How Bain Capital Ventures uses Affinity to navigate changing investment landscapes
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Bain Capital Ventures (BCV) serves as the venture arm of Bain Capital, one of the world’s leading private investment firms. For over 20 years, BCV has invested in mostly B2B and enterprise technology, with sub-teams focused on four key groups: fintech, apps, data infrastructure, and commerce.
With an almost 50-person team that’s now investing their ninth fund worth over $1 billion overall, BCV needed a CRM that would allow partners to make more educated decisions around investments and serve as a single source of truth regarding deal pipeline.
BCV chose Affinity as their centralized CRM for all sub-teams to use and report weekly on pipeline and status updates. Affinity’s data enrichment provides important company information and data points BCV uses to inform decisions as investing continues to shift with the market.
With Affinity, Bain Capital Ventures can:
- Sync all emails, calendar invites, and contacts with the click of a button
- Standardize weekly reporting across all sub-teams and eliminate gaps in knowledge
- Establish a single source of truth across the firm to make intelligent investment decisions
Moving fast, funding things
Typically, in the world of Venture Capital, speed was everything. Investors needed to move faster than ever to secure their investments. What had been a 2-3 week decision-making process was sometimes taking only 48-72 hours, with some investments being made around individuals before they had even started a company.
BCV was using a CRM that was designed to handle transactional sales and required manual data entry, resulting in a solution that was never fully utilized by the team. This left holes in their relationship management detrimental to their overall effectiveness. “If the data doesn't get into the CRM, you don't have a CRM,” says Kevin Zhang, Partner at Bain Capital Ventures (BCV).
Choosing a solution that meets their business needs
BCV switched to Affinity four years ago to better manage their relationships with companies and founders. One of BCV’s key requirements in a CRM was having a system that can handle the firm’s strict record-retention policies set in place to comply with various regulations, all of which Affinity supports.
Affinity also works with independent experts to verify security, privacy, and compliance controls; the platform has achieved certification against the highest-level global standards and is SOC 2 Type II, CCPA, and GDPR compliant.
“We invest in cutting-edge software to run our business, so we recognize that convenience and data security are sometimes at odds. When we made the switch to Affinity, we went through a compliance and security review, and came away completely comfortable with Affinity’s ability to comply with the strict regulations that apply to our work while still providing the ease of use and automation that attracted us to the platform,” said Zhang.
After ensuring security needs were met, BCV was able to quickly integrate Affinity into their daily work using a phased approach.
Phase 1: Automation and centralization
In the first phase, partners were able to automatically sync their calendars, emails, and other relevant information with the click of a button. “One of the things we thought was incredibly compelling about Affinity is the data science relationship intelligence element, where its record creation is by default and sync rather than by manual entry.”
Affinity provided the team insight into who was meeting with which founders and key activities taking place. Eliminating the need to reactively log interactions and respond to inquiries means the team can proactively focus on nurturing prospects and maintaining a long-term dialogue.
BCV has grown geographically and functionally in the last few years. “We’re no longer a 20-person firm who all work in the same office. We’re currently onboarding our third recruiter, who must be up to speed with our portfolio, practices, and processes quickly.”
Affinity provided the infrastructure needed to meet the demands of their growing team. “All our data is now centralized, so relationship information is never siloed with a single team member, and we all understand the relationships among the entire team’s business network.”
Phase 2: Building reports on the rapport
As Affinity centralized all of BCV’s contacts, opportunities, and interactions, the next phase involved incorporating that data into how their sub-teams collaborated. As Zhang shares, “We have sub-teams that cover distinct subject areas, such as business software and fintech.” These teams had no standard way of cross-functionally reporting the latest updates.
Using Affinity, BCV created workflow and pipeline management templates to operationalize weekly pipeline reviews across each sub-team. Creating these processes to capture key information established Affinity as the single, accurate source of truth and transparency across the firm. “That puts Affinity at the center of our week-to-week operational processes,” Zhang notes.
Evolving to meet shifting needs
Recently, decision making around investing has become more stringent, with the focus being around companies with proven track records over individuals with potential ideas. As Zhang best puts it, “Last year, the train was only stopping at the station for 5 seconds. Today, we have time to wait and look at data before jumping on.”
With this shift in investment strategy, there are different metrics in Affinity that BCV now uses to make decisions. “We incorporate more data-driven signals around companies into our pipeline management and in Affinity we look for companies that spike on certain data points that show more of concrete business inflection point versus a person’s career inflection point,” says Zhang.
In addition to market changes, the pandemic has decreased the number of opportunities to network in person, making it more difficult for BCV’s younger investors and newer employees to build their network. With Affinity’s data enrichment, BCV can determine data points that signify good companies or individuals to contact and create outreach lists more junior employees can use to make connections.
Additionally, new employees with preexisting relationships can go into conversations with their contacts knowing all of BCV’s interactions with those individuals. Adds Zhang, “I can’t emphasize enough the value solely of having the data in place and up to date so that someone who’s getting started has the sum total of our interaction history.”
Tracking to the future
As Zhang and the partners at Bain Capital Ventures have pivoted over the years to respond to shifts in the market, Affinity has been a consistent factor in how they capture information around investment opportunities.
The partnership between BCV and Affinity has been so successful that other Bain Capital teams outside of BCV are beginning to use Affinity. Using Affinity, anyone at BCV, regardless of tenure, can tap into the company’s network to find potential investment opportunities and leverage relationship intelligence to determine the right course of action.