In February of 2011 I took my first baby steps to joining the ever-blossoming NY tech scene. I am sure I’m not alone in saying that for a newbie, it can be quite overwhelming. Then, slap a major media brand name (AOL) on that along with the fact that your company invests in early stage internet companies and…. you get the point.
Flash-forward to May 2013 and I feel as though I am a completely different person. Constantly referred to as the “First Lady of AOL Ventures,” I can proudly say that my time there was one of extensive learning, and personal growth. For two plus years and still now, I have been surrounded by the best of the best in the industry that has resulted in my recent “First Ladyship” at Bowery Capital.
In the transition from fund to fund, I have defined 3 key takeaways from my role at AOL Ventures as major factors in molding Bowery Capital into a best-in-class early-stage VC fund:
(1) Culture is Key – Everyone has a “team” at work, “co-workers” or “colleagues,” but what does that matter if the group as a whole doesn’t sync. It’s just as much about hiring the person with the best experience as it is about being a well-oiled machine that can turn things off for a bit and have a casual beer or conversation. Monthly offsites, happy hours, sports games, rock climbing – whatever it is you fancy – step away from the computer screens and whiteboards, listen and learn. Takeaway: Value each other, encourage development and respect contributions.
(2) Brand Awareness Without Wearing it Out – This industry presents an enormous number of opportunities to slap your brand on events and invites: Meetups, conferences, hackathons, disrupts, pitch events, round tables, salons, demo days and even a whole week just dedicated to the Internet! Brand awareness, good. Oversaturation with lack of focus, bad. Come to know what makes sense for your company’s theme and target market and stick to it. Too much visibility can mean getting lost in the mix. Takeaway: Measurable ROI. Make sure it exists.
(3) Most Valuable Thing is Adding Value – I must say, this has probably been my top takeaway fund to fund. Invest in company, partner with company, help grow company. With Bowery Capital, we’ve expanded on this notion by forming programmatic ways of adding value: Monthly thematic breakfasts, quarterly focus-area retreats, a proprietary customer database, intranet of R&D for our startups and we don’t plan on stopping there. Takeaway: Focus on what matters most: being exceptional thought partners and helping our startups access and win early customers.
In summary: Culture. ROI. Value-Add.