Entrepreneurs are understandably concerned about building a brand as part of building their business. But venture capitalists have reason to be concerned about their own brand, too. It’s a key driver in how company executives determine which venture capital firms they pursue and affects a VC firm’s ability to make deals, according to a new report released by the National Venture Capital Association.
One key finding: 88 percent of CEOs believe a strong brand can help a VC firm increase deal flow by attracting entrepreneurs. Executives are looking for venture capitalists to add value beyond funding.
“For CEOs, picking a VC firm is about more than money – it’s an emotional decision,” according to the study, which the NVCA conducted in partnership with branding and marketing firm DeSantis Breindel and Rooney & Associates.
The “Brand Influence Guide for the Venture Capital Industry (BIG: VC)” report is what the NVCA and DeSantis Breindel and Rooney & Associates claim is the first-ever research study on the role of branding in venture capital. The project surveyed venture capitalists, startup CEOs and limited partners from the NVCA and the Dow Jones Venture Source data base. More than 370 responses responses were collected regarding VC brand perceptions and behaviors.
The survey comes as venture capital firms are consolidating into fewer firms and their investment levels decline. In its report on second quarter investments, the NVCA noted that VC firms are raising less money. Dollar commitments to U.S. firms totaled $2.9 billion in the second quarter, down 54 percent compared to the same period a year ago. It marked the lowest quarter for venture capital fundraising in dollars since the third quarter of 2011. Global VC investment was also down, in both total dollars and the number of deals, according to alternative asset research firm Preqin. Preqin reported 1,135 venture capital financings in the quarter totaling $10.4 billion. In the second quarter of 2012, Preqin data show 1,249 VC financings totaling $10.9 billion.
But looking at how much VCs raise and invest is just part of the story. According to survey responses to the BIG:VC report, when selecting a VC firm 57 percent of CEOs care most about the reputation of a firm’s individual partners while 38 percent focus on the firm’s overall reputation. Just 5 percent care about the reputation of the firm’s portfolio companies.
There is a disconnect between the attributes that CEOs consider most important and the attributes that VCs emphasize. For example, CEOs put greater emphasis on investors who are “entrepreneur-friendly” and collaborative. While VC firms value those qualities, emphasis on being “hands on” is far greater than CEOs value.
“The overall goal of this research is to help VC marketers make more informed decisions about their own branding and marketing efforts,” Howard Breindel, Co-CEO of DeSantis Breindel said in a statement. “A brand is not what you say about yourself, but what your most important audiences say and think and feel about you. We believe that VC firms will be able to use this research as a stepping stone for strengthening their brands as they look to proactively influence the perceptions they hold in the minds of their key stakeholders.”