Operating Manual

As a venture capitalist committed to supporting founders from all over world, irrespective of their backgrounds or affiliations, I decided to openly share our operating manual to help entrepreneurs cut to the chase and get a feel for how 27V works.

Initiating a Conversation

I believe in breaking down barriers so I make sure there are none (barriers) to getting in touch with me. I’ve responded to almost every single Twitter DM, LinkedIn message and email that’s come through over the last 6yrs of investing.

My suggestion to all founders is to reach out to potential investors early, months ahead of your investment process if possible. The cliche “invest in lines, not dots” holds true especially in VC/startup investing, where we’re looking for time series data of an individual’s abilities and resourcefulness.

The best ways to reach me are the following, in order of preference:

  1. If you’ve already begun a fundraising process, fill in this Airtable form. We look at the companies on this list 1-2 times a week and reply with either a calendar link to schedule a conversation or letting them know why we’re not pursuing one.
  2. Email me. Here’s what I’d like you to include in the email copy:
    • a link to the product
    • link to a product video/walkthrough/demo
    • if you’re already fundraising, a copy of the deck
    • a specific and clear ask (product feedback, funding)
  3. Twitter DM or LinkedIn message. Do know that I will ask you to send me an email either way – I find it’s easier for me to manage my email inbox than struggle with the UX on socials (which is not the best).

Below is a list of turnoffs for me, and I will most likely not engage if I see any of these. DO NOT:

  1. Send an email with no/negligible product details and suggest a call to ‘tell me more’
  2. Mention “$B market size” or “potential $M exit” in your first email
  3. Use subject/copy that is supposed to generate FOMO by saying you’re “closing in 2 weeks but will let me participate if I sign fast”
    • If you’ve got less than 3 or 4 weeks to close your funding round, I will almost always decline to have a conversation as I do not invest under time duress

Investment Process

The investment process for 27V usually takes 3-4 weeks, when counted from the day of our first synchronous conversation. I will admit that I’ve not met this target with all of our founder interactions to date, but there’s only so much time available for a solo capitalist. Always trying to improve and be more responsive!

Typically, the process runs as below. Once we’re in the process, I strive to update the founder on a weekly basis, conveying my intention to continue the conversation or pass on the opportunity. I’m the sole General Partner and decision-maker at the firm.

  1. Wk1: schedule the first call with founders. Generally, I’m trying to answer the following questions:
    • who are the founders? what’s their story?
    • what is the product (solution)? is it a feature or a full-fledged solution?
    • who are they selling to? unit economics? can this be a $B business?
    • as a next step, I always ask for the following:
      1. access to product or a demo video
      2. excel sheet with user growth over the past 15-18 months (or since launch) and projections for the next 15-18 months
      3. excel sheet with financial data over the past 15-18 months (or since launch) and projections for the next 15-18 months
  2. Wk2: after reviewing the requested documents, I schedule a second call with the founders to talk through information in the models. product vision, roadmap
  3. Wk 3 – reference calls with (non-founding) executive team, customers & investors
  4. Wk 4 – final call with founders

Post-investment

The first step upon closing an investment is to schedule an onboarding call for the founding team. Usually 90 minutes-long, the session is the formal kick-off of our investor/investee relationship. We cover a wide range of topics in the conversation, chief among them: a fundraising update, a financial budget checkin, goals for the next 6/12 months, and how 27V can help.

Broadly, I divvy up support from 27V into 3 buckets:

  1. hands-on: I spend a large chunk of my personal time to advise the founders and support them by making connections to information and people
  2. resources:
    1. we’ve curated a collection of 200+ articles, books, videos, templates and more
    2. our portfolio companies also get access to $250,000 worth of credits from various companies including AWS, Notion, Twilio, Brex, Agora and many more
  3. fellowship: more on this in the next section

What I expect from the founders:

  1. for almost all companies, I have a biweekly or monthly catch up call scheduled
  2. it’s good practice to send a written monthly update to investors, and we certainly like to see one
  3. on a quarterly basis, we conduct a data collection exercise of KPIs and financial metrics. This helps us keep track of the progress and jump in where we see a worrying trend

‘Founder Fellowship’

tl;dr: 27V portfolio founders support each other as a group – a family of like-minded individuals connecting regularly over calls and messages

I started my investing career as the head of a corporate accelerator. Working with companies in their infancy was exciting and made me jump out of bed every day, as they say. One thing I realized pretty quickly was that the founders were facing similar issues across the board (10 co.s/batch), yet were not leaning on each other for help. This was because they simply didn’t know that the founder sitting on the next table had just solved the problem they were now foreseeing for themselves.

Having built tight-knit communities in the past, and stealing from the book of startup best practices, I insitituted a weekly standup for all founders. Not ashamed to admit that beer was probably the prime motivator for attendance in the first couple of weeks. I think it was the second or third week when we began seeing glimpses of magic: one (tech) founder spared time to shore up the backend infrastructure for another (business-focused) founder, founders seconded intern resources to tide over peak times, investor introductions began flying thick and fast.

I’ve now brought this ethos to the 27V family. Our portfolio founders have already found a ton of value from interacting with each other, in a supportive environment. In addition to staying connected on Slack (which I’m told is more active than those of some other investors), we’ve evolved a calendar of events to foster deep relationships in this community:

  1. (monthly) Fam Jam – learning session for founders, led by a portfolio founder
  2. (monthly) AMA – ask me anything session with an experienced investor or entrepreneur from outside the group
  3. (monthly) Huddle – function-specific brainstorming session for executive leaders across the portfolio
  4. (quarterly) Checkin – to keep founders accountable by having them publicly acknowledge their quarterly goals and following up on progress
  5. (semi-annual) Virtual Retreat – opportunity for the founders to take stock as a group, learn from amazing mentors in a condensed time period; also put aside time to kick back and spend some social time with each other
  6. (annual) in-person Retreat – our first one was planned over 3 days in Yosemite for the last weekend of March 2020. Of course, the pandemic put paid to those plans weeks before everyone was booked to fly in. I have not lost hope yet. When travel restarts, we’ll definitely organize a physical get-together

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