VCP 100: Nominate the Top Utah Founders VCs Must Watch! Nominate Now

Jon Bradshaw & Peter Harris

Would you trust a VC who does podcasts, writes blogs and gives interviews or would you go the old fashioned way?

How Important is it for VCs to Build an Online Presence?

We got a question from one of our listeners about how important it is for VCs to build their online presence.

Like they say- if you didn’t post about it online, did it really happen?  Does it apply to VCs too?

Are VCs now the “new” influencers?

Is it the fund that needs a brand or the individual partners need to create visibility/ credibility for themselves?

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Episode Transcript

Jon: Let's roll. So this is a user question. So this we go to, send us questions. User question And this is from Shop Z. I'm sure I'm destroying the name, but we'll, we'll put it on the screen if you're watching on YouTube. But he says, Hey, I have a question for the podcast.
Jon: How important do you think it is for his VC firm to build a brand online presence, social media marketing, etc.? And I think they are with a VC fund right now. But yeah, they're with Lofty Inc, VC, whatever that is. But we're not here to promote Lofty, we're here to answer users questions. So that's why I didn't go further.
Peter: Right. Well, I'm going to ask you this question. How important do you think it is as from like the founder perspective?
Jon: From the founder perspective, I think VCs that have podcasts, I tend to trust much more in VCs that have podcast are able to build trust at scale. But I think some VCs feel like they're no longer a VC and they're now.
Peter: An influencer.
Jon: An influencer, and there is critique like from Jason Calacanis. He did a a podcast on this that, you know, it's just as valuable to actually sit down and meet and help founders one on one than to be on podcast.
Peter: Which is a little so like ironic coming from him.
Jon: I think he feels like there's a trend. So maybe there's a lot of people like biting on his heels and becoming more popular. I'm not sure.
Peter: And he's like, Don't, don't. You don't need to compete with me.
Jon: You know what? One of the one of the.
Peter: Cool, self-serving yeah.
Jon: One of the best moves ever saw was from the Harmon Brothers. Yeah, they talked about, you know, they're an ad agency now and he said there's there's like a, there's like two oxes that pull the cart and you have to have both. You have really good content and you have distribution. Yeah. And I think the same thing goes with VCs.
Jon: You have to have a really good brand, but you need a way to amplify that brand. And so I would argue that depending on the fund, it could be very beneficial to have someone just be the face and be podcasting and building a brand and building your reputation and then have a team support that that, you know, it's just part of their marketing budget.
Peter: Yeah, I think, I think the challenge I think the challenge is, is that entrepreneurs, well they do pick firms. What they really pick is partners. And so I agree. I think my only pushback there is I think every partner within the fund needs to build their own profile, not the fund building, a profile that makes sense. And then the fund should create like the mechanisms to support each of those partners, building out their their own kind of personal brand.
Peter: Does that make sense and then have it all tie back, of course, to the fund? But, yeah, I mean, look, the reality is, is that capital is becoming more and more fungible. Like, you know, it used to be that nobody would give money to startups because they're too risky, crazy ideas, whatever, Right? That's no longer the case. Like there are building tens of billions of dollars raised, you know, all the time.
Peter: Sometimes, like a single fund will raise 10 billion plus dollars to invest in startups like there's plenty of money. And so now you need to figure out, like, new ways of differentiating yourself. Like, I would hate to be a venture fund that was like, you know, a handful of middle aged white dudes, you know, in like some regional market because I think it's so hard to differentiate if that's your M.O., Right?
Peter: then I think more and more like venture funds have to figure out ways in which they can differentiate themselves, whether that's maybe through diversity or through investment sector investment expertise. maybe it's through thought, thought leadership, whatever it might be. I think the stakes keep getting pushed harder and higher, for differentiation of your capital and why an entrepreneur should take your money versus somebody else's.
Peter: Because, you know, as Marc Andreessen has said, like there's only a handful of deals that matter at every given year and your job as a VC is to make sure you're in those deals. And so if that means that you need to build a really strong social media, you know, strategy and presence in order to get in front of those entrepreneurs and so be it.
Peter: Right? But I don't think every venture fund has to do that right. I think there are different ways in which you can build kind of differentiation. And to your point, like Jason Calacanis is saying, is like, Hey, sometimes it's just as powerful or more powerful to take those one on one meetings and spend your time and energy helping entrepreneurs because that's more authentic and they'll they'll refer other entrepreneurs and so on and so forth.
Peter: Right? so, you know, I think, I think both can, can be valuable. you know, talking out of the other side of my mouth is like we live in a global economy, right? And good ideas are kind of everywhere and it's becoming easier and easier to build remote teams to execute on those ideas. And those networks are getting just bigger and bigger.
Peter: And so it's harder to, you know, stay relevant in front of so many entrepreneurs that are out there if you're just taking one on one meetings.
Jon: Yeah, I think so. Here's to maybe how I would answer this this question if I was like the principal at a find. Yeah. Or the CMO or the fund, I would never I was at a large fund. I would try to I think I would create a podcast around each principle, assuming each principle has a certain focus. So maybe one one principle is going after web three and other ones going after life sciences.
Jon: And then I would get a team member who's running in the back.
Peter: Yeah.
Jon: To be setting up appointments with the top industries and thought leaders in that industry.
Peter: Yeah.
Jon: And helping them create questions so they could easily do just show up, do a quick, you know, 30 minute, you know, one hour podcast and then you are it's a great networking opportunity. Yeah, I think a lot of good deals could come from it. And then you're also setting your firm up as, Hey, we're more than just money.
Jon: Yep. And I think it goes both ways, both for raising capital for your next fund of exceeding the brand and extending trust. Because I think if I had if someone gave me the same terms and it was Jason Calacanis versus an unknown ABC, I would listen to, I would take Jason's money hand over fist.
Peter: What if his terms are worse?
Jon: I probably might still take it. Yeah, but he also he's got leverage too, right? But I feel like I trust him. I think the best example of this is David Cancel. And if you know him, so not ABC, although I'm sure he's done tons of angel investments he recently I think just sold drift Yeah I because his podcast was so amazing and it wasn't hey this is the draft podcast I'm going to sell you is almost like hey here's my founder journey.
Jon: Yeah they develop such trust and respect that I bought his product even though I didn't really need it. Yeah, just because I wanted to find a way to give back. And I think that's one of the really big values of a podcast. Who is that? Who is the Snapchat guy who invested in Snapchat? You know him speaking? I think you have Mark, is it Mark Schuster, Our sister?
Peter: He Amazon.
Jon: Snap it? I think so, yeah. He's down in L.A.. Yeah, the ABC. one of the things that he did is he was doing VC tips on exclusively on Snapchat. Yeah. And for me that really kind of solidified him in my brain as someone who, like, really eats dog food. He invested and then he chose to support that platform versus another platform.
Jon: Yeah, because I don't think he has his own podcast, but he did that.
Peter: I think he has his own blog.
Jon: His own blog?
Peter: Yeah. Which was kind of one of the more popular VC blogs for a little while. But yeah.
Jon: So yeah, so I would say I would have that's how I mean, I think the answer is every principle decision maker. I would try to build an audience around them.
Peter: I think it makes sense.
Jon: But I would have it limited because it could easily take up 90% of their time. Right, Right. And I would have a gatekeeper who would say who would create rules. you're going to, you know, do do you know more than one podcast a week of your own? Yeah. And be no more than a guest of another podcast, one time a week.
Peter: So what did you think of that guy that claimed he was making 200 K a year ghost tweeting for VCs.
Jon: I think. And again, this comes from Jason Calacanis, right? So maybe this shows the value of Jason's podcast that, you know, voices who need the reach are willing to pay that much for it.
Peter: Yeah, but does it like ten? And so you've talked a lot about trust, right? Like these podcasts, etc., like this content, like develops trust also creates like a little bit of an imbalance and relationship that makes you feel inclined to give back and to equalize that, that that relationship. But does it diminish it knowing that there's some likelihood that that VC that you thought was like so insightful or really funny or like, you know, really trustworthy, didn't actually post that stuff?
Peter: They paid somebody else like ten grand to do it for them.
Jon: So the answer for me is no, because the VCs I trust are the ones that I hear firsthand on podcasts.
Peter: Okay.
Jon: So I would look at.
Peter: But you're not really on Twitter.
Jon: Yeah, I'm not really on Twitter, but like at that point, if Jason Calacanis is a ghostwriter, yeah, at that point I feel like it would just be an extension of him. The truth is, most of these like Forbes contributors and whatnot, don't write any of their own content. They probably never even see their own posts. And so the further you get in the game, like I remember when I was in college, people talk about being a Forbes contributor and I'm like, my gosh, this is so amazing And I'm in the space.
Jon: I'm like, I know these guys don't write any of their own content.
Peter: And even if they did, there's like a zillion of.
Jon: Them or like they sit down with someone, they're like, Hey, here's two or three thought thoughts and it's done right. It's not like, Hey, here's high quality, amazing content. And so podcast are unique because of the trust factor. But this Twitter thing like you know I don't I mean if someone if someone got you 10,000 followers on month for ten grand.
Jon: Yeah is it worth it? Is it worth it to you, Jeff?
Peter: I don't know. I mean, for us, we're like a little bit different and it would depend on the quality of those 10,000 followers, right? If it's like 10,000 followers from like China that will like, are totally irrelevant to what we do, then. No. Right. Like, but like, but if there are 10,000 like entrepreneurs founding businesses that we want to invest in and they're excited about our content, then yeah, like that probably is worth it, right?
Jon: Let's look at Austin. Already know him.
>Jon: You know, the the his content I think is phenomenal and it's allowed him to get asking Ashton Kutcher as an investor in his fund. It's allowed him to get the attention of Elon Musk. And what's a I'm I assume he writes his own stuff, but if it doesn't, there's a in his case, there's a very strong ROI.
Jon: Yeah. That supports it. I would like to think that a lot of these guys write their own stuff, but in truth is any really good founder has an amazing part of them, whether it's public or not public. Sure. And I think that's partly why you're seeing more more go to podcast or YouTube or whatnot, because you can actually then see the authenticity, not just like, you know, a random tweet that comes out, you know, once a week.
Jon: Because I think your article talked about someone, you know, getting 2 to 4 tweets a week.
Peter: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and it's, you know, it's like they talk in nature. It's, what do they call it's like an unfavorable tel, right? Or it's like if you're doing the podcast, you're not, it's not getting ghostwrite it right.
Jon: Although so it gets.
Peter: Really hard.
Jon: Have you seen some of the air out there. Yeah, on video stuff. Yeah, I was in Lisbon the year before COVID and they could take who is it, that famous soccer player? They could they could show their like choose a language. And it was the same scene, but the lips just moved slightly different. Yeah, it's like the soccer player.
Jon: No Spanish. They know French. They know German. Yeah.
Peter: So maybe it's not going to be an unfixable tale.
Jon: And have you seen the the Tom Cruise deepfakes on Tik Tok? Yeah. Like they're getting pretty good now.
Peter: They're, they're. It's only a matter of time before, like, nobody does anything. We just have a I do it all for.
Jon: Us five years I you know Hollywood is nothing more than an AI engine. And who needs actors? They can create actors maybe, probably not. I just I.
Peter: Was just going to, like, sit on our couch with an IV plugged in for nutrition and lying drown out in front of A.I. driven I created.
Jon: But at that point, you could have an infinite number of movies catered specifically for your interests.
Peter: I mean, isn't that kind of like what Netflix does today? You got Netflix? Yeah, but it's getting that way. You know what I mean? Like, you go on Netflix and you're like, I want to watch action films and all of a sudden, like, you see, like all of these, like, no name, super crappy action films, but they, they made them knowing that, like, they would appeal just to you.
Jon: Yeah, but I don't watch that. I've got a rule if it for the most part, unless it's a political movie, it's got to be like at 89 or higher. Yeah, skip it.
Peter: Yeah, but sometimes it'll be like 89 and it will be a Netflix produced film and you might actually even like it, but you're like, you know, this like small subset of people that like it.
Jon: Maybe I don't know. That's how I look at most films. Is does it have is it an amazing film?
Peter: But the 89%, you know, that's that's a rating for you, right? It's not a rating like overall.
Jon: What I'm not I'm not logged in though. Are you logged.
Peter: In? How are you like watching stuff? You're not logged in? No, no, no, no, no.
Jon: You're talking about the Netflix rating, right?
Peter: you're talking about like, Rotten Tomatoes or something.
Jon: I got to watch something open up a new tab. Yeah, Google right. Tomatoes.
Peter: You go to rotten tomatoes. I don't.
Jon: Miss. I don't. I don't trust that. I don't trust the Netflix score. Fair enough. But I like it's like, who's are these others who bring in the Rotten Tomatoes score?
Peter: Got it. Got it.
Jon: Okay, so that's that's my rule. So I hope we answered his question on what the.
Peter: Short answer is. Probably yes.
Jon: I would say probably. But it's easy for it to get out of hand.
Peter: Yeah. And I don't think it's like 100% crucial. Guys. Yeah. What about you Definitely have to have some angle.
Jon: What if you had a partner at your fund who only did podcasts? They did in interviews 60% of their time.
Peter: I don't care. What I care about is like, are they driving really good deals back to the fund?
Jon: Do you think that would drive really good deals.
Peter: If they're able to demonstrate that it does, I'm sure.
Jon: What do you think? Why you could you could get you guys you would.
Peter: Like if I had to choose, like, would I invest in investing in a podcast like my time 60% of the time into what you're doing about.
Jon: You invest in your time, but what about investing and bringing other people in? Like what about hiring a third person at YouGov whose.
Peter: Full job was like.
Jon: Social? 50% of your time is to create brand awareness.
Peter: I mean, there are a lot of funds that have done that, A lot of funds.
Jon: Okay, So if you did it in this theoretical world, do you think it would be positive ROI?
Peter: I think it could be if done right. I think it's a big if, though.
Jon: So what's your personal thesis on podcasting? Because you got this podcast, you've got your personal YouTube channel.
Peter: look, I think podcasting is valuable. I think to your point, it provides kind of like an insight into how VCs think, hopefully, like our listeners are getting some value out of like the stuff we talk about and that it's helpful to them and that they get to know us a little bit better, right? And feel more comfortable building relationships with us.
Peter: I know, like you've been reached out to from people that listen to our podcast. I have as well. It's, and it's fun. Listen, hearing from them and you know, hearing the things that they appreciate, the feedback that they have for us I think is great. And then, you know, a lot of them are seeking to create relationships and and explore different opportunities together.
Peter: So, yeah, I think, I think there's a lot of value. sometimes I worry that there's a lot of podcasts out there and that you're effectively begging people for, snippets of super valuable time to listen to those podcasts. but the flipside is like, look, there's what like 7 billion people and you know, each one of those individuals are going to have slightly different interests and preferences from others.
Peter: And so what's really cool is that it used to be that distribution was super hard and so everybody kind of got like spoon fed the same stuff. And now at the Internet you really can like tap into these like really niche groups and and give them like content that they're really excited about. That just simply wasn't possible even, you know, five, ten years ago.
Peter: Okay. So, you know know it's interesting.
Jon: What's the chance that your next investment will come and listen to your prior three podcasts?
Peter: Probably pretty low. But, you know, potentially as we get bigger.
Jon: Okay. Of the watch it, we say more.
Peter: You've got to make me stop looking like such a bad, bad week. And you obviously.
Jon: Know, I think people do. I just want to get under the layers. So now you just want controversy. I know.
Peter: Stoked the controversy.
Jon: I think in our in our role, we're too concerned about being polished and in part is that myself, I don't think I've got a good filter. Yeah. When I was trying to erase my first time, every reeks like you're just too honest. Yeah. And they're like, John, have you done this? Have you squished the x axis? It would look better and like, why I give you perfect data Screenshot from Google Analytics.
Jon: We doubled month over month last three or four months, but you want me to, you know, like to change it. So it's all about being authentic.
Peter: But in a way that like gets people excited and you got to sell it.
Jon: But these are questions that frankly I want to know. And other people, other people want to know, Yeah, it's fair. All right. Well, that's all for this podcast. Go to W WW dot venture capital firm and you can subscribe to our socials YouTube, Spotify, Apple podcast. All of the links are there. So we will see you on the next episode.
Jon: Thanks, guys.
Peter: Thanks.