Amy Francetic understands the importance of efficiency. She and her business partner launched Buoyant Ventures at the beginning of 2020, right before the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We had to navigate that global disruption,” she says, “and decided to make an investment before we even had a close of the fund, to try to demonstrate to LPs what we meant by our investment thesis.”
Now the climate-focused fund has $81.7 million in assets under management, making it the largest female-owned venture fund outside of the coasts. Francetic talked to us about how she got there with a strong process, solid tech stack, and a clear focus.
Watch the full conversation or keep reading for her top tips for other VC firms, with time-stamps to help you dive deeper where you want to.
Tip #1: Start tracking companies before they raise
Buoyant Ventures typically invests at the seed or Series A stage, and Francetic says they usually write checks between $500,000 and $5 million. But the firm likes to meet with companies at the pre-seed stage so they can start tracking progress well before they’re ready to invest.
“When we actually invest, we're really looking for companies to have some revenue traction,” Francetic says. “You can see some good early customer traction without having to spend so much money. Even at the seed stage, we often see an MVP and pilot customers — if the company doesn't have that yet, even if they’re calling it a seed round that would be a little too early for us.”
But that doesn’t mean Francetic isn’t interested in those companies. Buoyant Ventures creates records for every company they meet with so they can track their progress over time. “With Affinity, we can pull up what we covered in our last meeting with that company, then compare the company’s stated plans to what actually happened.”
Tip #2: Customize your tech stack based on evaluation criteria
During the pandemic, Buoyant Ventures developed airtight processes to push deals through evaluation when it was next to impossible to meet anyone in person. As a digitally focused company, the firm uses an extensive tech stack to keep track of every opportunity — which is why integrations are crucial to not double up on work.
For example, while Buoyant Ventures uses Airtable to capture form data from their website, they still need to get that data out of Airtable. “We use an Airtable integration with Affinity,” Francetic says, “to take companies that submit their ideas through our website and create a record in our CRM, which speeds up the whole process for us.”
Buoyant Ventures also developed their own internal scoring system for deal evaluation, and Francetic says they collaborated with Affinity to customize their CRM to reflect the required criteria.
“It’s easy to gather basic information,” Francetic says, “but we wanted an opportunity trigger that conformed to our rating system to have some consistency between companies. Now it’s easy to see which companies stand out because they score higher than other ones, and we can see why one isn’t quite as strong and where we might want to dig in with the company execs to find out more.”
Tip #3: Conduct systemic pipeline reviews when you have a lot of data
Since the firm’s founding, Buoyant Ventures has tracked 1,000 companies. Francetic says with all that data, they needed a dashboard to analyze and derive insights.
“As a female-led fund,” Francetic says, “we care a lot about diversity in our founders and CEOs. When we find a company run by a woman or someone who is racially diverse, we pay extra attention. We analyze this across our deal pipeline to understand whether we’re maintaining or improving our diversity standards in who we’re sourcing and moving through the pipeline.”
Now that Buoyant Ventures is done fundraising, they’re shifting gears to track communication and engagement with their Fund II. “These are folks who didn't invest in Fund I,” Francetic says, “but who said they were interested in following us. So we'll be trying, in a very organized way, to give them updates, just like we're recommending with our portfolio companies. We’ll stay engaged with them, so that when we’re ready to go out for the next fund, they've been getting regular updates from us already.”
Francetic had a lot more commentary on climate-focused tech and the challenges companies are facing in today’s market. Watch the entire conversation.