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Why Content Matters

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

If you’re a Venture Capitalist, what’s the point in writing content and sharing your opinion?

To provide some insight and guidance around effective content publishing, our CEO and Co-founder, Daniel Sawko has answered some common content-related questions we've been asked.

TLDR: Write content to give yourself the best chance of increasing relevant deal flow.

Content that is relevant to technologies of interest amplifies your market signal by informing entrepreneurs of your investment thesis.

So how do you do this most effectively?

Listen to the full Q&A below or read and listen to a specific question about Why Content Matters.

(The questions and answers have been slightly edited to make them easier to read.)

Contents of Questions asked

1. When you refer to Venture Capital content, what does this actually mean?

A: Content is a means of attracting deal flow in VC. It shows what you’re thinking with regards to new technology, new business models, and new ideas.

This is usually in a written format (although podcasts are increasingly popular) which makes it easier for those who are researching your thesis on how to approach you for a conversation.

If you have a target audience you want to have in your deal flow,

publishing content makes it easier for entrepreneurs to understand you and whether they should approach you or not.

2. What type of content is best to publish?

It really depends on the platform that you intend to publish on. Twitter has a 280 character limit compared to Medium or Substack with longer-form content. A VC has to consider a few things. First, the platform and what is the most suitable tone and length.

Second, the format in which you write - that could be an interview format ‘Q&A’, which is not only great to submit for indexing, but can be a clear and easily digestible signal and indicator to the market of your area of speciality.

3. When I publish content, is it a lasting reflection of myself or it's just a point of view that I currently have?

We all say things, or write things down, that maybe a few years later we don't necessarily think is as relevant anymore. I think most people who wrote about blockchain, bitcoin or crypto in the early days might have revisited that position because time usually results in us changing our minds. Although some individuals, especially in deeper technological areas, can be remarkably consistent in their thinking.

So ultimately, it doesn't need to be ‘forever’. But if you think about it from the perspective of trying to signal as clearly as possible to the market what your intentions of investment are, then yes. If you can make it as true to your position you make it easier for entrepreneurs, startups, or others in the industry reading that content to be able to better understand your position.

Ultimately that is market signalling, which obviously is very helpful for enabling smoother interactions.

To contrast that, much of the market today and the way that everyone navigates via tags like ‘Fintech’ or ‘Medtech’, is really bad at conveying what the signals are for which individuals to approach with regards to a particular startup idea or topic. The market isn't actually that good at signalling what your true beliefs are because there has not been an information management system that can do that.

4. I've seen that [X] is a hot topic in VC at the moment. Should I write content about this just so I can rank higher in the Search Engine even though it's not my speciality area?

If you want to start attracting deal flow for a particular search area, then you should write content for it. If you're keen to jump in a trend, then you might have to play catch up in regards to the quantity of content being produced.

In the short term, responding to trends is not always a reliable indicator of your interest or expertise.

It's always going to be a balancing act between which areas you would like to respond to that would be hot topics, and also demonstrating a consistency that entrepreneurs and those using the Search Engine can identify. Ultimately, from a personal brand building perspective, if you're a Venture Capitalist, you might have ambitions to set up your own fund or get a promotion either internally or by moving sideways. In the long run that may be driven by demonstrating a certain consistency, or at least not changing tune too regularly.

5. I recently just changed the technological area I’d like to attract deal-flow in. How long will it take to index in Ship Shape and when can I expect to see some increased deal flow in that new area?

If you want to see the benefits from changing thesis or your area of specialism then the sooner you publish content, the better. You will still rank for historic content, but ultimately the lighter your historic content is the lower the traffic and the noise will be from that. But if you're starting to write new content our Search Engine will pick that up if you’re being indexed by us (if you aren’t sure - you can ask us to check!).

Ultimately, a lot of VCs are still trend-driven and will always stick with new emerging trending technologies which means there is always going to be something new to write about. Therefore, potentially there's going to be a lot of competition for ranking high for searches in that new area. But like with Google, there are definitely competitive niches and there's also competitiveness with regards to the pace and depth of content publishing - the depth of the content itself is something that we score.

So take a search phrase, like ‘cultured meat’ for example. If you mention this phrase multiple times throughout a long-form article, you will score far higher than a single tweet where it says “I love cultured meat”. Yes, that single sentence will rank, but ultimately, if you have a longer-form content, which includes multiple references to ‘cultured meat’, then you will rank higher. Therefore the long-form content explaining your changed thesis will actually drive more traffic to you sooner and further explain to the market why you adopted a new area specialism.

6. How does the VC individual expressing a view potentially conflict with a firm that they work for/with? How do those two things balance?

They exist together. There's definitely always a role and room for firm led content. Expressing a company-wide view is something we obviously see across multiple industries, and VC is no different. I think where VC is slightly different is that you need to think about VC firms as living organisms. Essentially there are certain parts of that organism where it's better to take different ideas. VC firms have individuals that work there, every one of those individuals will have a series of interests and particular business models that they favour.

You want to know which individual to go to and approach, which is where the building of an individual personal brand really matters at a VC firm. This is because it's the clearest possible indicator that you can give to the market that you're the right person to go and speak with within that VC firm.

For example, with regards to tinnitus treatments, there's a brilliant startup that recently raised and they are part of Y Combinator 2022. They have done their research, and they managed to find probably the best person in the industry to go and speak with to invest into their business. Now, where can you do that today?

7. I understand the value of content, but I don't necessarily want to be publishing so other VCs can see what space that I'm going into. What would be the competitive advantage of me publishing content?

So ultimately, it's to do with the way that our scoring algorithm works. It's the same as asking a startup, or any business, do they want to rank on the first page of Google? The answer invariably is yes. The question is how do you do it? Well, the frequency and freshness of content that has been published is ultimately one of the factors that drives where individuals and VC funds rank in our Search Engine.

Ultimately, that hugely benefits entrepreneurs and startups that are using our Search Engine, who can identify who to go and speak with about a particular topic. We want to reward that.

8. I'm quite busy in my professional and personal life so I don't have a lot of time to write content, where's the best place that I can get started that can increase my value add and deal flow?

That is a really good question that comes up quite a lot. VCs love Twitter. The problem with Twitter is that it's very difficult to get long-form content that really drives understanding of what you're talking about. Trying to collate a series of tweets into meaningful longer-form content is so difficult that individuals have to take to writing multiple tweets or develop a thread in order to get a point across (obviously they do do this). With nothing longer than the 280 characters, it's very difficult to get any sort of detailed thesis about a particular topic across.

LinkedIn is also popular. We see an increase in terms of the frequency of posts and content sharing, We do see very good levels of engagement on blog posts like Medium and Substack. One of our new initiatives that we've started is from an Innovation Grant to transcribe audiovisual content. For example with podcasts - there's really good long-form content of individuals who are answering questions in a very detailed manner. A VC friend is terrible at writing content regularly, but she loves making podcast appearances. With our Search Engine, she makes sure that the ‘half-life’ of that data lives for far longer than the window in which that podcast episode does the rounds on social media.

That makes it really easy for those who want to go through and search to identify who to approach and reach out to.

9. I write a column every Sunday for a newspaper/magazine, will I be disadvantaged compared to other VCs?

If you're writing a weekly blog, weekly newsletter, etc, as long as we know where to go and index that content from, we will be able to index that within our Search Engine. This enables that content to be found by those who are using the Search Engine and you will start seeing the benefits in terms of your scoring and ranking on the results page. So if an individual is telling us that we should go in index that content, we will.

10. What’s the quality of content like in the industry at the moment?

I think there's really high-quality content out there. If you look at the Venture Capital industry and you look at the quality of the blogs that are written, the articles are written by some of the brightest minds of our generation.

I could quite happily spend an entire weekend reading blog posts, articles and thought leadership pieces that a number of VCs are writing.

The big problem is you can't easily search for all VC investors and the content they have produced. A big part of the problem is that entrepreneurs and investors navigate via 90s ‘Yellow Pages’ style structured databases - you just can't do it. You can't really do it via Google, and you can't do it on LinkedIn or Twitter, or any similar social platform like that.

You're really stuck. If you want to find a curated view of who to go and speak with in Venture Capital about particular topics or technologies or subject area, there's hasn’t been a single place that you can go to the industry. We don't have a Reuters or Bloomberg for pulling together that type of content. That is what Ship Shape is offering.

11. Is there is an exception where only the top VCs understand the value of publishing content?

The true value of publishing content is not yet a phenomenon that has really taken off in the VC industry. There are some VCs, these tend to be the larger ones, that have teams of copywriters and ghostwriters that support the VC team in terms of producing content. Often those teams, however, have one or two objectives. One of which is to satisfy the investor relations piece demonstrating that the firm is going the right way; and the other is ultimately to target deal-flow.

The problem in today's market is actually the reward loop between publishing content and attracting the right deal flow hasn’t been truly established.

It isn't strongly reinforced by a system, as there has been no direct link which means the adoption of writing high-quality content is confined to smaller groups within Venture Capital.

Perhaps this would not be the case if there is a better method of identifying or attracting deal flow via high-quality specific content.


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