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Venture capital - providing value beyond capital

What follows is a brief message I provided to one of my friends in Life Science venture. It is on the topic of providing value to the community regardless of whether you are working with the member of the community or not.

Providing value = building a positive relationship.

37 Signals is a software company that makes a project management tool called Basecamp.

They regularly blog, sharing knowledge and experience on subjects such as business and software engineering. They also write books.

Here is an excerpt from one:

As a promotional technique, education is a soft way to get your name – and your product’s name – in front of more people. And instead of a hard sell “buy this product” approach, you’re getting attention by providing a valuable service. That creates positive buzz that traditional marketing tactics can’t match. People who you educate will become your evangelists. Education can come in many forms. Post tips and tricks at your site that people will want to share with others. Speak at con- ferences and stay afterwards to meet and greet with attendees. Conduct workshops so curious fans can learn more and talk to you in the flesh. Give interviews to publications. Write articles that share helpful information. And write books.

Now the value provided by 37 Signals is relevant to customers and non-customers alike. And they are happy to do this because if the value is good non-customers, eventually when they need a project management tool they sure as hell head straight to 37Signals because they have a relationship with them.

Let’s go over to venture and see how this works there…

Google ventures, a VC firm that educates.

Google Ventures, the corporate investment arm of Google primarily invests in tech but also have approximately 2 or 3 pharmaceutical companies and DNA data processing companies.

If you look at the GV portfolio it covers everything from coffee shops to cancer therapeutics, I think this comes from a desire to pursue businesses that are not just good opportunities but the mission of the companies is to shift away from the status quo.

So as an entrepreneur looking at GV how do they provide value to me even though I’m not part of their portfolio?

Well just like 37 Signals they provide education and entertainment.

Firstly there is the library section covering: design, hiring, leadership, marketing, engineering etc.

Second there is, founder interviews. My two favourites are Elon Musk and Hossain Rahman these are genuinely fascinating interviews that provide value to the entrepreneur in terms of education and entertainment.

What is available in Life Science?

So already GV is building a positive relationship with an entrepreneur without the entrepreneur even having met one of the team at GV.

But this is tech, tech entrepreneurs aren’t the same as life science entrepreneurs. There are 4 sources that I think are the closest.

  • Obviously Mr Drug Baron is first, he provides the best content
  • Second is Bruce Booth
  • Nature Biotech’s first rounders podcast
  • Maybe pharmaTV? (I find this a little “stuffy”)

The problem is these are disparate sources and entrepreneurs don’t necessarily associate one with being for entrepreneurs.

Benefit to your venture firm

So what would be the benefit of your life science arm providing value to potential investments through education and entertainment?

Library: Where does one go to read about experiences of picking a CRO for trials, or compound screening? I have no idea, surely this is somewhere you could provide tons of value.

How do you do hiring right in a drug discovery platform company? I don’t know any resources for this.

I could go on.

However for every bit of knowledge that you share you provide value to an entrepreneur or a future entrepreneur and not only are you providing value you are turning them into a better entrepreneur and potentially a better investment!! And providing value builds a relationship.

Founder interviews: What was it like to found CAT? I would have no idea except I had the chance to ask Sir Greg Winter at the end of a lecture. This would be an amazing interview. Your firm could be the one to tell all these stories just like GV are the ones telling the stories of these great tech company founders.

Life science co. stories are so infrequently shared and hardly ever documented.

In summary

Education and entertainment provides value to the entrepreneur, and providing value leads to building a positive relationship. Through providing resources on your website you can provide value passively (i.e. providing value to 300 people with one video as apposed to meeting 50 people at an event).

Entrepreneurs will perceive venture firms by the value that it provides them rather than the press releases of deals it makes. This builds a relationship between the venture firm and entrepreneur and ultimately drives quality opportunities your way.