Reading Between the Lines: VCs and Their Websites


Have you noticed? Many venture capitalists — a group not known for their creativity — have quietly begun to revamp their uninspired Websites, transforming them into sophisticated sales collateral that would make even a Webby award winner envious.

Who has the nicest landing page? Who has the lamest? We can’t say definitively. (Sorry, but we were busy sobbing over the Superbowl this weekend.) But of the top-tier sites that we reviewed, we can tell you what caught our eye as effective as well as obnoxious — and what site deserves the award for best effort.

Photo: Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


[slide title=”Benchmark Capital”]

Ah, Benchmark. We remember when you had actual information on your site — about your partners, assistants, portfolio companies and board seats. We kind of liked that site, if we can be so honest. But you thought it was time to move in a new direction, and it’s easy to appreciate why. After all, it’s 2013; Benchmark has been killing it for pretty much 18 years straight at this point. Why not create a very minimalist site that basically communicates to visiting entrepreneurs that without a personal connection to the firm, they should just walk into the ocean?

[slide title=”Social + Capital Partnership”]

We’ve long thought the site of Social + Capital Partnership — the venture firm of Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook exec who has also logged time at Mayfield Fund and AOL — was bordering on insufferable for listing only an email address.

Given Benchmark’s redesign, it now seems more like Palihapitiya was ahead of his peers in embracing opaqueness. In fact, some newer firms are dispensing with the idea of a Website altogether. (The apparent thinking: If you want to learn more and don’t know where to turn, you probably shouldn’t be in the market for capital.)

[slide title=”Institutional Venture Partners”]

The site of Institutional Venture Partners is so dated that you have to give its team some kind of credit. Evidently, the partners are so busy making money, putting it to work again, and raising more that they don’t have the time or inclination to worry about how their site appears.

Don’t like it? Think it’s not cool enough? Then find someone else to back your startup, dummy.

[slide title=”Andreessen Horowitz”]

Given the outsize reputation of Andreessen Horowitz, you’d think the firm’s site would feature Kanye West rapping from the roof of its lavish Sand Hill Road offices or, at the very least, a virtual cigar room. But the firm likes to keep outsiders on their toes, and its site effectively meets that objective with its subdued, even drab, design.

“[W]e like counterprogramming,”  cofounder Marc Andreessen once told me. “If there are three networks showing cop drama shows on Thursday at 9 pm., then what you want to do is put on a comedy.”

[slide title=”Kleiner Perkins”]

Kleiner Perkins’ site would meet any reasonable person’s expectations of a moneyed venture capital firm. It’s colorful; the navigation is clean. “Team,” “Companies,” “Our Focus” — it’s all there. It also prominently features partner Mary Meeker’s updated 2012 Internet Trends report and a streaming slideshow of founders whose companies Kleiner has backed in recent years.

Which raises the question of whether KP’s site is on auto pilot. Not to be harsh, but it is February. The bulk of Meeker’s report was published in late May of last year, just a couple of weeks after Newt Gingrich ended his campaign for the GOP nomination.

In addition, of the eight CEOs who are prominently featured at the site, two – Andrew Mason of Groupon and Mark Pincus of Zynga – aren’t doing a whole lot for Kleiner’s LPs at the moment. We can’t know yet whether Kleiner might eventually make a decent multiple off Zynga (it seems unlikely), but the firm disclosed last month that, based on cost, it has already lost 38 percent of its roughly $45 million investment in Groupon.

[slide title=”Accel”]

If you  haven’t noticed, Accel Partners’ site now looks like a giant album cover. Reading into this, we think the firm’s message is that when you make a bazillion dollars off one investment, as Accel did with Facebook, you can do whatever the hell you want.

[slide title=”Sequoia Capital”]

For years, Sequoia had one of the dullest sites in the industry. The firm didn’t need to tart up its site and it didn’t. But at some point, Sequoia decided to throw more effort into window dressing, and the result  is an excellent in-your-face display of the astounding series of megahits the firm has backed over the years.

There, at the start of its fast-moving timeline, is a gorgeous photo of a young Steve Jobs, with the year that Apple was founded (1976) and the year that Sequoia “partnered” with Apple (1978). In a flash, Jobs is replaced by an equally gorgeous photo of Trip Hawkins, with the year that Electronic Arts was founded (1982) and the year Sequoia first wrote the company a check (also 1982).

On the timeline moves, to the founders of Oracle, Cisco, Yahoo, Paypal, Google, Rackspace, YouTube, Zappos, LinkedIn, Y Combinator, Evernote, Square. In fact, fully 30 high-flying companies are featured. They collectively communicate a powerful, unvarnished message, too: Those other VCs you’ve read about? They are amateurs.

Ka-pow. And it’s Sequoia for the win.