Emerging Managers and Founders: Lead with Your Story

One of the things I like to learn about a founder is their origin story. How were they raised, and what were they doing in life that illuminated the problem their start-up is solving? Sounds simple, but the origin story can be a leading indicator. Today I listened to a few fund-of-fund investors critique an emerging venture capital fund’s pitch deck and give guidance about how emerging managers can best pitch limited partners (LPs).

A consistent piece of advice for all the funds of funds was that emerging managers should lead with their story. The pitch deck shouldn’t jump right into thesis, investment track record, or how much the manager is raising. It should start with background on the manager—what their journey has been and how led them to raise their own venture fund and come up with their investment thesis.

LPs are buying a portfolio of to-be-determined portfolios of investments. Ideally, they’d look at previous fund investments to gauge what a manager’s future portfolio of investments might look like. However, many emerging managers won’t have an investment track record. When that’s the case, LPs are investing in the managers. They want to get to know who the managers are, how they think, and why they are the way they are. Understanding what makes them tick will give LPs more comfort around the person they’re backing and the nonexistent portfolio they’re buying.

This feedback makes a lot of sense, and it was a reminder that emerging VC fund managers are basically founders. Telling an authentic, compelling story—as a manager or founder—can be the key to getting early believers on board.