trading on Stebbings’ own experience as an entrepreneur: it has tapped the network of people that have been on the show, or know him because of the show, to assemble LPs.
There are some 64 of them in all, including founders and current and former execs from Atlassian, Yammer (David Sacks), Plaid (William Hockney), Superhuman, Airtable, Calm, Cazoo, Zenly, Alan, Spotify (Shakil Khan) and Tray.io; GPs from Kleiner (Mamoon Hamid), Social Capital (Chamath), Thrive (Josh Kushner & Miles Grimshaw), Atomic, Founders Fund (Brian Singerman), Coatue, Index (Danny Rimer), True Ventures (Phil Black) and Beezer Clarkson, among many others. Having a popular podcast that highlights interesting investors and startups turns out to be a good way of networking to build a fund. Stebbings said that the call out was oversubscribed three times over within four weeks.’
Pretty impressive accomplishment and shows the approach of building an audience first. Or the media company approach. But if you go back into VC history, this is actually a pretty well paved path to building a personal brand in VC & Angel investing.
Mark Suster, Fred Wilson, Brad Feld, Paul Graham are very representative of the Blogging era of the early 2000s. Andrew Chen was a longtime blogger on growth before he became a VC.
Jason Calcanis (Launch Conference & This Day in Startups Podcast) & Jason Lemkin (Quora/Saastr/Blogging/Conference) have done an amazing job using Social media and building Conferences as a platform.
Semil Shah (Blogging & Twitter), Leo Polovets (Blogging & Twitter), Hunter Walk (Blogging & Twitter), Brianne Kimmel (Blogging & Twitter) are representatives of VCs using social media to build out their network and brand.
In more recent times, we’re seeing investors build strong followings either via social media, podcasts and Substack newsletters like Anthony Pompliano (Twitter & Podcast), Erik Torenberg (Twitter & Podcast), Li Jin (Twitter and Blogging).
Who can forget my dear friend and ex-colleague Sheel Mohnot on Twitter and as the “Zoom Bachelor”, who also ended up on Justin Bieber’s music video (that last bit is incidental but effective).
The Importance of Personal Brand in early stage Venture Capital
Having a personal brand this day in age is important whatever role/position/industry you are in.
I think this has become even more important for investors doing investments especially in the stages up to the series A venture capital. As great as the brand names are, the best founders would rather take money from a specific Partner at the firm. They optimize for it over the firm’s brand name.
Obviously the best case is for both a top brand firm and top specific partner, but we know that is not always the case. I know of founders who have given up an offer from top tier Sequoia Capital to go with another better suited Investment Partner at another firm.
And frankly there are so many great investors out there. With 1000+ pre-seed and Seed funds, maybe at least 100 Series A VC funds that would be considered top tier, founders have a plethora of choices. Top founders have their pick of who they let invest into their company. So i think it’s become incumbent on investment partners at firms to really stand out & build their own brand. This is how you get great deal flow.
And also understanding VC Fund politics, it’s not a bad idea to have your own brand and following. It gives you optionality: go join another firm, start your own or even just be a “Solo Capitalist.”
There are so many successful examples of “Media Company of One” model for up and coming VCs. Yet like many things in life, it looks very simple but it really takes a lot of time & work.
BUT this will be the standard path for the savvy future venture capitalists, if it isn’t already.