Psst! Investors, we want to talk.
You’ve probably noticed that founders want more than just money these days (who would have guessed this 20 years ago?!). Finding the right fit is different than ever, and the best founders out there are demanding more. Specifically… more meaningful relationships.
Yes, money matters. It is the foundation of your business, after all, but it’s not everything. Founders want investors who are connected to and aligned with their unique vision, and who are ready to support and take an active role in their growing company. (And we’re willing to bet you want founders who you’ll enjoy mentoring—and whose mission actually resonates with you—too.)
It’s about more than the money. It’s about relationships.
Attracting founders in an innovation ecosystem
In a down market, investors have the upper hand and can select the best of the best from the founder pool. But even then—and especially in a liquid market—it’s a two-way street and founders have hopes for and requirements of their investors, too. But creating those relationships doesn’t happen by chance.
Colleen O’Brien is a trusted Arcbound board member with robust experience on both the founder and investor sides. Her impressive track record includes roles heading up marketing for M12 (Microsoft’s venture fund) as well as the savvy women’s clothing startup Armoire. She’s spent her career learning the ins and outs of founder-investor relations, and she’ll be the first to tell you: Investors are having to pitch themselves more than ever.
“We’re in an innovation ecosystem,” O’Brien said in a recent interview. “Especially over the past few years, there’s been so much money in the growth capital market that investors have needed to compete for deals. What used to be founders scrambling for money is now a two-way matching system.”
Most investors have preferred to let their money speak for itself, but this just doesn’t cut it anymore.
That two-way matching system Colleen talks about requires courting on both sides, which may not come naturally to those used to simply doling out the capital. While founders are out there pitching themselves by nature, personal branding or storytelling is a new concept for investors. (Should we create Hinge for venture capitalists?)
Investor and female founder advocate Sara Ledterman affirms this, sharing, “I always refer to founder-funder fit like a dating relationship.” Some of the most common advice she gives to founders she works with? “Be picky.” Founders need to ask themselves whether their investor is someone they can communicate and work well with when there are bumps in the road. As Ledterman warns, “This is a long term relationship and it’s very hard to get someone off your cap table,” so don’t invite just anyone to the team—no matter what they’re offering you.
Investors: You have to prove yourself to founders you’re interested in. You have the money, but do you have the expertise to sit on the founder’s board? To guide their business decisions toward the greatest success? To support them as a mentor when things get tough?
Keep this top of mind as you show yourself to the world, and founders will be knocking at your door—not just for your money, but for YOU.
If you want the best founders, you’ve got to have a strong personal brand.
We caught up with Robbie Crabtree—formal trial lawyer, expert storyteller, fundraising coach, and founder of Performative Speaking—for his view on storytelling in the startup world.
His key piece of advice? “Founders are looking for investors that have a clear identity.”
Crabtree says this is the case because “every founder is prioritizing different things, and the worst part of deciding on investors is when it’s unclear what kind of partner they will be.” Founders want to know who they’re choosing for their team, and personal branding is the single best way to ensure the real you is visible to the founders you want most.
“Investors need to know that their personal brand weighs heavily on the decisions founders will make. Especially the founders in high demand.” You heard it here, folks.
And if the idea of launching a personal brand into the world feels foreign or intimidating, fear not: It’s what we do best at Arcbound. From brand architecture, to strategic planning, to full-service content creation (including newsletters, social media, podcast production, and even book writing), we put your story out there for the world to see, and we make sure it’s connecting with the right people.
For instance, if you’re an investor that only puts money into B2B software companies, telling your story and the values that accompany it—whether you previously led a B2B’s successful exit, or used to manage a large software portfolio investment—is extremely important so people can identify you in a specific category so you can stand out.
Here’s a snapshot of the process.
Creating an authentic, impactful personal brand
First, you have to know your story. What are your values, vision, and mission? What matters to you? What is your message?
This is where your story starts. Your unique values, vision for the world, and mission to bring that vision to life are what make you you and distinguish you from the rest of the investors out there.
What do you want to change about the world with the capital you have to deploy, and why does that matter? If you don’t know the answer to this, how will you explain to a founder why their work matters to you?
Our internal brand architecture team is expert at fleshing out the “who” and “why” behind our clients’ missions. That’s where all storytelling starts; it’s the very foundation of a meaningful identity or personal brand.
Don’t rush ahead past this step and expect the money to speak for itself.
Then, you have to own it.
Once you’ve discovered your true purpose and vision, don’t be afraid to put it out into the world fully. Sure, it won’t resonate with everyone, but it will resonate with some—and those are the ones that matter.
Arcbound isn’t a marketing machine, and we don’t create brands just for the sake of brands. We do the opposite. We build your arc to help you achieve your desired outcome, by uncovering and sharing the most authentic YOU and connecting it to the groups that matter.
That’s how the magic happens.
Finally, and most importantly, you’ve got to promote it. You can have the best personal brand in the world, but what good does it do if you don’t share it with the right audience?
Make your identity a visible, attractive, magnetic force in the world, and you’ll attract the right founders to work with. It might sound crazy, but it’s the deepest truth we know.
Relationships + Great Content = ROI
We get that this might feel like a leap. Or like some flashy, Gen Z concept. You’re in a numbers game, and we know that. “Show me the ROI,” you say; but storytelling isn’t about just numbers.
We’ll be honest with you: If we only invested in storytelling and community because of impressive ROIs or trackable deals per month, nobody would ever start. It’s not about that. Personal branding is about investing in a long-term identity that will reap benefits 100 times over.
Short-term investments reap immediate rewards, but how long can that last? It’s why one of our company core values is “Begin With the End In Mind”: We know the payoff for investing in our clients, and ourselves, up front.
And our clients (corporate VC funds, angel Investors, and leaders in private equity) who are pioneering personal branding in the venture capital world know this, too.
What’s your ultimate goal as an investor? Maybe it’s simply to make a good return on the capital you deploy. But maybe it’s more. A lot more—such as relationships that will last a lifetime and legacy impact on the areas you invest.
Maybe you want to change the world, on a global scale or more intimately, right in your own area. We believe the world changes through storytelling. Sharing your authentic self and mission for the world to see helps to connect you with others who have similar dreams, and that collective power brings real change.
When founders and investors put themselves out there in a meaningful way, the right matches are born. From there, there’s better alignment, better collaboration, and better innovation. That changes the world.
The possibilities are endless. And it all starts with knowing yourself, being willing to share your story, and pursuing an arc that generates the long-term results you want most.