Communications as a VC weapon
Venture capital (VC) firms increasingly see communications as a way to help their investments stand out from the competition.
Why it matters: Telling a good story — instead of buying one through ads — can be a cost-effective move in a rough economy.
State of play: When pencils are up, communications can be a smart tool to grow your business, says Allison Braley, Bain Capital Ventures' first marketing partner.
- "You're not going to see companies spend a lot of money on paid ads. Instead, you will see startups turning to their VCs and saying, how can you help me grow without spending as much? And that's where having a truly excellent comms function at the VC level can help," Braley told Axios.
Flashback: With Margit Wennmachers at the helm, Andreessen Horowitz was arguably the first to use PR to enhance brand awareness before it had years of financial performance to show off.
- Wennmachers helped everyone realize that by flexing marketing muscle on behalf of the firm, you can increase reputation and demonstrate how you could support a founder — and the founder audience is key.
- "Getting in front of high potential founders is the north star of VC comms," says Hadley Wilkins, Atomic's vice president of communications. "My job is to build Atomic's brand to attract those people."
- And for partnerships to be successful, the firm must market itself in a transparent, sincere way.
Zoom in: Once there's a deal, communications should step in to support the portfolio and help shape the narrative.
- "A great founder has to act as the chief storyteller," says active angel investor and entrepreneur Tina Sharkey. "They have to be able to convey their vision to investors, the media and potential customers or partners."
- "You're only born once and what we say helps the trajectory of the business. Everything is built on values and positioning," says Wilkins, who is part of Atomic’s company building team to help startups tell their stories.
Yes, but: There are reasons to hit pause on marketing and comms.
- “Some early stage companies that want to stay quiet as they build out their product to avoid tipping off competitors — and that's a real strategic reason to avoid comms and marketing," says Jenna Birch, vice president of communications at a VC firm in San Francisco. "But we still have to prepare, should a story break."
The bottom line: "There's a giant opportunity to invest in strategic communications and storytelling from the very beginning — but not in an overhyped way," says Wilkins.
- “Communication keeps us all on the same page. We have to be proactive and transparent during good times and bad."