Your Firm’s Fundraising Deck is a Mirror
The location and size of your photo tells you almost everything you need to know about the future.
The Venture Upward substack is a field guide for surviving, getting ahead, and succeeding as a venture capitalist. Created by David Beisel (@davidbeisel) and Rob Go (@robgo) of NextView, it's written for non-partner VCs navigating their way through the ranks.
A VC’s fundraise every few years is repeatedly a critical juncture in the firm’s lifecycle. Because a fundraising process turns a page into the firm’s next chapter, it serves as a natural catalyst for change immediately before or after. The senior partners decide to (or not) morally sign up for a next “tour of duty”, so to speak, of the next fund’s investment period. And as a parallel, it serves as a reflection point for examining the rest of the staff along the lines of hiring, promoting, and encouraging departures. Plus, fundraising really crystallizes roles and responsibilities. After all, it focuses positioning the firm to be as attractive as possible for both existing and new prospective investors.
The most straightforward yet subtle tell about your importance and trajectory in your venture firm is where your picture is on the fundraising deck and how it fits into the narrative. Even if you’re not a General Partner, are you positioned right there with the other members of the core team? Hopefully they talk you up as a rising star who is making a real impact and could be a future face of the firm. Or, do you only merely play a bit part? Well, time to change that.
The key insight here is that you need to create a situation where the senior partners want to include you as an integral part of the fundraising story by positioning you as a unique asset to the team about why an LP should invest.
How do you accomplish this objective? Ahead of fundraising, become a part of “the story.” Become associated with a particular important initiative or specific firm differentiation point. Become associated with a central thematic investment pursuit. Or best of all, become associated with a (winning) investment (even if you didn’t source it).
If you’re in a sea of peers inside a pyramid structure, recognize that you’re in a tournament of performance, partially relative and partially absolute. The middle of the pack will be relegated to an appendix slide in the fundraising deck among rows of other young smiling faces of headshots. If you’re one or one of a few junior investment professionals, seek specific and investor-ready salient ways that you matter. Fundraising narratives often feature case-studies, so work hard to make it yours.
However, remember the context of your situation and the broader firm’s. If the partners believe you’re not going to be there in a few years either because of performance or because there is a significant risk you’ll depart, of course they’re not going to feature you prominently to LPs who are living on a different extended timeline. Stepping back, how non-partners are positioned also varies greatly depending on if you’re at a first or second time fund fighting for its life or a legacy firm whose next fund is rest easily assured.
Looking at the team slide in your firm’s fundraising deck is like looking in the mirror, as it’s a realistic and sometimes harsh reflection of reality. Take note if your partners are telling their investors that you’re potentially here for good or just here for now.
We want to hear from you. Sincerely. Feel free to reach out to share feedback, ask for thoughts, suggest a topic, or even chat about your situation. And course we’d welcome referrals to founders who are seeking a high-conviction hands-on seed stage investment per our investment approach at NextView.