Source: First Round

Why Tech Startups Follow the ‘Call’ of First Round

Operating as an “entrepreneurial shop”, First Round Capital has well demonstrated its active role in all companies it supports - the firm builds a sense of camaraderie among the companies, appreciating them as a community rather than a portfolio.
By Kaley Nguyen | 8 min read
on February 9, 2021
Source: First Round

Having reshaping the VC landscape remarkably, First Round Capital is undoubtedly one of the most widely loved venture capital firms within the tech sphere — no small feat for a VC firm to claim. For nearly two decades, the leading venture capital firm has backed more than 300 companies, including such admirable category innovators as SquareUberFabWarby ParkerHotel TonightRefinery29 and One Kings Lane, financially supporting as well as being dedicated to nurturing a thriving technology hotbed – and beyond, a sustainable ecology system for the technology and business sectors throughout the nation.

“We’re called First Round for a reason” - First Round Capital does exactly what its name says, providing seed-stage funding for the first 18 months of a startup, the most critical period for a new business. At the same time, the firm builds a sense of camaraderie among the companies it supports, appreciating them as a community rather than just a portfolio. “Instead of predicting the future, we look to our founders to convince us of what’s next. That’s why we don’t focus on any one sector. The one thing each of our companies has in common — we met them when they were just a couple of people with an idea and a slide deck.”

Let’s read on to figure out how First Round Capital grows to be a magic hub for tech-based entrepreneurial success!

Reasons Why First Round Capital Emerges as The Seamless Match for Tech Entrepreneurs

“We’re focused on being the world’s best partner for founders at the very first stages of company creation — so we’ve designed the firm to do just that.”

As the nationally well-renowned seed-stage venture firm, First Round Capital offers almost every single favorable condition for a tech-based startup to hit the ground running.

#1. Great Source of Raising Capital Help with Pitch Assist Program

So far, First Round companies have raised more than $17 billion in follow-on capital after First Round initial investment across 1,000 rounds, which makes fundraising one area where their partners will always have more experience than theirs. Through well leveraging such a wealth of knowledge, First Round Capital has developed a plethora of supportive initiatives to empower their companies to get to Series A and beyond. These learnings are an integral part of their Pitch Assist program, which was designed with a view to navigating companies through what's undeniably the toughest part of starting something new.

"Every engagement starts with a strategy meeting with our partnership. We figure out which VCs founding teams should pitch and in what order based on our experience with almost every tier one investor in the country," shared one First Round Capital spokesman.

First Round leaders at the head office
Source: First Round

"Once a coherent strategy is set, we pair entrepreneurs with a dedicated designer and content expert for a 4-to-6-week boot camp. They come out the other side with a finalized fundraising plan, a compelling narrative, a gorgeous presentation (built in-house here at First Round) and a bulletproof story that showcases their unique value prop." In addition to that, all founders are provided a huge amount of rehearsal time with First Round Capital's entire partnership so that it's guaranteed that they nail their presentations right out of the gate.

Since its launch in 2004 – over ten years after the inception of First Round Capital, the Pitch Assist program has helped over 30 companies raise staggeringly over $500M. As the market landscape shifts and the Series A pool shrinks, this kind of resource undoubtedly becomes a huge advantage.

When it comes to the role of Pitch Assist program, Bill Trenchard, First Round Capital Partner, shared that besides helping tech founders raise capital, the program “further improves the brand, if you do very high-quality work and you create high-quality service. It creates more brand awareness and strength of brand for you in the ecosystem.” He added, “and as a venture firm, we’re often in competitive situations with other firms, and we have to compete to win deals and when they can talk to five founders that have been funded by us and they could talk about the experience they’ve had, not only with us as individual partners, but some of these other things that we do like, like Pitch Assist, or the many other services we provide or the community that we connect to each other.”

“So that’s a sort of long-term effect of this is over time, as you do more and more work and you affect more people with programs like this and with services you provide, you’re improving that customer experience here and raising the bar for the industry.”

#2. Dedicated Support from Experts & Experienced Business Insiders

Once partnering with First Round, one big “plus” you are likely to obtain is a handful of super-active and dedicated partners working side-by-side and walking you through all your biggest and smallest challenges. Whether you are weathering through the mysteries of setting strategy for a fundraise or simply thinking through your organizational design, “Pitch Assist Team” from First Round Capital are always in your corner through the thick and thin of company building over those first few critical years.

More significantly, tech entrepreneurs are granted access to First Round Capital’s 15-person Platform Team that aims to help you fast forward through the tough “nitty-gritty” of establishing a company, thanks to which, you can orient your efforts to your core business values and focus on what makes yours special.

People network at First Round event
Source: First Round

Whether it’s their Pitch Assist Team supporting you with your Series A deck, or their Talent Team connecting you with top-tier candidates later on, First Round Capital is more than willing to help promising businesses across all their needs, tapping into their endless supply of big ideas and unleashing their boundless energies.

On top of that, the seed-stage venture firm does “pioneer the concept of transforming a portfolio into a community.” The moment First Round Capital’s partners become entrepreneurs themselves, the most valuable advice and support they have ever received should come from other distinguished founders. First Round Capital facilitates such a practice of advice exchange through their well-planned-and-designed tools and forums. Whether you are a Chief Financial Officer, a Project Manager or a Junior Marketer, you can benefit and leverage tons of invaluable lessons from the collective wisdom of several others.

Startup founder pitch in a FirstRound demo
Source: First Round

#3. Further Assistance with Future Financings

For every single early-stage founder, the future is always tough to predict, especially when it comes to assessing the potential for big product bets, the impact of new hires, shifts in go-to-market strategy, and hundreds of other hurdles large and small. Beyond any doubt, the unprecedented “black swan” COVID-19 pandemic, which results in a “market health” crisis and vague economic outlook, makes these types of predictions even more challenging. Yet, amongst all the possible uncertainties, First Round Capital’s partners can rest assured as to the concern of whether and how their existing investors will support them in the next round. Consistency and transparency at First Round Capital are of paramount importance — particularly when things get tough.

As one of the largest and most well-renowned "pure-play" seed-stage funds, First Round Capital has been able to support their partner companies financially by participating in their second round. As a matter of fact, when First Round Capital teams led a first round in the last five years, they are offered to take their pro rata (or more) in the second round over 96% of the time.

In the light of all the uncertainties in today’s economic outlook, First Round Capital has recently established the “Second Round Guarantee” that explicitly exhibits how they will participate in the second round going forward, and more importantly, brings a bit of clarity to often-murky questions that several founders face.

But how does it work? To put it simply, when First Round Capital leads their first round - whether it’s a pre-seed, mango seed, small Series A or anything in between – they will “be there for you in your second”. More specifically, First Round Capital teams guarantee that they will always take their pro rata in your next outside-led venture round, with a commitment of up to $3M. Should the Series A round be over $20M, they may not take their full pro rata, yet are going to invest at least $3M.

First Round Capital: First-Hand Perspectives from The Insiders

“It’s hard to explain how we’re different when every VC website says exactly the same thing. Luckily for us, founders don’t say the same thing about every VC.”

From the standpoint of Felicia Curcuru, the co-founder and CEO of Binti, it’s the partner working sessions that do wonder to her business when navigating the pivot from a consumer app to government-facing technology. First Round Capital teams are always willing to present their unwavering support as well as share their unvarnished opinions. Irving Fain, Founder & CEO of Bowery Farming will recall fondly how we acted as his head of marketing early on, working side-by-side to brand the vertical farming company for success.

Startup founder in farming space
Source: Bowery

Furthermore, partnering with First Round Capital is a golden chance to meet other like-minded and ambitious entrepreneurs.  Thanks to First Round Capital’s introduction, Filip Kaliszan, the CEO & Co-Founder at Verkada, met an amazing co-founder Hans Robertson - similarly, Stephanie Papes, the CEO & Founder of Boulder, had chances to connect to her close supporter Dave.

First Round leadership at their head office
Source: Verkada

Besides, Looker’s founding team also expresses their appreciation as to how they honed their sales pitch with their first 20 customers — which were all other First Round companies. Whilst “community” gets thrown around a lot these days, First Round efforts to connect founders across First Round companies have built their most valuable set of peers. Amongst numerous networking events, Founder Retreat was considered “the most valuable professional event I’ve ever been to (hands down).” That this group of their peers not only helps the Looker team tackle tactical topics but also provides a sense of belonging.

“CEO Salon” is another networking initiative by the leading seed-stage venture capital firm – CEO Salons aren’t just founder dinners but painstakingly designed events to connect with and learn from other CEOs going through the tough stuff. As shared by Kareem Amin from Clay, these events offer space to "grapple with existential concerns around the values they are choosing for building their company, what success means to them, and the ultimate value of their work."

Given that the toughest challenge for CEOs or founders is to build and manage a stellar team, supportive programs tailored uniquely to their employees from First Round Capital, including Fast Track – a three-month 1:1 mentorship program, Manager Track – a training program for first-time managers, and Network, a custom-built software allowing for connections with thousands of others from across every First Round company, do work miracles for business success. Daniel Lian, the head of finance at Lob, genuinely shared how being the only finance person at the company felt isolating and how Network has helped him sharpen subject-matter specific skills and build relationships with other like-minded people.

First Round team member
Source: Lob

The already-mentioned Fast Track program also performs a crucial role in entrepreneurial success. From insiders’ comments, First Round Capital is obsessed with quality and constant improvement - that, “like all great founders, we start small and iterate quickly.” When it comes to Fast Track, the mentorship concept started off by pairing a small group of mentors and mentees together and hoping they’d get together to learn something over the course of a quarter. It has now developed into a program that serves over 1,500 people who meet regularly with structured learning and development programming, 83% of mentees say it dramatically changed the trajectory of their careers.

The Bottom Line

“We smash through walls and help light your fuse for growth.” Operating as an “entrepreneurial shop”, the seed-stage investor of First Round Capital has well demonstrated its active role in most of the companies it invests in. Square, Uber, Fab, Warby Parker, Mint, Notion, Hotel Tonight, Refinery29, One Kings Lane and beyond – these tech disruptors are all nurtured and thrive within the First Round Capital supportive ecosystem. So, how about you?

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