Finding, funding, and flourishing: Expert insights on calculated investing

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Campfire 2023 brought together leading dealmakers to discuss strategies for navigating today’s investment landscape and finding success in deal sourcing, fundraising, and portfolio company growth. The panel ‘Finding, Funding, Flourishing: Expert Insights on Calculated Investing’ featured Affinity Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Shubham Goel, as moderator and four panelists:

  • Curtis McKee, Partner, Third Point Ventures
  • Kelly Graziadel, Founder & General Partner, f7 Ventures
  • Vivek Ramaswami, Partner, Madrona Venture Group
  • Nnnamdi Iregbulem, Partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners

Here’s a selection of the insights they shared, along with time stamps to help you dive deeper at key moments:

Data-driven scoring is accelerating decision-making

Starts at 02:32

Data-driven dealmaking was a topic explored in depth at Campfire. In a crowded marketplace where many funds are going after a smaller pool of high quality deals, being able to analyze data for the right deal signals is key to getting ahead.

For Madrona Venture Group, Ramaswami explained how they aim to be as data-driven as possible whilst being realistic and respecting the ‘gut instinct’ of the investor: “In every sort of analysis we do, we put a lot more importance around what the true exit valuations are given where the market is today.” 

Kelly Graziadei went a step further, explaining how f7 Ventures has a data driven scoring mechanism for everything that comes in, and how they use Affinity to help track what goes to a GP meeting, what moves to diligence, and what to follow up with later. 

She said, “We've really had to be thoughtful about using data and scoring and thinking about the tool sets we're using so that we can really sort of fulfill both of these mechanisms–from those bespoke conversations with operators and fielding to the increasing volume that's coming in as a small firm.”

Deal intensity is picking up

Starts at 10:15

While many dealmakers who spoke at Campfire reported a focus on portfolio management and helping their companies navigate a tighter credit market, many also spoke about a renewed deal sourcing environment. “This year, we’re being more active on the sourcing front and looking to deploy capital without taking our eye off the ball with helping our portfolio CEOs and companies,” noted Curtis McKee of Third Point Ventures. 

Overall, our panelists felt optimistic about the year ahead—especially when it comes to AI. Ramaswami said, “You can feel the shift happening of seeing more deals in series B+ stages. It's getting people excited, there’s an element that things are coming back. 100X deals are back!” Nnamdi Iregbulem of Lightspeed Venture Partners agreed, saying, “Especially in the context of AI, I wouldn’t say our sourcing strategy has changed so much as that the intensity has picked up.”

Your tech stack is critical to flourishing in today’s market

Starts at 12:54

The panelists were in agreement that the right technology and operations strategy plays a crucial role in building a successful VC firm. From using automations to save time, to augmenting decisions with data, the VC’s tech stack is increasingly a differentiator. 

For advice on operationalizing across a firm, Iregbulem stressed the importance of increasing adoption of tools and explained one way he’s done this: “It's just as important to invest in engagement as it is to invest in tools. If you report out of the tool, people will find the tool important.” 

Ramaswami echoed this sentiment with regards to keeping your team organized and in sync with transparent communication on deal flow: “We found the best way to keep everyone on the same page is by running our weekly department meetings on Affinity, and projecting the reports on the screen.” 

Founders need guidance in a tough fundraising market 

Starts at 22:55

Graziadei described how founders raising today are feeling more pressure than ever before. “Even 18 months ago, you could invest in pre-seed and seed, and founders had a little time to wander around in the woods and figure things out,” she said. 

Today, dealmakers need to support portfolio companies in creating a scalable roadmap—and help them put padding in place for when things don’t go as planned. This takes time, explained Iregbulem: “The reason portfolio support takes so much time is that we don't just identify the problems our companies face, we have to convince them that the solution we develop is the right path forward.”

That’s a wrap. Where will you go next?


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