I often say that strategy is a dirty word in business; it should be struck. Any time you find yourself talking about strategy, you’re probably off-course, actually. There’s only one business strategy: serve your customers.
I agree with that. In venture, I think there’s only one core strategy: serving founders in a differentiated way. We’ve implemented workflows made up of tools, automations and habits to optimize our limited time to create leverage to serve founders.
Let’s break this down.
Investors spend a lot of time in their inbox. 😅
Here’s what makes Spark the best email tool for us:
Shared drafts: We use each other as a second pair of eyes to review email drafts including offers to invest in companies, deal-flow sharing with other investors and diligence follow-ups. Spark has a collaborative real-time editor that speeds up making edits before sending a draft.
Spark templates: We use Spark templates to quickly share details about portfolio companies with other investors when helping founders with their fundraise.
In-email private chat: We use this to make quick decisions about the email we receive. This includes cold email, deal-flow from other investors and admin/scheduling.
Airtable is the central storage for all information on deal flow, investments, and people in our network.
Here’s what makes Airtable the best tool for us:
Flexible: It’s flexible enough for us to store anything. We store a lot.
Relational: You’ve probably heard that investors are in the relationship business. Relational databases like Airtable aren’t just about storing data, they store relationships between data. This helps us see links between the companies, deals, founders, investors, funds, and more in the WF universe.
Integration friendly: It integrates with other tools to make all types of workflows that power the fund.
Our Airtable “base” includes three primary tables:
We manage our Pipeline through an “Active Pipeline” view which filters companies we are meeting, diligencing or going to pass on. We also have a Missed view, a Tracking view, a Markups view and more to help us sort through companies.
We automatically capture pipeline entry and exit dates to track how fast we’re responding to founders. We try to get back to founders with a 7 day “SLA”.
We also record who introduced us to every deal sourced through an introduction. This links to our People table enriching our CRM.
This includes founders, investors and others who have introduced us to companies. The table is designed to surface the context of our relationship: i.e for investors, it would surface which deals we’ve co-invested in, which deals they introduced us to, etc.
We have a “Warm Angel and Small Fund” view we use to share deals with angels + small funds we’re collaborating most with.
We also have a “Top Introducers” view that filters top introducers based on the # of deals + portfolio companies they’ve introduced us to.
We use this table to capture who is investing at VC firms (linked of course to the People table), and what stages, categories, check sizes they invest in, and if they lead rounds.
Like our People table, we have a “Warm VC Firms” table we use to share deals with the firms that are most collaborative. It’s also helpful for identifying firms that might be best suited for a particular company based on their stage and market focus.
What makes this table especially useful for deal-sharing is the subjective context we capture in notes and often share with founders before making introductions. Here’s what a note would look like “Coatue is one of the most data-driven firms and Mazzeo’s one of the most energetic, product-minded investors I know.” Yes, that is a real example.
We automate as much as possible not just to save time, but also to not miss any steps in our processes. We want to be working on the right things, the right way.
Zaps we have running right now:
Deal channel creation zap: We have a Zap that automatically creates a deal channel in Slack for every deal we’re meeting from Airtable. More on that below. 🎁 Template here
7-day SLA zap: We have a Zap that sets up a reminder to follow up 7 days after the deal entered our pipeline. This helps us ensure that we get back to every founder in a reasonable time. 🎁 Template here (last 2 steps in template)
Tracking zap: We have another Zap to follow up on companies we’re tracking. 🎁 Template here
Slack works well for our working style at Weekend Fund. Here’s how we use it for deals:
Our deal creation Zap (as mentioned above) automatically creates a Slack channel for every company we’re meeting
We consolidate materials/context in the channel before every pitch call
We share questions for the founder in the channel before every pitch to ensure we’re well prepared
Debrief + decide next steps immediately after call
The 7 day SLA Zap goes off in the channel 7 days after the deal entered our pipeline
We close the channel only after we close the investment or send the pass email + “close the loop” email updating the person who introduced us to the deal
In addition to deal channels, we have a few more to organize our communications:
#deal-outbound: Vedika is using this channel to build a habit of outbound deal sourcing starting with 1x deal a day
#experiments: As early stage becomes even more competitive, it feels even more important for us to run experiments. We’ve run experiments like Weekend Build, Fundraise From Home, and are working on our next one. This is the channel we use for experiments related chat.
#shower-thoughts: This is a creative safe space where we discuss “What if we tried this?” ideas.
At the time of this post, we have 25 Slack channels open. This might sound silly for a two-person team, but we’ve found this organization helpful in our communications. Our slack history is a searchable artifact for the years to come.
The newest tool in our stack is Vimcal, the calendar app we use for scheduling. Here’s why we use it:
Timezone juggling: As a distributed team jumping on calls with founders around the world, we do a lot of scheduling across timezones. Vimcal is the best tool we’ve found for this.
Efficient, but still personal: Gets us the efficiency of booking links without the risk of it coming off as transactional
AngelList Venture Funds
AngelList makes it possible for a small team (or single person) to run a venture fund. They provide:
Operational support to execute deals - reviewing + signing legal docs and wiring funds
Tax reporting and accounting overhead
Capital calls and other LP management
A dashboard with investment and fund performance data (use this calculator to see how your fund performs in comparison to others)
Share Your Stack
This is our stack at a high level. There’s a lot more we do behind the scenes, and we’re always thinking about ways to improve our workflows, automations and habits.
While we don’t expect other fund managers to copy our way of working 100%, we’re hoping that sharing our stack and workflows will be useful for other emerging fund managers.
If you’re a fund manager, we’d love to see the stack powering your fund on Twitter. Tweet me at @vedikaja_in.
Thanks to Ryan Hoover, Varadh Jain and Liam Moore for reading drafts of this.