If a VC firm has an in-house marketing rep, a visible strategy and at least one outside marketing agency on retainer, chances are good the firm wishes to be, much like the Skee-Lo song, “a little bit taller … a baller.”
But the game here isn’t basketball. It’s about staying relevant among a younger class of entrepreneurs who have more funding options than startups 15 years ago. And the stakes are higher as VCs aim to maintain relationships with LPs, who are abandoning the asset class.
A number of firms last year, including old stalwarts like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, have stepped up their marketing efforts as they hire professionals for maintaining press relations, pitching LPs or attracting the hottest entrepreneurs into their portfolios.
After all, a marketing strategy ups your game, shows that you’re not a club of boys. And as the number of active VC firms has dropped to more than half what they were a decade ago, competitive pressure is making many firms step out of their “closed-vest” nature and use marketeering to promote their portfolios and reach new business.
“VCs have to walk a fine line. They have to be edgy enough for entrepreneurs and stable enough to please the LPs,” says Gina Vakili, former vice president of marketing at Canaan Partners. “That’s the role of VC marketing.”
In the last year, some firm representatives have pointed to Andreessen Horowitz and their outsized marketing and biz dev staff as the reason for an increased attention to PR in the VC industry. In truth, VC marketing is nothing new. Over the last two dozen years, firms have increased or scaled back their marketing efforts, depending on the economic climate. And lately, many firms have recruited people with agency or startup experience, which some observers say is an important way for firms to recruit young entrepreneurs and branch out into social media marketing.
VCJ subscribers can read more about the trend of VC marketing by clicking here. The story includes a perspective by Scott Maxwell of OpenView Venture Partners and comments from Jennifer Jones of Jennifer Jones Consulting, Promod Haque of Norwest Venture Partners, Emily Mendell of NVCA, Andrew Kovacs of Sequoia Capital and Amy Cronk of Andreessen Horowitz.