Venture capitalists are getting all warm and fuzzy on us.
Today, First Round Capital announced a new project called the First Round Review — a publishing platform that presents “actionable knowledge” for entrepreneurs. Partner Josh Kopelman described it as a “Harvard Business Review for startups.” While there are plenty of publications out there talking about what startups are doing (present company included), Kopelman said there are fewer stories explaining the how, which is ultimately more valuable for entrepreneurs.
“First Round has an opportunity: to create an entirely new kind of online publication, built for technology entrepreneurs, where they can learn how to build better companies,” Kopelman wrote. “And they can learn directly from the people actually doing it. Much of this knowledge is still stuck inside the heads of the Valley’s best operators, product managers, engineers, and marketers. Our goal with First Round Review is to curate this knowledge to make great things happen.”
VC bloggers are an increasingly common phenomenon. Just yesterday, GRP Partners announced its rebrand as Upfront Partners and a renewed commitment to being more communicative, honest, and transparent with its portfolio companies. Mark Suster is a well-known blogger, entrepreneur, and investor at the helm of Upfront, and he said that blogging is a key part of this new 21st century model for VC.
“We believe that our industry was too closed-door and secretive,” Suster said on his site. “Why should investors know all the tricks of the trade while first-time entrepreneurs operated at a disadvantage? We think transparency and easy access to information benefit our entire ecosystem.”
Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz, and Brad Feld of TechStars are all prolific writers about startups, technology, and entrepreneurship, and fancy their wisdom as valuable as their money, which is ultimately what you want from an investor. First Round, however, has been a leader in this department for a while now, and produces one of the most well-read VC blogs out there.
First Round Review will feature content that can help entrepreneurs with some of the infinite challenges that arise while building a startup. How do I fire someone? How do I recruit more female engineers? Who decides when to push new code? How do you create strong company culture? First Round is dedicated to creating a strong community around its portfolio companies, and wants to draw on its collective wisdom to nurture the next generation of investments.
Kopelman said that First Round is not trying to be a publishing company, but since it does not care about CPMs, monetization, or page views, the only objective is to create a dialogue and give anyone a “backstage pass” into the expertise of seasoned entrepreneurs and VCs. So far, the Review has shared advice from people at SurveyMonkey, Yammer, Pivotal Labs, PayPal, Asana, Box, Airbnb, Amazon, Twitter, and Intuit.
First Round has a good reputation within the tech community of supporting its entrepreneurs and playing an active role in their growth. They are also known for their irreverent and goofy holiday videos, as well as investments in some of today’s most buzzed about startups, including Fab, Gnip, HotelTonight, Mashery, Path, Square, Storenvy, StumbleUpon, Task Rabbit, Uber, Urban Airship, and Warby Parker.
The venture capital landscape is changing. Last year the Kauffman Foundation issued a report, which found that venture capital has delivered poor returns for more than a decade, and haven’t significantly outperformed the public market since the last 1990s. Since 1997, less cash has been returned to investors than has been invested in VC, and speculation is that “VC is broken.” The report, of course, sent ripples through a community that puts VCs on a pedestal, and set off discussions about how to change this model to yield higher returns. One notable shift is that firms are getting more deeply involved with their portfolio company. Revered VC firm Andreessen Horowitz has established a variety of in-house services dedicated to helping entrepreneurs. The firm has 70 people, but only seven partners, and takes a very hands-on approach.
The First Round Review is not only for portfolio companies, however but for anyone interested in what it takes to build a successful startup. Part of that is the free exchange of information. And part of that is song and dance.