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Friday Fun-isms: “Handoffs”
Given our high-conviction, hands-on strategy and NextView, we tend to take an approach where each one of our investments has a very clear lead partner within the firm. This is the person who ends up being the primary point of contact for a founder and is the one that drives the majority of the due diligence and day to day management of the investment. This is pretty typical for many institutional funds.
What is a little unusual is that it is pretty common for the lead partner on an investment to NOT be the same partner who sourced an opportunity. Roughly 1/3 of our investments are what we call “handoffs”, which are companies that get handed off to a different partner after the initial point of contact. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as domain expertise, potential for personality fit, capacity, geography, or others. This happens in a situation where the sourcing partner believes that an investment could be a very exciting one for the firm, but also believes that he or she may not be the best partner to push the investment forward.
Typically, we try to do these handoffs as early in the process as possible, as you end up burning a little extra time trying to re-establish rapport and trust with founders with the new partner. We would never do a change mid-stream in an evaluation process, and have yet to do one after an investment has been made (although we’ve heard of other firms that have done this successfully).
The handoff concept is actually fairly unusual in venture capital because firms are typically very structured around individual performance and track records. Sourcing and leading a successful investment build’s one’s personal brand and credibility with founders, within the firm, and with LPs, and so there is some currency to “owning” deals and keeping a hold of good deals that you bring in.
We tend to be strangely proud of our handoff frequency, because we think it is a positive side effect of a culture of shared ownership within our firm. We have structurally worked hard to avoid an “eat what you kill” culture, and avoid talking about “my deal” or “her deal” and instead talk about all of our investments as shared.
We think this has served us pretty well over the years, and is one of the reasons why we’ve enjoyed a drama-free partnership and a high degree of stability thus far. It’s something we may have taken for granted in the early years of the firm, but the longer we are in this business together, the more we’ve come to appreciate it.