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NextView’s Greatest Hits

Leah Fessler
March 24, 2021 · 9  min.

At NextView Ventures we have written many pieces about venture capital — how to raise it, build your business, engage with investors, iterate your product, navigate expanding industries, etc. As much as we love sharing thoughts and ideas, we’re aware how noisy the VC content ecosystem has become. VCs sure do love writing.

That being said, there are benefits to learning from past reflections — especially as we near national re-opening, and the theoretical “end” of the pandemic. So, we decided to aggregate NextView’s “greatest hits.”

Below are our favorite pieces from the past few years, divided in to a few key categories: fundraising, company building, product development, industry trends, and the life of a VC. While some examples may be slightly dated, we look forward to hearing your perspective on what resonates and what doesn’t. After each mini-excerpt, you’ll find the author of the piece in parentheses. Happy reading!


The Fundraising Process

Free Template for Great Startup Pitch Decks, Direct from VCs. Your pitch deck is central to fundraising success. In this comprehensive template and guide we break down each of the nine core sections in the deck: intro, team, what do you do, is it working, why does it matter (market), can you be the best in the world (product, growth, financial metrics), where are you going, what do you want (the ask), and appendix.

What Are Your Valuation Expectations? “If you say something too high, it may scare some investors away prematurely. All investors will pass at some price, but it’s more likely that an investor will stretch on price once they are emotionally bought-in on an investment vs. up front in the beginning.” (Rob Go)

How to Sell Your Startup’s “Secret” Master Plan at the Seed Stage “Articulating and selling your long run vision is important, but trying to convince those that are deeply skeptical about it is simply a mutual waste of time.” (Lee Hower)

Should You Have a Lifecycle VC in your Seed Round? “What usually ends up happening is that the company is put in a different bucket of investments that don’t really count as core deals. If you come out of the gate really hot, you probably will get some love from the firm, but if you show some mis-steps early or things get off to a slow start, you can be quickly forgotten.” (Rob Go)

Taking Corporate Venture Money: When it Makes Sense “PayPal took on these investors in small part because it gave us an imprimatur in the stodgy and regulated world of financial services. But mainly we did it because these corporate VCs were among the only groups willing to invest at PayPal’s somewhat inflated post-money valuation, during the middle of the dot-com crash when traditional VCs pulled back sharply and other sources of funding were constrained.” (Lee Hower)

7 Common Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make in VC Pitches and How to Fix Them “Different partners in a VC firm are different. Entrepreneurs should know their audience, and most importantly, how savvy it is about the company’s particular market segment.” (David Beisel)

Rethinking the Standard Fundraising Deck “I’d make it crystal clear what your product actually does. Within the first 3 minutes after introducing the team, I want to know what the company actual does. It’s amazing how often I hear a pitch and after 10 minutes think to myself, ‘what does this company actually do?'” (Rob Go)

Fundraising When You’ve Been at it a While “It’s incumbent on a company in this situation which has a history to answer not just the question ‘why invest?’ like all startups have to, but also “why invest now?'” (David Beisel)

Doing Reference Checks on VCs “Try to speak to at least one founder that the investor has worked with in a failed investment. This is not always easy to do. The best approach is to do your own research and reach out to the entrepreneur directly.” (Rob Go)

Mercenaries, Missionaries, and CrusadersIn my experience founders usually fall into one of three types… all three types can be successful and build impactful, enduring companies… But certainly now as a VC investor I think more about what sort of a founder someone is, to better understand both why they’re starting a company and how they’re likely to go about building it.” (Lee Hower)

Magic Graph: How Much Seed Capital Should You Raise? “At some point, an entrepreneur begins to exhaust her network, and her network’s network, and the incremental hours devoted to fundraising will begin to yield less capital raised than the previous.” (David Beisel)

Understanding Different Types of Angel Investors “The Foolish Angel: Often bucketed with others above into a “Friends, Family, and Fools” category, I think that the truly naïve, blind, supporter-type angel deserves his own category.” (David Beisel)


The Decision-Making Process

How Decisions are Made After the Partner Meeting “The lead partner might also be using this opportunity to dive deeper into areas that you might not have had the chance to cover during the first/second meetings. For the rest of the partnership, their focus would be to quickly form an opinion about the team and probing on the areas of their hesitation.” (Melody Koh)

The VC Meeting Map: What to Expect After a Successful First Pitch “Especially during the early days of a startup, we at NextView believe the fundraising process is about finding true believers, not convincing the skeptics.” (David Beisel)

The Seed VC Decision Tree “If the market is attractive and there just isn’t great founder/market fit, we will be open minded as well. There are just some rare entrepreneurs that you want to be in business with in almost any circumstance. But it’s definitely a very small minority.” (Rob Go)

Seed Stage Startups Are Now Graded on a Curve “However, now with increased heterogeneity in funding history, startups are now only being evaluated on the absolute progress and scale which they’ve reached, but also the relative progress and scale. Seed stage startups are now graded on a curve.” (David Beisel)


Company Building

Updating Your Seed Investors: Board Deck and Update Email Templates. As the seed environment continues to evolve, the ways in which you maintain relationships with seed investors is changing, too. Here, we share comprehensive templates for both board decks and update emails, breaking down the logic behind both.

How to Avoid a Cluttered Boardroom “Thoughtful boards/CEOs will set expectations for the potential tenure of new board directors as they’re added. At NextView, for example, we’re typically on the board of companies we invest in at the seed stage, but we intentionally constrain our board tenure to 1-3 years post seed typically.” (Lee Hower)

The Shape of Traction “First, founders tend to over-estimate how good a product needs to be before you start to see meaningful traction. Put differently, it’s amazing how crappy or bare bones products or services are when they start to show meaningful adoption and wildly happy customers.” (Rob Go)

How to Build a Great Product Before Hiring Your First PM “At any moment, be crystal clear (and stay consistent) about what the “top company priorities” are for the quarter. This sounds incredibly straightforward in theory, but it’s actually hard to practice in reality.” (Melody Koh)

Don’t Pivot, Do the Eurostep “The move involves a dramatic change of direction that helps you get around the defense. It still involves leveraging your forward momentum, but requires that you lift your pivot foot to make the change effective. It’s a more dynamic move than a pivot, a bit more reckless, but much more effective for small players with the odds stacked against them.” (Rob Go)

Why EIR’s Have Trouble Finding Their Next Company “In looking for a business to start, the goal is often to build a product that some small group of users really love that solves a problem that matters to them.  Thinking too early about  opportunity scale artificially limits the types of problems a founder may consider working on.” (Rob Go)

How to Divide Founder Equity: 4 Criteria to Discuss “The first thing to remember in dividing founder equity is that equitable doesn’t mean equal… The goal should be an equitable result – one that is both fair and impartial – not exactly the same for all.” (Dave Beisel)

Better, Cheaper, More Convenient “Funny enough, I find that going after better kind of sucks.  The bar is just so high.  In order to beat a large company with an established presence, you have to be 10X better as a startup, and it’s hard to be 10X better, especially if it’s on the same dimension that the incumbent cares about.” (Rob Go)

A Journalist’s Perspective on How to Earn Press for Your Company “Yes, you know your businesses, market, and growth opportunities better than any reporter ever will. But that does not mean telling them what to write will be convincing. Usually, it’s the opposite.” (Leah Fessler)

Lose More, Win Big: The Power of High-Failure Strategies “While it likely will be painful, you will be thanking yourself down the road.” (Rob Go)

Traction vs. Product “It might be tough and you might need to run a broad process, but I think that with impressive traction, you are likely to find a true believer that the other stuff can be worked out.” (Rob Go)

Updating Your Seed Investors – Board Deck & Update Email Templates “First and foremost, investors (whether they say it or not) prefer over communication of what’s happening at the company, both the good and the bad.  And a regular update with candor about what is going well and what is not signals an orientation towards transparency, which in turn engenders trust.” (David Beisel)


Hiring Your Team

Advice on How to Make Your First Analytics Hire “Analytics is about designing, reporting, and leveraging operating metrics to aid strategic and functional decision-making. Finance is about reporting on historical performance and future planning through the lens of financial metrics.” (Melody Koh)

How to Think About Making Your First Product Hire “As the company’s headcount grows without a PM, you will start noticing everyone (yes, EVERYONE) feels like they should have a say about the product experience — from the font to the color of the button to the backend logic.” (Melody Koh)

Two Hires Startups Wait Too Long To Make “The first hire is a really good business generalist that is focused on analytics, finance, and ops. Yes, it’s shocking to say this, but I find that once a company has any semblance of PMF, bringing on someone like this is invaluable.” (Rob Go)

What I Learned Building a Hiring Machine at Blue Apron “As a leader of a team/function/department/company, one of the most important things you can do is to consistently spend time building your talent pipeline. The reality is, by the time you finally decide you need to open a role for X and get the job description ready, you’re already 3 weeks behind.” (Melody Koh)


Developing Your Product

Be Like Water — A Guiding Principle for Consumer Product “This is a powerful analogy and goal to keep in mind because it makes you think harder about how to surround your users with the product experience along the user journey, filling out the white space with every tiny drop.” (Melody Koh)

Why Startups Should Care About Creating a “Winning” Product Experience “Every company expects its customers to just ‘share the product with friends,’ but few are thoughtful about what gets them over the emotional hump to share proactively.” (Melody Koh)

The Case for Why Building Thoughtful and Clever Product Experiences “Product initiatives that bring users delight can be large or small — if successful, they fulfill the emotional needs of your users.” (Melody Koh)


Industry Trends

Why Do Consumer IPOs and B2B IPOs Get Treated Differently? “When public market investors describe a newly public company as the next Facebook or Google or Amazon they are implicitly embedding value to in the company’s stock beyond the core business” (Lee Hower)

Is the Future a Telehealth Company for Every Condition? “Not every speciality or medical concern has the right existing dynamics to allow for new entrants to provide a vastly superior experience via telemedicine. The two most important vectors to consider when evaluating whether a sector is ripe for telemedical disruption are accessibility and the potential for care model reinvention.” (Melody Koh)

Boxes vs Conveyor Belt Businesses “Box companies struggle to keep customers engaged and buying from the company over time. Conveyer belts happen when consumers assume they will be getting a box from the company, and so look for more stuff to put in.” (Rob G0)

Beyond Organic – The Next Food Megatrend “Consumers are increasingly focused on the benefits of these ingredients and are looking to foods more as a solution to a problem. Because of that, foods are being increasingly engineered to achieve certain goals or outcomes, and consumers are willing to accept some pretty weird form factors to achieve this.” (Rob Go)

How to Find the Perfect Startup Job “The first decision, and the most critical decision, of what type of startup to join is based on the current growth stage of the company. This selection is the most personal and subjective one, as it’s based on a person’s motivations for why they want to be a part of a startup in the first place.” (Dave Beisel)

Mapping the Retail Apocalypse “The first thing that might be striking to some is what types of retailers actually have the most sales. Where does the money really go in retail? It’s not always where one would anticipate.” (Rob Go)


The Life of a VC

Getting a Job in VC “There is really only one thing that a VC is thinking about when evaluating a person to add to their their team. The question is: Is this person going to help me to invest in companies that I otherwise would not have invested in without him/her?” (Rob Go)

How VC’s are Measured “When you hear about 3X funds, 7X funds, etc., this should be DPI. Although some investors like to brag about their impressive TVPI like it’s a true fund multiple, even though the majority of the value has yet to be realized.” (Rob Go)

The Investment Memo “The document is a way to time stamp a summary all of the contributing factors that gave us the conviction to invest…  It documents our thinking at a specific moment which can be helpful to look back towards as the facts of the company or a market change.” (David Beisel)

I’ve Been in Venture Capital for Two Months. Here’s What Still Makes No Sense. “Non-partner venture roles are not easy. They’re high pressure, often no- or low carry, and quite vague. You enter not knowing what you’re supposed to do, and you’re rarely presented with a manual. I tend to gauge my professional confidence based on how frequently I use the word ‘should’ — a trick I learned in therapy. After two months in venture, I’m saying ‘should’ a lot.” (Leah Fessler)

What I Learned the Last 5 years in VC That I Didn’t Appreciate the First Five “The best investors I find are not dogmatic. They make room for exceptions, and they are very sensitive to when things change in the market. They also continually revisit their beliefs and assumptions, and look at their own business with a blank sheet of paper.” (Rob Go)

Venture Upwards — An Inside Guide to Succeeding as a Junior VC “A field guide for surviving, getting ahead, and succeeding as a venture capitalist. Venture Upward is written for non-partner VCs working their way through the ranks.” (David Beisel and Rob Go)

Have ideas for pieces you’d like to see us write? Find us on Twitter: @NextViewVC, @DavidBeisel, @MelodyKoh, @RobGo, @LeeHower, @LeahFessler


Author
Leah Fessler
Senior Investment Associate

Leah is a Senior Investment Associate at NextView Ventures based in its New York office. Her career spans many industries and functions, from working as journalist to operating at early-stage startups, angel investing, and hedge fund management. Leah has a […]