Venture Studio Hacks

These are some of the hacks (actually 80+ :grin:) we collected & discussed at the P2P Studio Hacks Contribution session during the Venture Studio Online Conference (VSOC) on November 8th.

Thanks to everyone supporting our event :heart:. We got 300+ reposts of the announcement post of the conference.

Before you delve into the hacks of launching a studio (without millions of capital) or attracting founders (with previous exits), consider:

Max Pog
3x entrepreneur

Using the Ultimate Venture Studio Hack...

... which is joining the Venture Studio Family community with access to numbers, documents / playbooks / decks, & investors of studios inside the Family

Some of your studio peers (not the full list) in the Venture Studio Family:

  • Founders Factory – co-founded 100+ startups, invested in 300+
  • Pioneer Square Labs – 33 ideas spun out, raised $200M+ across several funds
  • Rainmaking VB – $5B+ in equity value created, exited their APAC business in 2023
  • OSS Ventures – reached €24M ARR in 4 years (they have the super-power to attract founders with previous exits)
  • Platform Venture Studio – raised a $11M fund to launch ~20 companies
  • Highline Beta – raised a $10M fund
  • THC Pathfinder – several funds $182M+
  • Fisher VB – delivered 50x returns to their first investors due to 2 exits out of 8 created startups
  • Merantix – €40M of attracted capital into the studio & fund
  • ICEO – co-built 42 startups with 16 exits
  • Venturerock – built 15 ventures with IRR of 80%+ since 2018 (after founding & managing Startupbootcamp accelerators with 1100+ startups in the portfolio)

There are also some not-so-rock-star studios (still with promising theses and teams).
Don't be shy if you are an emerging studio – join!

Missed the Venture Studio Online Conference 1?

Check the recording from November 8th, 2023 – where we saw a total of 768 unique visitors & 579 at peak simultaneously on Zoom. Check the first 30 seconds to feel it.

Studio hacks from the P2P Contribution session:

Define your main challenge & use tags to navigate. Contemplate on each card and think whether you can use this idea in your studio. These are a direct guide, but ideas to jumpstart the creative process.

Launching a new startup studio

  • Create an environment for collaboration and problem-solving
    The trick to launching an exceptional startup studio isn't just about funding or finding the best founders (although those are important). It's also about cultivating an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and problem-solving. I see you scratching your heads thinking, how does this environment thing work? Here’s how – you need to lay a strong groundwork. A platform where ideas can be elevated, not squashed. An arena where risks are encouraged, not avoided. So set up daily brainstorming sessions, promote failure as learning opportunities, invest in training, and most of all, nurture trust. Trust in your team, your vision, your product, yourself. The most critical step in this adventure? It's pinpointing the problem before setting out to solve it. Remember - the right problem solved equals happy customers and a happy you.
  • Start with your network and expand
    For anyone or a team looking to kickstart a Venture Studio, it makes sense to assess your core capabilities, especially those that can offer real value to early-stage founders. Once you've got a clear idea of what you can bring to the table, consider starting by offering your expertise to folks in your close network. This not only makes the startup journey smoother for them but also gives you the chance to gather feedback from early-stage founders, helping you refine and enhance your capabilities. Once you have fine-tuned your craft, take it to a broader audience, which would enable you to build a community of founders who also support each other. Through this community, you can find and build a solid team who can contribute in building a solid foundation for the successful inception of the studio.
  • Pavel Veselovskiy
    Role of Buy-in for a Corporate Venture Studio
    Buy-in (CEO/C-level exec) is pivotal when launching a Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) unit or venture studio. It signifies securing the support of critical stakeholders, both within and outside the organization. Internal buy-in from C-levels and employees is vital. It provides financial resources, strategic alignment, and a culture of innovation. Without it, these initiatives lack the necessary backing for success. Externally, buy-in from startups and industry partners is crucial for building a robust ecosystem. It grants access to innovative ideas, technologies, and market insights. Additionally, the corporation's reputation and credibility attract potential investment targets and collaborators. In essence, buy-in is the linchpin for a successful CVC unit or venture studio launch, providing resources, support, and the right environment for innovation, growth, and competitiveness in a rapidly evolving business landscape.
  • Start as a product squad in case of limited resources
    My studio hack to launching a studio without huge backing is - If you want to be a studio-founder, with neither prior exits nor huge amounts of cash - you should rally your most skilled friends and contacts from high positions in other organizations, around a common vision and startout as a product squad for hire - we’ve successfully been running a small studio for 2+ years just being a developer, a designer and a manager and having a brilliant set of advisors.
  • Connect with industry veterans and join studio communities
    If you want to launch your own startup studio, then connect with industry veterans like Max Pog and actively participate in startup studio communities for invaluable insights and networking.

    Max Pog: Haha, thanks, Hayk (even if I treat myself as a newbie :grin:).
  • Build sector-specific studio credibility
    Building a studio in a specific sector. Build credibility by posting info and data about the sector on Linkedin and other channels. This will help you build rapport and create inbound leads on who is building and funding in that space.
  • Jędrzej Iwaszkiewicz
    1. Levaraging corporate network and creating a demand before startup is created.
    2. Based on that gathering funding for a startup.
    3. Running studio without investment money but with heavy books :)
  • Choose a unique name and focus
    From the founder of the studio I just joined: use a really unique name and positioning: brainforest - First Venture studio focused on forests => helps a lot to generate attention over the years and clarity (most of the time) what the focus is (one might think only applies to B2C but highly relevant)
  • Bring innovative ideas to market in the web3 space
    At Power DCloud, we specialize in accelerating the time to market for web3 studios and startups. Our unique approach allows us to go from project initiation to production in as little as one month. By leveraging our decentralized, full-stack cloud infrastructure, we provide web3 developers with all the tools and resources they need to create, deploy, and maintain truly decentralized applications. Power DCloud's technology replaces traditional centralized platforms, such as AWS, offering a censorship-resistant, highly accessible, and secure solution for building and deploying web3 applications. Our experience and expertise in the web3 space make us a valuable partner for those looking to streamline their development processes and bring their innovative ideas to market rapidly.
  • Run equity-free programs
    Running solid equity free programs in parallel to the core studio activity is a great way to create a community, learn and validate methodologies and generate revenue to bootstrap and create track record prior to fund raising
  • Bootstrap a Venture Studio
    $$ requirement is a myth. I bootstrapped venture studio since covid for less than $250K. Launched 1 product (revenue/customer), nearing 1st exit (God willing), healthy pipeline. The “Why” must be strong to attract talent..
  • Partner with high-performing teams and corporate innovators, document and grow
    If you’re beginning: Manufacture success at the beginning. Take the time to find the 1 or 2 semi structured high performing team and go pitch them to corporate partners who are looking for innovation or digital transformation and get them to be your anchor partners. Make it artisanal , make it work form then. Document your journey in // to a journalist. Get visibility and ride from your first success to get funding, support, and attract more corporate partners and high alpha founders with semi final teams.
  • Focus on specific verticals or regions to solve major problems
    Studios focused on specific verticals (not necessarily entire industries) or regions (in the beginning) seem to be more viable. In other words, the approach I promote is: build entire portfolios of startups that solve large industrial or societal problem. It's some kind of art with a lot of tricks, of course, but it's better understood by stakeholders from industry and investment. Raising money to invest into startups in the very beginning doesn't leave a lot of room for mistakes.
  • Engage community in marketing
    Community led marketing is the way to go if you are starting a new startup studio! Do not create content -> facilitate. Invite industry leaders to roundtable discussions, get their credibility!
  • Offer "bridging services" to build a Venture Studio Ecosystem in East Asia
    Not a studio yet, but thinking about starting or joining one - my hack: connecting problems/ideas/founders/experts/customers/investors from East Asia (Japan, China, Korea...) to the venture building process (engine room).
    It seems to me that the venture studio ecoystems in these countries are quite disconnected, if they exist at all, so with my experience in large tech companies from Japan (Hitachi) and China (Huawei) and my global network, I can provide "bridging services" and make connections.
  • Try to sell something as early as possible - as the $$ transaction creates conditions for honest critique.
  • 1) gather examples of technology-problem matches
    2) use them to attract first tentative founders
    3) show you have the core building blocks to your investors - do they want in?
  • Have functioning, stable and sustainable core service business in place first.

Managing a venture studio

  • Learn from financial histories, identify strong ventures, and leverage societal challenges
    1. Studio founders should become more intelligent Investors by studying Benjamin Graham's Graham-Newman Shareholder Letters (1946-1958), then the Buffett Partnership Letters (1956-1970). Then study the Complete Financial History of Berkshire Hathaway, starting with the latest 2022 Annual Letter.
    2. Develop an eye for dual patterns—strong financials in established companies and the potential for tech powered product-market fit in early-stage ventures. Trends and technologies are not good businesses and many industries that have had structurally low return on equity and bad unit economics should be avoided.
    3. Global, national, regional and local challenges provide fertile ground for problems that companies born in startup studios should focus on solving. Political campaigns, like the upcoming 2024 campaign season, with their focus on unresolved societal issues, can guide your studio to the markets or verticals ripe for disruption.
  • Build a successful Venture Studio: define value, foster community, and showcase achievements
    I'll share what has been the foundation on how I think about when building my studio, called Founder-First Funding Framework (F4).

    Create a Clear Value Proposition:
    Define what makes your studio unique. Is it the industry focus, the network, the technological resources, or the mentorship quality? Make sure this value proposition is not just a statement but a living part of your studio's identity. It should be reflected in every pitch and conversation with potential investors.
    Build a Founder Community:
    Before thinking about raising funds, focus on building a solid community of founders. A venture studio's success is deeply intertwined with the founders it attracts and supports. The stronger and more engaged your community, the more it will attract investment, as investors bet on ecosystems, not just individual companies.
    Showcase Success Stories:
    Nothing speaks louder than success. Highlight the milestones achieved by your startups, whether it’s user growth, revenue milestones, or strategic partnerships. These stories act as social proof, showing that your studio has the recipe for success.
    Leverage Data-Driven Decisions:
    Investors love numbers. Utilize data analytics to demonstrate how your studio enhances the success rates of its startups. This can include data on market fit, growth trajectories, and how your studio's involvement has directly influenced these metrics.
    Pre-Seed Funding Commitment:
    Secure a commitment for pre-seed rounds within your network, which will serve as a confidence booster for founders and external investors alike. When founders see that there's already an implicit trust and financial support from the studio's network, it becomes a massive incentive.
    Innovative Fund Structures:
    Experiment with fund structures that align with founder success, like revenue-based financing for early-stage startups. This aligns the studio’s and founders' incentives and presents a forward-thinking model to investors.
    Nurture Advisor Relationships:
    Attracting top-tier advisors not only helps your startups but also serves as an endorsement for potential investors. Advisors who are industry leaders or have strong track records in entrepreneurship add credibility and can open doors to their networks.
    Transparent Communication:
    Maintain transparent and regular communication with current and potential investors. Sharing both victories and challenges builds trust and keeps investors engaged and supportive.
    Investor Diversification:
    Diversify your investor base to include not only traditional VCs but also corporate investors, angel investors, and strategic partners. This not only provides capital but also a variety of perspectives and networks that can benefit the studio and its startups.
    Founder Development Programs:
    Implement programs focused on developing founder skills and leadership. When investors see that you're committed to building founders' abilities to navigate the startup world, they're investing in the potential for higher success rates.
  • Adapt involvement from early hand-on support to mature autonomy
    In the early days of a startup studio, when it's only creating a couple of ventures, the studio is heavily involved. The team is involved in everything from the initial idea to the launch and beyond. This is because the studio has limited resources and needs to be hands-on to ensure its ventures succeed.
    As the studio grows and manages more ventures (five to seven), its involvement in each venture typically decreases. This is because the studio can attract more experienced EIRs and benefit from economies of scale and shared resources. For example, the studio can reuse components from previous ventures in new ones, reducing the risk of creating something from scratch. This allows the studio to delegate more responsibility to the venture teams and EIRs from the start. The studio still provides guidance and support to the ventures but also gives them more autonomy to make their own decisions.

    Early Stage:
    High level of involvement in all aspects of the venture, from ideation to launch and beyond
    EIR is part of the studio core team or working closely under their supervision
    The studio team provides hands-on mentorship and support
    The studio team has a significant say in venture decisions
    The studio team tightly controls the venture budget
    In most cases, startup studios have the majority of equity in their early-stage ventures.
    Mature Stage:
    Lower level of involvement in each venture
    Studio team provides guidance and support but gives ventures more autonomy
    Studio team has less say in venture decisions
    Studio team gives ventures more flexibility with their budgets
    In most cases, the EIR or venture CEO gets more equity

    The studio's involvement in its ventures and relationship with EIRs can vary depending on its model and each venture's needs.
    For example, some studios may maintain a high level of involvement in all of their ventures, regardless of the stage of the ventures or stage of the startup studio. Other studios may give their ventures more autonomy from the start.
    Additionally, the level of involvement of a startup studio in its ventures can also change over time, depending on the venture's performance. For example, if a venture is struggling, the studio may become more involved to help it get back on track. Conversely, if a venture performs well, the studio may give the venture more autonomy.
    Overall, the level of involvement of a startup studio in its ventures is a dynamic relationship that changes over time as the studio matures and the needs of each venture evolve.
  • Balance personal bonds and professional metrics
    In the heart of your venture studio's operations, the personal connections you forge with founders are strong and deeper than in a classic investor <> founder relationship. It's these bonds that can turn a simple handshake into a successful venture. But sometimes, despite best efforts, a deal just doesn't work out. And that's okay. What's key is laying down the requirements and unemotional metrics right from the beginning — very important before you bring deals.
    Why drag the 'bad news bear' into the room at the start? It's all about setting the stage. If the time comes to part ways—and we hope it doesn't, but if it does—you want everyone to know it's not about them. It's business, not personal. This isn't just about fixing a deal; it's about ensuring a fair and rational process so people feel they have been treated fairly so they will come back someday.
    tl;dr: saying yes is easy. saying no POLITELY and PROFESSIONALLY is hard.
  • Leverage exited founders and advisors to supercharge studio operations
    We have formed "Zoë Collective", our network of exited founders & advisors we are operationalizing to supercharge our studio: 1. Ideation 2. Validation 3. Initial Customers 4. Founder/Founding Team Talent 5. Strategic Angels
    We have 10+ exited founders from our vertical focus in the Employee Benefits Space
    We have active executives in this space (who are early customers, involved in our validation phase)
    We have retired executives in this space (who are one phone call away from many C-suite buyers our portCos will be selling to, and years of experience to support our Ideation/Validation phase as well as advising our portCos)
    Exited founders get vesting equity in our studio
    Active/Retired Execs are compensated with 2 types of Awards based on engagement & a menu of items (i.e. Bringing an idea we greenlight, recommending a co-founder or founding team member, bringing Pilot to portco, etc.)
    Zoë Collective advisors will also be engaging directly with our portCos as advisors and/or board members, based on expertise and value to drive GTM, PMF, fundraising, etc. This engagement will include equity on the portCo cap table
    Our network is bonded together based on years of relationship in the trenches, with trust we've built in our industry. In addition, Zoë Foundry's culture carries the belief that there is a "return on character" (ROC) principle that further derisks our portCos in the employee benefits space.
  • Managing Your Startup Studio
    "If you want to manage your startup studio effectively, then immediately assign specific roles and build operational pillars (Product, Growth, Design, Finance, Research, etc.). Engage skilled friends or professionals in these roles for specialized expertise."
    Evaluating Startups in Your Portfolio
    "If you want to thoroughly evaluate startups in your portfolio, then always request their pitch decks and deeply understand the problem they are solving. Engage with the team for a comprehensive insight into their strategy and vision."
  • Leverage discipline and resilience
    My hack when working with founders is two fold. My hack draws from my experiences as a professional athlete. I bring a unique perspective to startup founders that centers on discipline and resilience. Maintaining perseverance is essential for a founder and their startups success. Being able to stay calm amongst chaos is something that the best leaders are able to do, in turn spreading calmness among their team. Additionally, I have helped guide founders to leverage their unique experiences to bolster confidence during times of doubt in their startup journey emphasizing that past achievements, however unorthodox, can be a powerful source of self-assurance in navigating the startup journey. This approach has helped founders realize their own potential and their strengths.
  • Building growth marketing and brand presence through disruptive intervention - think from sustainability, ESG and community angle to propel the ROi and build larger affinity with your market, government, community.
  • The culture of written information exchange that records the experience of team members as they work together day-to-day, addressing challenges, can be greatly enhanced by the latest AI tools. These tools can summarize meetings, list tasks, and much more.
    That is what we do at Actioneer - the AI-powered Startup Coaching and Data-driven Investor Platform.
  • SLDK Venture Studio is achieving success by finding the right board of active partners in the very beginning with key assets&insights&network, considering actual startup team more as execution team for the strategy with unfair advantage generated by the board, and looking for relatively small and quick exits in the future and working on those exit opportunities from day “-1".
  • Software to help get everything started can be very expensive (especially if you are going with the well known software such as ClickUp, HubSpot, etc.) Our team here at Beryllium Creative have been able to find more cost effective solutions at AppSumo. We are currently using Freedcamp for our project management and it's just as effective as ClickUp without the annual expensive price tag.
  • Use cloud-based infrastructure like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace to set up domains or tenants for each startup from the outset, allowing you to collect all the relevant information where it belongs, rather than in the studio itself.
  • Managing a Studio (in my experience an accelerator). Make sure your staff is aligned from the very beginning with the values and focus of the studio (do this too!). Limits conflict, engages and helps find people who are mission driven.
  • I am running a studio that creates DTC apparel brands using on demand manufacturing. One thing that makes our studio special is that we have a manufacturing infrastructure that allows us to test out different ideas very very cheaply and very quickly. On average is takes us just around 300 usd to test out whether or not a brand has the potential to become successful.
  • Growth Marketing to Scale Early-Stage Startups
    Build a growth loop within your product which focuses on user generated content. This helps you naturally improve your SEO overtime. This strategy is for marketplaces and community based products.
  • Studios and startups should keep accurate books from day 1
  • Resident Advisors - How we built a world-class core multidisciplinary team without raising a fund.
  • Managing A Studio: Focus on curating culture. Could interns etc be used as a pipeline to develop new founders in the future?

Attracting the best founders into a venture studio

  • Utilize networking, expertise, and comprehensive screening to identify and evaluate startup founders
    How to find startup founders
    • Attend startup events: Startup events are a great place to meet founders and learn about their startups.
    • Network with other entrepreneurs: Talk to entrepreneurs in your community and see if they know of any promising founders.
    • Reach out to universities: Many universities have startup incubators and accelerators that can connect you with talented founders.
    • Use online platforms: There are several online platforms where you can find startup founders, such as AngelList and FounderDating.

    The best founders:
    • Clarity of mission and purpose: The best founders have a clear understanding of why they are starting their company and what they hope to achieve. They are able to articulate their vision in a way that inspires others.
    • Deep domain expertise: Founders should have a deep understanding of the problem they are solving and the industry they are operating in. This gives them a competitive advantage and helps them to make better decisions.
    • Ability to adapt and learn: The technology landscape is constantly changing, so it is crucial for founders to be able to adapt and learn quickly. They should be willing to experiment and pivot as needed.
    • Obsession with the problem: The best founders are obsessed with the problem they are solving. They are constantly thinking about improving their product and reaching more customers.
    • Coachability: Founders should be open to feedback and willing to learn from others. They should be able to work with mentors and advisors to take their company to the next level.
    • Strong work ethic: Starting a company is hard work. Founders need to be willing to put in the long hours and make sacrifices.
    • Integrity and transparency: Founders must be honest and transparent with their team, investors, and customers. This builds trust and credibility, which is essential for success.
    • Fairness and reasonableness: Founders must be fair and reasonable in business dealings. This helps to create a positive work environment and attract top talent.
    • Love of learning: The best founders are constantly learning and growing. They are curious and open to new ideas.
    • Grit and perseverance: Starting a company is challenging, and there will be setbacks along the way. Founders must have the grit and perseverance to overcome these challenges and keep moving forward.
    • Entrepreneurial spirit: The best founders have an entrepreneurial spirit. They are driven to succeed and not afraid to take risks.

    How to screen startup founders
    It is not just about resumes, past accomplishments, or a fancy pitch deck, not even a cool demo that they can show but to
    •  Ask questions: Ask the founders about their experience, motivation, and vision. What is their track record? What are their goals for the company? Why are they passionate about the problem they are solving?
    • Look for passion and determination: The best founders are obsessed with their problems and solutions. They are driven to succeed, no matter what challenges they face.
    • Explore their internal conversation about money: Are they open and flexible when spending money (being resourceful)? Do they want to treat themselves and others fairly? Ironically, most startups break up not because of a lack of technology development or progress but because of money conversations amongst founders, employees, or investors. Find out if this is about making a quick $ ( as founders ) or solving a challenging problem that could eventually make money and will be profitable. In today's market, there is a shift from growth and customer traction at any cost economy to building profitable businesses, which fuels the expansion, creates a flywheel of its unit of the economy, and is sustainable.
    • References: Talk to the founders' former colleagues, professors, and investors. Get their feedback on the founders' technical skills, business acumen, and leadership abilities.
  • Involve mature co-founders to bring experience and stability
    When it comes to hiring co-founders for portfolio companies within a venture studio, mature founders can bring valuable experience and skills to the table.

    The following might be a better way to break it down:
    1. Industry knowledge and networks: Mature founders have a deep understanding of their industry and can leverage their networks to help portfolio companies grow.
    2. Strong leadership and decision-making: Mature co-founders have a proven track record of managing teams and making strategic decisions, which can help accelerate the success of portfolio companies.
    3. Investor relations: Mature co-founders are often perceived as experienced and credible, which can enhance investor confidence and facilitate fundraising efforts.
    4. Stability and commitment: Mature co-founders tend to demonstrate a long-term commitment to their startups, which can be valuable for venture studios looking for co-founders who will stick with their portfolio companies through thick and thin.

    Age age may not, and certainly should not, be the only factor in the selection process, sure, however the numbers show that mature co-founders can be valuable for portfolio companies within a venture studio. This is important because this is a major win over ageism that has worked heavily against those who are older, which has plagued startups culture for over 2 or 3 decades.
  • Utilize hackathons to testing problem-solving and collaboration skills
    A hackathon is a short and focused attempt to build something that solves a real problem. It is typically done over a weekend or 1-2 working days and teams are usually formed at the event. This means it’s a good test of how well people can identify problems that matter, collaborate with people they don’t know and how passionate they are about a making something of value. While it’s limited in time and tells far from the full story, it can be a very good way to identify founder candidates. Also, they can be really fun and rewarding.
  • Offer a free education
    Here's a hack that's helped us source excellent Entrepreneurs-In-Residence: We offer a free educational offering that's highly valued by our target profile. In our case, this takes the form of a free 1-week coding bootcamp where students learn how to launch a DAO from scratch. This has attracted many brilliant entrepreneurial builders, and since it's only 1 week long many people have been able to follow along while maintaining their full time employment. We've had ~250 bootcamp graduates since the start of this year, more information can be found here:
  • Attracting the best founders: look beyond stereotypes, focus on attracting diversity, to increase the multiple. That means offering perks that are great for those kind of founders, such as dealing with working visas or maternity leaves
  • As an industry veteran, to find founders I've found it best to reach out to A-players who I've worked with before who are bright, entrepreneurial and looking to make an impact. Unfortunately the corporate environment in medtech is not conducive to early stage innovation, as many companies are laying off their R&D teams, much like big pharma did 10 years ago. I think this creates an ideal environment in which to start a venture studio.
  • Host startup events tailored to your Studio domain and market to specific stage entrepreneurs - this is how you get tons of qualified inbound EIR applications!
  • Leverage venture partners to develop new verticals within the studio and to attract premier founders. Venture partners must be successful entrepreneurs, renowned for their impressive achievements and prominence in the domain you target. Their primary motivation should be equity stakes in the portfolio companies.
  • Finding the Founders with the right level of motivation, drive and expertise increases your chances of success significantly.

Fundraising for venture studios & their startups

  • Ask questions at the first meeting to understand investor's background and interests
    During the first meeting with a potential LP when fundraising (or a VC if you’re a founder), try to ask the LP as many questions as possible to first figure out the investor’s history.

    For instance, some potential questions to an LP include:
    1. What are you currently investing in?
    2. Why venture and how long have you been investing in it?
    3. How much capital is dedicated annually to investing in venture, or do you invest opportunistically?
    4. If you are looking to invest in venture, are you looking to add new names?
    5. What strategies and geographies are you (actively) investing in?
    6. Who are the members of the investment committee and how do you approve investment allocations?
    The bottom line is, whether you’re a first-time fund manager raising from LPs or a founder raising from VCs, during the first meeting don’t jump straight into pitching. First, aim to understand as much as possible about the investor and build rapport, which will be beneficial when tailoring your pitch to this person.
  • Consider family offices and provide a comprehensive financial model
    If you are looking for fundraising for a venture builder, VC isn't going to work - they see it as a threat and doesnt fit their mandate even if they want to, perhaps not all but most I've spoken to. Look into family offices, ideally those that fit in your sector. You need a few example ventures or ideas already built to stand a chance in a few million rounds otherwise bootstrap until this point unless you have few exits under your belt.
    Secondly, the financial model of your studio should include the studio team and expenses but most importantly the current companies and even future cohorts so they understand how you will be deploying capital since most of it is focused as a R&D raise.
  • Empower employees and the public through tokenized equity holdings
    Like many venture studios, we often engage against a combination of cash & sweat and also invest cash directly in start-ups. This has resulted in numerous equity investments in tech ventures over the last 4.5 years. 1.5 years ago, we were looking for a way to give long-term employees a share in the upside of the equity investments and found a good way. We decided to set up a subsidiary, moved the majority of the equity holdings there and tokenized the subsidiary with Now every employee can become a co-shareholder in 1 minute and starting from CHF 100. Since it worked so well, we opened it up to the public and now there is liquidity in the broker bot and anyone can buy and sell. Either with FIAT money (bank payment) or directly with a crypto. We are currently discussing how we can transfer this into an ESOP/PSOP program and are clarifying the relevant tax aspects etc. More at
  • Convert corporate challenges into startup opportunities with 'Concept Unboxing' method
    In our venture creation collaborations with corporations, we've found that they engage with startups more as project participants than traditional investors. To align with this approach, we developed "Concept Unboxing," a corporately financed idea validation project. This process focuses on ideating around corporate challenges and assessing their potential as business opportunities, using comprehensive validation frameworks, eventually leading to collecting pre-seed/seed round from this corporation or another investor once concept is validated and company is established.
  • Eric Sean Brotto
    For those looking to start investing, if you have an initial amount of money, no matter how small, use that to attract co-investors, rather than investing by yourself. By co-investing with others, you will have more impact, and your money will go farther. In turn, your track record will be more impressive, hence making it easier to raise for future funds.
  • When fundraising, design the path with pre-determined metrics, and combing own contribution with angels and funds to bring down to a lowest email barrier. For example: Raise 200k€, 100k from fund on condition of 100 k from business angels. That 100k business angels, spread into 50k on crowdfunding, etc. Up to lowest possible amount that automatically brings the rest
  • Funding is always quickly used and limited - I use a combination of trade & property finance instruments to multiply scare funds with a high annual yield which requires raising capital once and using the annual returns to fund the venture studio each year. As the studio funding needs increase over time, new capital can be raised as needed
  • Have a clear business plan that defines what can be expected from the studio or startup. Simplify your message as much as possible, to make it clear, well defined, and easy to understand. Enhance your network and connect with as many people as you can that can help you reach the best investors.
  • Regarding fund raising for Studios, treat it like a sales process, ensure you have a CRM, define your templates, put together your documents into a data room. One of the best things you could do is to get into "VC Lab" accelerator to work through the tasks to launching and closing the fund side of your studio. It's not easy to get in, but it's worth every bit to try.
  • Built a target bank of your potential investors: type, vertical, geography, emotional connection, prof. network
  • Found a way to reduce risk of early-stage innovation for our investors, by an order of magnitude, via crowdsourcing and a secret sauce. More on this in the coming months. Will keep community posted.
  • I work for an impact focused venture studio. We seek investment from a wide array of donors and investors, including traditional philanthropies. My hack is communicating the venture studio model slowly and carefully to unlikely donors, like philanthropies, because they are often interested in the impact we create but more hesitant about a for profit business model. Receiving grant funding from philanthropies during the ideation phase often helps us progress the ventures and receive greater investment as the venture move towards their launch.
  • It is like any sales process, pool the potential investors and engage with them to learn their interest about this new asset class and slowly take clues if the prospect is interested o hear out to take it forward.
  • My hack would be establish a professional way to source, screening and engage investors, even before launching.
  • Make sure you are real and pack yourself well, then get an intro from someone real or someone with real investors network.
  • Studio teams should concentrate on the fund raising, instead venture founders on the venture fundraising, very simple formula.

Attracting advisors, network & government support to venture studios

  • The best advisers I've met, were overburned corporate professionals. So please never underestimate the power of the tired brains that you can easily attract to the team.
  • Use free cash grants like the ones from Regione Puglia in Southern Italy to start and accelerate companies - Connect with me at best on Linkedin
  • When attracting advisors, investors, talent, or clients, I have 2 core beliefs.
    1. Start with What and Who you already know. You likely have a depth and/or breadth of connections in a few niche areas based on your success and the focus or goals for your VC or Venture Studio. Those existing connections will be far more receptive than any cold outreach you attempt.
    2. Be Sincere. It doesn't matter if you are selling yourself or your company for funds, advisors, strategic partners, or potential clients - Open and direct communication combined with sincerity of intent will win over hearts and minds faster and more thoroughly than any shiny bauble or catchy slogan. Your sincerity is your personal brand - never compromise that.
  • I don't have a big team in my startup so I'm using chatgpt bots with social character like marketer or business advisor to assist me in my startup work without the need to increase the team
  • Attract advisors - you just need to spot a gap in your own studio and get fair conditions to those who fill in your gap. Content, intros and network event help to find advisors.
  • Don’t run a demo day, or venture day, run a conference to close your studio cohort (with your startups and venture partners) to showcase, shine and attract talent, founders and partners with the select successful ones.

Defining problems, generating and testing ideas in a venture studio

  • Leverage universities and creative communities for ideation and validation
    To kickstart the ideation process, it's crucial to tap into the wealth of knowledge and innovation offered by specialized universities. One approach our company, Fuelarts, employs is sending our mentors to deliver lectures at various educational institutions. This not only allows us to connect with budding entrepreneurs at the ideation stage but also provides a platform for nurturing the most promising concepts into viable startups or prototypes. Following this creative brainstorming phase, it's imperative to validate these ideas through a thorough market fit assessment. In our case, we leverage our network of dedicated communities tailored to our niche in Creative Tech. These communities include collectors, gallerists, curators, and artists, all of whom play a pivotal role in helping us assess the viability of our concepts within the market. One common challenge we often encounter is what we refer to as the "false problem." This challenge is particularly prevalent in the creative economy market, which tends to be heavily supply-driven. Recognizing and addressing this dynamic is paramount to our success. That’s why while lecturing at educational institutions our mentors always focus on the real market problems.
  • Embrace lean philosophy for idea refinement and continuous improvement
    While studios ideate, validate, build, and grow in stages with decision gates, this is also the approach followed by everyone who embraces the Lean Philosophy of Eric Ries.
    The unique factor in studios is their emphasis on rigorous testing, making them idea machines. Consequently, with each test, your understanding of an idea and problem statement becomes more refined. Simultaneously, your process undergoes refinement based on insights derived from previous attempts. This, in turn, enhances the likelihood of success in your next experiment.
    While many advocate having multiple portfolio companies to achieve better synergy, the practical execution of this concept is often more challenging than it seems in theory. Many individuals are eager to promote this idea, but only a few manage to successfully implement it. So, it's crucial to remain vigilant and ask questions.
  • Identify industry sweet spots
    Use Wardley Mapping for clarifying your understanding of the value chain of the industry you're building for to decide where are the sweet spots you want explore. Some components of the value chain may be commoditised (you shouldn't invest in building your version of aws s3 or user management module for your SaaS) while other may be in the "genesis/wild west" stage where there are no standards, only hacky solutions (you don't want to accrue technical debt here).
  • Defining problems, generating ideas, and shark tanking the best
    1.defining the principles:
    according to the studio mission, resources and external context
    2.Inspiration and Research:
    we started by using existent frameworks to generate new ideas for the first batch of ideas in 2023 (some dozens by 4 team members). But then we quickly started to come up with ideas from problems we find in our day to day activities and interactions.
    3. then the team took an afternoon to discuss and vote the top 2/3 ideas according to our principles, unfair advantages/opportunities, gut feeling; on an internal shark tank mode (out of a bucket of around 50, in August).
    And we do another litmus test deriving from our current principles (e.g. can we build it, get revenue fast, etc)
  • Conduct in-depth calls with industry network
    Don't be shy : do calls with as many people as you can in the field you want to build your next startup. Not just "connect" on LinkedIn for example : dedicate one hour to each new contact in the sector you are targeting. At the beginning this might help identify pain points obviously. But after that, don't forget to do follow-up calls once your idea has reach different maturity levels. Present regularly the evolution of your project. Once your product is ready, the people you listened to at the beginning will become your first customers.
  • I widely use interviews with consultants in our domain to learn what are the pain point of the companies we target and generate startup ideas.
  • Fully understand the problem that you're trying to solve. I know that sounds simplistic, but so many start ups I've worked with jump to launch/execution without a well-defined strategy that reflects deep consumer/customer/marketplace understanding. Doing this hard work upfront will save so many wasted resources on the back end.
  • All ideas are my own.
    I am my own first customer.
    This mitigates several risks.
  • Colton Heward-Mills
    Run venture studio side-by-side with some kind of consulting or advisory arm supporting your target customers. We had a lot of success doing this. It was an important tool for defining problems & generating ideas. It also was a great way to generate some cash flow.
  • Identify Pain Points: Look for common issues or challenges that people face in their daily lives. Addressing these pain points can lead to viable startup ideas. You can do this through surveys, interviews, or by observing trends and complaints in various industries.
    SWOT Analysis: Conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of potential ideas. It helps in evaluating the feasibility and potential obstacles for each idea before diving into them.
    Brainstorming Sessions: Organize brainstorming sessions with a diverse group of people. Encourage free-flowing idea generation without criticism initially. Later, evaluate and refine the most promising concepts.
    Market Research and Trends Analysis: Stay updated with market trends, emerging technologies, and industry shifts.
    Lean Startup Methodology: Adopt the principles of the lean startup, which involves creating a minimum viable product (MVP) to quickly test the market and gather feedback. This approach helps in validating ideas and iterating based on real data.
  • Creat a map of different domains in a specific vertical, there would be stand alone bubbles, others with overlaps, some big and some satellites orbiting around them (use as many sources a you can). Then try to identify the jobs-to-be-done that are in spaces where a possible convergence may take place. Here ethnography can be very helpful to craft an idea to explore and eventually validate. Like is there a possible space of convergence between green, 3Dprinting, an DLT?
  • Make your [future] customers your advisors!
    Once you’ve chosen a niche to focus on with your studio, making a group chat with decision makers of companies your newborn startups will try to sell to will be beneficial.
    It’s a great spot to validate your ideas with potential customers, as well as a great channel for new ideas to develop.
  • Understand the entire landscape in which the problem/solution can exist. Then define and bring to life numerous probable futures in which that problem/solution might live. Then design multiple competing businesses that operate in those different futures. Validate the likelihood of each. Needs to include everything required for the business to start/scale
  • Set & Stick to thesis ,don""t deviate from it. As opportunities and ideas pour in, be deliberate and screen the ideas to pursue.Conduct open mic events and hackathons to source ,scout and pool entrepreneurs with unique ideas to pursue.To ideate think and define the problem market is in need of.
  • Strategy and market judgment for idea/concept/solution validation, especially in "deep industrial tech" space - making key contributions to building successful highly science-based (physics, chemistry, materials, engineering) ventures.
  • It’s very important to know the trends so that it doesn’t keep you back or out of date. People and companies are always looking out for the next new big thing in the ecosystem. Talking attending seminars will help in this.

Reaching PMF before MVP :grin:

  • Create landing pages for pre-MVP idea validation and user insights
    One clever hack to reach product-market fit before crafting an MVP is to leverage the power of landing pages. Create a compelling landing page for your idea, highlighting the key value propositions and features. Make it so enticing that users can't resist but click that "Sign Up" button.
    But here's the twist: Instead of building the full product behind the scenes, use the landing page to gauge interest and collect email sign-ups. This allows you to measure demand without investing heavily in development. You can even include a "Coming Soon" or "Beta Access" message to generate anticipation.
    Once you see a substantial number of sign-ups, engage with these potential users. Send them surveys, host webinars, or set up one-on-one calls to understand their pain points, expectations, and preferences. This will provide invaluable insights to refine your product concept further.
    By the time you're ready to build your MVP, you'll have a much clearer understanding of what your target audience truly needs, increasing your chances of hitting that sweet spot called product-market fit. And voila, you've just hacked your way to success!
  • Use no code proof-of-concept to save costs
    On reaching PMF before creating an MVP, I'd really say that building a No Code Proof-of-Concept is a form of doing that because of the cost saving compared to traditional building.
    I was recently asked "will building a No Code PoC or MVP help me save on costs when building a coded MVP?" and I really believe the answer is a resounding Yes.You save the cost of building the wrong thing.
  • Collab with future customers before starting your product
    2nd product - an ed tech for career guidance. Developed no-code product with first potential customers and iterated for months. Now, that customer brought in a group of 99 school districts who are waiting on us to deliver the product. Product MVP completed. We are in seed round (hint hint). Piloting within a month. Please DM if interested.
  • One more thing about reaching PMF (that's Product-Market Fit for those catching up). Do this before creating your MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Seems backwards, right? It's like putting on your socks before your shoes. But trust me, knowing the product fits the market before investing time and resources in creating it can save you a lot of frustration...and not to mention, a heap of cash!
    Step out there and show them who the boss is.
  • Guide founders through a milestone/stagegate process to mitigate startup risks
    At Talentum Ventures, we guide the founders towards a milestone/stagegate process which aims to mitigate the risks of the newborn startup. These milestones are segmented in areas (revenue, product, tech, people/ops, finance, strategy, etc.) and grouped in "blocks" from 0 to 7, corresponding to different maturity levels, with block 3 roughly translating to pre-seed stage and block 7 roughly translating to seed stage maturity.
    During blocks 0–2, we push the founders towards acquiring their first customers and using them as "paid R&D" — the founders provide value to the customer offering consultancy and professional services around the concepts / problemas they aim to solve, and by doing that, they learn about the specifics of the problem and idea space to better tweak the MVP that's being build in parallel (aiming to be releases by Block 2).
  • Сreating a Committee of your potential customers + industry experts to serve as proxy to validate which idea (brought up as a 1-pager memo) needs to be channeled via the program. This can be done quarterly.
  • I have managed a product launch as Marketing Lead which resulted in a successful exit (trade sale to a multinational). To identify the features of a viable (PMF) disruptive new solution you need to look at the competition outside the industry, not just within it.

Read my Big Startup Studios Research 2023:

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