Top 10 takeaways from Campfire 2023

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Every deal starts with a relationship. Campfire is about connecting with each other, building those relationships, and sharing the approaches we’ve taken to adapt to a very fast-changing market landscape. During the course of our one-day event, we heard from industry-leading dealmakers who use Affinity to source deals, manage pipelines, and look after their portfolio companies. Together we explored the future of relationship intelligence, the importance of data-driven investing, and what deal-making will look like next year and beyond.

Here are 10 of Campfire’s biggest takeaways.

1. Data engineering and analysis is becoming a core VC function 

Affinity CEO, Ray Zhou, kicked things off with a look at the current state of Venture Capital. It’s a crowded marketplace with many funds going after a smaller pool of high quality deals, meaning few can survive on inbound alone.

That’s where data-driven dealmaking comes in. A data-driven investor is one who uses data to augment decision-making or automate away manual tasks that slow decision-making. Zhou shared that data engineering and analysis is now a core function in many funds. For example, there are currently more than 250 VC and PE engineering job postings on LinkedIn–something that was practically nonexistent ten years ago.

2. AI features will boost productivity and effectiveness for users

As we take our next steps in artificial intelligence (AI) to help Affinity users boost productivity and effectiveness, we made three new product changes that span across the CRM, Affinity Pathfinder (Chrome extension), and Affinity for Outlook. 


  • Affinity Industry Insights: A new tab highlighting companies that compete with or sell to the same audience as a target prospect you’re viewing. 
  • Affinity Notetaker: An AI-driven meeting companion that takes meeting notes and produces a transcript of your meeting, then syncs it to the Affinity records of the people and companies on the call. 
  • Affinity Deal Assist: A feature that makes your proprietary insights from notes, attachments, and emails, available to you as snippets that can be used for analysis and reporting. 

3. New Collaborator Seats provide more visibility to investors 

From speaking with Partners, Associates, and platform leads at investment firms, we know that being able to securely share data from the CRM with external partners is paramount. Collaborator Seats brings new capabilities to better support a firm’s portfolio companies and provide more visibility to Limited Partners (LPs). 

Among other use cases, LPs will have visibility into the firm’s pipeline to give them confidence that funds are being deployed wisely, and dealmakers can actively support talent acquisition within portfolio companies with a list of key people in their network. 

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

It’s no secret that private capital has changed in recent years. The days of the ‘one day close’ deals are over and in its place is a more streamlined and structured approach rooted in strong metrics and long-term growth potential. Fundraising is more difficult, and it’s important to prioritize growing portfolio companies as a method for recouping LP investments. 

Affinity Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Shubham Goel, moderated our ‘Finding, Funding, Flourishing: Expert Insights on Calculated Investing’ panel. It featured key insights on how dealmakers are successfully navigating today’s investment landscape and finding success in deal sourcing, fundraising, and portfolio company growth. 

The panelists were Vivek Ramaswami (Madrona Venture Group), Curtis McKee (Third Point Ventures), Nnamdi Iregbulem (Lightspeed Venture Partners), and Kelly Graziadei (F7 Ventures). They spoke about how Affinity has helped to accelerate and streamline workflows across their firms.

McKee said of deal sourcing, “You can track your pipeline within Affinity each step of the way. To me, that's an easy, simple, and straightforward way of keeping things moving along. It's what I love about Affinity.” 

On portfolio support, Graziadei added: “We want to be long time partners with our founders and be involved in multiple funding rounds with them. How can we get better at having long term relationships, at building those relationships over time and over many touch points? Affinity helps us successfully do this.”

5. Dealmaking intensity is making a comeback

Dealmaking may have slowed down in 2023, but our panelists ‘Finding, Funding, Flourishing’ are feeling 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!”. Iregbulem 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.”

6. Showcasing your network can be critical to closing a deal

During our Breakout Session, ‘From Insights to Investments: Strategies for Success as a Data-Driven Investor,’ we heard Managing Partner at Pear VC, Mar Hershenson, on using data to drive success. 

Hershenson explained that the best companies out there are those with multiple offers and to ‘win’ them, you have to try to solve for what they need—fast. For example, if a founder needs access to sought-after developers, Hershenson looks to her firm’s network to find candidates and offers to make those intros. Once that trust has been built and Pear VC closes the deal, the team introduces that startup to a network of potential customers. In both instances, a warm intro can go a long way. 

Pear VC does this at scale with Affinity. Hershenson commented, “We have over 120,000 people that we track through Affinity.”

7. Operational champions are the key to teams working more effectively 

During our breakout session ‘Become an Operational Hero: Set your Team and Tech up for Deal Success,’ we heard from two of Affinity’s operational champions on how they’ve enabled their firm to be more successful and efficient in their dealmaking and in supporting portfolio companies.  

For Nolan English of SOSV, Affinity helped resolve a lack of transparency within the firm. The platform ensures that everyone stays organized and on the same page, and they can do more with accurate and up to date data. English said, “We use the Affinity API pretty regularly. We use it to pull information from, and sync data into Affinity. It's been really important to us.”

For Caroline Haun at 8VC, Affinity is a trusted single source of truth. She said, “Our deal team knows that whatever they input into Affinity will be shared across the firm in real time... It's helped create some really great workflows internally.”

8. Affinity plays a role in improving the founder experience 

Nolan shared how his team built an internal platform for their founders. “They're all onboarded within two weeks of joining and it allows them to update their profile and all those updates immediately sync back to Affinity.” 

Having all this information centrally located helps the firm to deliver a more personalized experience, and it powers their data-driven initiatives. He continued, “Having this data in Affinity allows us to stay consistent and lets our users easily pull data requests, statistics, or whatever else they need.”

9. Every system needs a feedback mechanism 

During our ‘Hurry Up and Wait: Digitizing in Down Markets’ panel, we spoke with operators who have led the way on digitization. We gained insights on implementation best practices, and discussed the delicate balance of effectively budgeting your resources without killing your agility for more open markets. 

The panelists were Ryan Bateman (Sands Capital), Diogo Henriques (BAM Elevate), Amber Quinones (BBG Ventures), and Andrew Cafourek (Anthos). The moderator was Affinity's VP of product, Jennie Dvorak. 

There was broad agreement that in order to digitize effectively, feedback is essential. Cafourek shared insight on what it means to have a feedback mechanism in place. He explained, “Once you can integrate feedback into the loop it becomes exponentially more valuable, and that's as true for AI as it is for actual intelligence.” 

Henriques echoed that sentiment. “We have a model in machine learning where we try to predict different outcomes in VC. We have that model constantly learning and driving new insights. All of that data is integrated with Affinity.”

10. Data-driven dealmaking will define the winners of tomorrow

Across all the sessions at Campfire, data was a topic that came up time and time again. 

Quinones shared: “On our team we use data to save time, 1000% of the time. We have a hundred active portfolio companies and we really try to be—despite realities—really involved and to play the Chief of Staff for them. Being able to get our team to communicate better and faster is essential.” 

Batemen left us with a compelling thought that many VCs are likely to be grappling with right now: to build or buy data-driven solutions. He said, “ It's really interesting because anything we build is most likely going to be surpassed in the next two years. But there's still value in this because anything we build will set up our data to be structured for those next tools or projects. I think this will be a huge accelerator and differentiator for the firms that are taking it seriously now.”

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

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