Female Founder Office Hours: Meet the Investors Part IV(ft.

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Female Founder Office Hours: Meet the Investors Part IV(ft.

Female Founder Office Hours: Meet the Investors Part IV(ft. JamJar, firstminute Capital and Samaipata)

Female Founder Office Hours: Meet the Investors Part IV(ft.

We’re very excited to be hosting the third, fully remote edition of Female Founder Office Hours on June 4th. In the lead-up to the event, we have been sharing material to ensure all founders attending (& those not attending!) have a chance to get to know the funds and individual investors before their meetings.

Collaboration is hugely important in working towards improving the stats on funding going to female founders. At the same time, we think that as important as getting in the room is making the most of the opportunity while you’re there.

We published our team’s tips and advice on getting what you want from each meeting a few weeks ago. This was followed by the launch of our ‘Meet the Investors’ series, where we will be interviewing the 30 VCs attending Female Founder Office Hours over five weeks. Over Part I, Part II and Part III, we’ve already spoken to 15 of the investors taking part in the event.

This week, we’re joined by our fourth group of investors at firstminute capital, JamJar Investments and Samaipata. Read on for insights into their investment strategy, what they enjoy discussing with founders and their top tips for office hours below:

1. What is unique about your fund?

Belinda Gurung, JamJar

Our laser focus on early stage consumer brands gives us a different scope to a lot of other funds. As the innocent drinks founders’ venture capital fund we’re also lucky to have the expertise of exited founders who really understand what it means to start a company from the ground up, scale and have a successful exit.

Camilla Mazzolini, firstminute capital

Firstly, we have a unique investor-base — we’re backed by 30 unicorn founders, Atomico, Tencent and various strategics (e.g., Heineken family, Henkel, Silas Chou etc.). We’re part of a wider ecosystem that comprises 200+ people co-founded by Brent Hoberman. The “Founders” group covers a digital consultancy, a charitable arm, a recruitment firm, Europe’s largest incubator/accelerator, and a global community of entrepreneurs called Founders Forum

We have a team of 15 with 50/50 female/male split across the full-time investment team and strong operational experience. Our GP Brent Hoberman co-founded lastminute.com in April 1998, and sold to Sabre for $1.1bn in 2005, and later founded MADE.com. 1/3 of our investments are in the US and 2/3 in Europe, with notable US co-investors including Sequoia, Benchmark, NEA, Greylock, Khosla Ventures, Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Founders Fund, General Catalyst, as well as notable angels such as Marc Benioff.

Carmen Alfonso Rico, Samaipata

Our superpower comes from being specialized: we are focused on backing early-stage digital platforms and supporting the team in scaling from 0 to 1, all the way to Series A and beyond.

For us a digital platform is a digital framework connecting two or more sides — where each side has multiple participants — and enabling their interaction (like a marketplace, for example but not only). And early-stage digital platforms is all we do, every day, which allows us to learn and acquire expertise exponentially — which then we use to add the most value to our founders.

We are also pan-European, which means we have a vast and deep European network to make available for our founders.

2. What investments do you enjoy looking at?

Belinda Gurung, JamJar

Belinda Gurung, Associate at JamJar Investments

We are sector-agnostic so that means I get to look at companies in Transport to Beauty to Insurtech and beyond- I really love being able to look at such a variety. But, the ones that really get me excited are those that are tackling an acute consumer problem by delivering a simple, powerfully better experience through solving complex supply-side challenges.

Camilla Mazzolini, firstminute capital

Camilla Mazzolini, Investor at firstminute capital

I’m focused on all things consumer, marketplaces and foodtech.

Carmen Alfonso Rico, Samaipata

Carmen Alfonso Rico, Partner at Samaipata VC

I love businesses that show insane customer love, supported by super engaged communities, that grow organically and where members have a strong sense of belonging beyond the specific product or service: users that go the extra mile to buy the product/use the service, super active facebook/Reddit groups around the company, users making youtube tutorial videos for other users. These are companies that are almost cults for (at least) some of their users — that’s magic!

Companies supported by such strong communities can exist both in B2C and B2B, they have strong network effects and are highly scalable and defensible. Finding them always gives me the highs!

3. Which part of a business do you most enjoy discussing with a founder?

Belinda Gurung, JamJar

I really enjoy learning about their story for why they became a founder- the inspiration and drive behind what they do can really tell you a lot them as well as the values driving their business. Second to that, I love hearing about the journey of the product and understanding their rationale for new improvements, their speed at executing them and seeing their creativity in tackling new problems as they surface.

Camilla Mazzolini, firstminute capital

I love hearing about the founding story as well as their 10 year vision, their raison d’être and philosophy for the business. I also enjoy gaining a better understanding of how they resolve conflicts and disagreements with their co-founder(s) and rest of team.

Carmen Alfonso Rico, Samaipata

I’m privileged, because a big (favourite) part of my job is to listen and learn about new business models, new technologies and new sectors, first-hand from those disrupting the status quo.

When I speak to founders, I would spend hours listening and discussing:

  • The pain point and the solution. I want to really understand the pain point they are trying to solve — how painful it is for their target market, I need to feel the pain myself — and understand the solution — how essential it is and how it fits into the current (or new) market dynamics.
  • The story of the founders. One characteristic common to all my investments is a very strong founder market fit: I look for founders that hold a secret on the market they are going after and that are fueled by relentless passion (almost an obsession) to solve the problem they are tackling. I have been a founder myself and looking back I think one of the reasons I failed was that I wasn’t passionate enough about the problem I was trying to solve. So, now I look for true passion.
  • How they are looking at the business. Businesses I speak with are very early and many times have little (or no) data yet. That’s ok, I’m more interested in how they understand their business, i.e. what they consider to be their KPIs/Northstars.

4. What are your top 3 tips on how to make the most of office hours?

Belinda Gurung, JamJar

  1. Do your research beforehand — understand what a VC looks for and why you think you fit that investment strategy, then tailor your pitch.
  2. Make every minute count — your pitch should be concise and answer the basic questions of what it does, where it’s got to and how it’ll make money. A product demo is also useful.
  3. Be prepared with your own questions — the VC will be pitching you just as much as you them. Knowing what you want to ask beforehand means you will make the session as useful for you as possible.

Camilla Mazzolini, firstminute capital

  1. Story-telling: Pitch the business in 5 minutes and ask for feedback on your story-telling, the format and the tone of the pitch.
  2. Summary: Ask the investor to summarize your business in 2 sentences to see if they got it. If they haven’t, your pitch is not right.
  3. Market: Ask the investor if they know competitors, how they’re doing, their thoughts on the market etc.

Carmen Alfonso Rico, Samaipata

Typically, office hours are short and most of the time investors are meeting several companies in a row and for the first time. Hence, it’s best for founders to focus on what’s essential and be very clear in their messages. Aim should be to i) hook the investor and make him/her want to know more (if relevant for your business) and/or ii) get as much as you can from the investor (feedback, intros…). With that in mind:

  1. Do your DD on the investors you will be meeting (what’s their expertise/strength and how does it fit with your challenges/needs) to make sure you set the goals of the meeting in advance and conduct it in a way that allows you to make the most out of your time with the investor.
  2. Play a product demo if relevant — they are very useful for investors to quickly understand the pain you are trying to solve and your value proposition.
  3. Make sure you have clear ask/calls to action for the investor.

5. What advice are you giving to startups on how to navigate Covid-19? Are you giving the same advice to scale-ups (post-series B)?

Belinda Gurung, JamJar

We’ve got really in depth advice and information on our site for exactly these types of questions so please feel free to check that out here. We hope it’s useful!

Camilla Mazzolini, firstminute capital

We’re seed stage only so we do not invest in scale-ups.

The absolute priority is to survive and have cash — cash is king. Everything is about extending your runway. Cut everything that you can. However, do not go into maintenance mode because if you do, you might as well call it game over

Some things to consider:

  • Assume no revenue / 90% revenue cut in the next 10 months.
  • Option to not fire people: have management and rest of the team take a pay cut and increase option pool (commuting salary to options).
  • Cancel the lease if you can work from home and save on rent.
  • Defer payments.
  • Lay off people you don’t need.
  • Have a weekly budget review.
  • Cut any non-essential expenditure (e.g., marketing, sales, travel, team lunch, etc.).
  • Review your customer pipeline and prioritize those who don’t see your offering as discretionary spend.

We also work to help them crystalize their priorities:

  • How they’re adjusting to work from home.
  • What their biggest concerns for the next few weeks are.
  • What the unintended positive consequence from this crisis are.

Carmen Alfonso Rico, Samaipata

We do not invest in scale-ups so I’ll focus on the advice we are giving seed-stage companies.

  • Take care of your team: while the team is working from home and as they start coming back into the office, ensure their wellbeing — make them feel safe, informed of every relevant decision and a key part of the company and your mission.
  • Cash is queen these days: in uncertain times, do your best to extend your runway 18–24 months. Part of extending the runway has to do with cutting costs and those tend to be hard decisions and difficult to balance, as you do not want to cut so much that it hinders your potential to grow either. I recommend founders to be ruthless when calculating their current runway: rethink your budget, cut your growth and revenue forecasts aggressively, assume churn will increase…it’s always best to plan for the worse and hope for the best than being hit by a worse scenario than expected and not be ready — that can be the difference between surviving and not surviving.
  • Crisis fosters creativity and, particularly, this crisis and the impact it’s having in our livelihoods is opening up opportunities to reinvent many habits that seemed difficult to break pre-Covid19. For example, to many the conversation is about ‘how do we replicate face-to-face communication online’. Maybe it is not about replicating it? Maybe it is about reinventing it. The most interesting projects will be those rethinking communication completely. The same applies to many other opportunities and it’s been great to see founders’ endurance and grit to rethink their businesses (sometimes completely) as the world we all operate in changes.

If you would like to meet any of the 30 VCs participating in this remote edition of Female Founder Office Hours, please visit our events page to register until Sunday 24th May.

You can follow the Playfair team on LinkedIn, Twitter, Forbes, Vimeo and here on Medium. If you’re a male founder and would still like to pitch us, please submit your application on our open-to-anyone pitch page.

You can follow Tech Nation on LinkedIn and Twitter. If you’re a founder, you can register for the free Founders’ Network programme.


Female Founder Office Hours: Meet the Investors Part IV(ft. was originally published in Playfair Capital Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.