case study

How SOSV manages the full relationship lifecycle with Affinity

Centralizing SOSV’s network in Affinity leads to democratized access to relevant contacts for the firm and their portfolio company founders
“What attracted us to Affinity was the fact that they were really focused on Venture Capital customers… this is a CRM for VCs.”
Nolan English
Director of Portfolio Services

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Description
SOSV is a multi-stage venture capital firm that operates early stage startup development programs for founders who will have a profound impact in the areas of human and planetary health. As of April 2023, SOSV’s top 100 climate tech companies had a valuation of $11.69 billion with $3.77 billion raised, and its top 100 health startups had a valuation of $6.47 billion with $1.42 billion raised.
FOUNDED
1995
INDUSTRY
Venture Capital
Challenge
SOSV was transitioning from operating as a small family office to a rapidly growing venture capital firm with multiple verticals. This shift, however, came with the challenge of not having a CRM that felt tailored to the needs of a venture capital model. Contact information and investment data was scattered across spreadsheets, resulting in limited visibility into the firm’s relationships and connections.
solution
Affinity provided SOSV with a comprehensive CRM solution and an automated way to centralize its network, enabling the firm to track interactions, leverage connections, and mine insights for better decision-making. Affinity’s data also integrates into the SOSV Community Portal, enabling portfolio founders to keep their data up to date which then syncs with Affinity.
result
With Affinity, SOSV can now ensure the firm’s network and data lives in one place, enabling it to share contacts and relevant information across all of its programs. Affinity's relationship intelligence and data empower SOSV to foster stronger relationships and make optimal introductions on behalf or for their founder network.

Introduction

Founded in 1995, SOSV is a global venture capital firm that invests in early/seed stage companies and founders. It has invested in over 1,000 startups across 60 countries and operates three early stage development programs: HAX for hard tech startups, IndieBio for life science startups, and Orbit Startups for startups across emerging markets in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

As SOSV grew from a small family office into a large venture firm whose most recent core fund was worth $277 million, they needed a CRM that could help them scale its operations, manage a rapidly growing portfolio of companies, and capture prospective LP and syndicate information.

Affinity extracts SOSV’s data, email, and contacts from spreadsheets and inboxes and centralizes them in one location. Affinity’s API also feeds into SOSV’s Community Portal to help the firm automatically maintain data of 1000+ companies and establish a single source of truth.

With Affinity, SOSV can:

  • Automatically sync company-wide data and network information in one location, eliminating manual efforts to capture data from people’s inboxes and spreadsheets
  • Ensure employees across the firm’s three early stage development programs have visibility of the entire SOSV network, which they can then leverage to better support their portfolio companies 
  • Capture investment syndicate and LP conversations around fundraising using the Notes feature, ensuring the team is aware of the latest updates 

Challenge

Scaling to a global VC firm without a VC-centric CRM

In the world of early stage/seed stage investments, you’re not necessarily looking at companies, you’re looking at people with ideas. Once you decide to invest in certain people in the ideation stage of a startup, two initial responsibilities unfold: (1) preparing those founders to successfully launch their companies and (2) helping them grow by identifying specialized connections and resources. 

To support early stage founders at scale, SOSV developed several startup development programs to support and guide its portfolio company founders in specific verticals. As Nolan English, Director of Portfolio Services, shares, “​​A big value add of going through an SOSV program is not only the individualized hands-on expertise that you get in your program, but it's the fact that you're now connected to the broader global SOSV ecosystem.”

SOSV specializes in early stage companies and founders, and initially operated as a small family office. In the last decade, headcount grew from 30 to over 160 employees. This growth highlighted the need to better operationalize how the firm managed its network. Unfortunately the existing CRM lacked the functionality needed for a venture capital firm, resulting in low adoption and data living across several applications, inboxes, and people’s brains. Says English, “Obviously, you can introduce a CRM, but if people aren't using it, then there's no value there.”

He also shared that, “Pre-Affinity, a lot of this contact information was very siloed and lived in spreadsheets and Google Sheets. There wasn't an easy way to share it across SOSV, and we really needed a way to see who was talking to who across the firm." Recovering this information required a lot of manual work. As the firm expanded its portfolio, it needed an easier-to-use CRM that centralized its network and data so that the entire founder network could benefit, regardless of their startup development program.

Solution

Eliminating spreadsheets and breaking down silos

After evaluating Salesforce as a potential CRM option, SOSV turned to Affinity as the solution of choice because it was a product tailor-made for the private capital space. As English shares, “What attracted us to Affinity was the fact that they were really focused on Venture Capital customers… this is a CRM for VCs.” 

Adoption of a new tool can always be challenging, especially when you’re a firm that has offices all over the globe, but a pilot combined with a top-down approach ensured SOSV’s success in implementing Affinity across the org. “We have general partners at SOSV that are big champions of Affinity and use Affinity very actively. That was a huge help in rolling it out because it was something that they saw the value in, and when they started using it regularly, their teams then adopted it as well.”

Affinity breaks down silos so that a firm’s network lives in one place, eliminating the need for spreadsheets and providing firms with a single source of truth. For SOSV, implementing Affinity has streamlined data management, optimized work flows for efficiency, and enhanced collaboration across teams. "It's been a huge help to have that centralized in one place... rather than having to pull multiple different locations together,” English shared. The firm also uses the Notes feature to log interactions with prospective portfolio companies, founders, investment syndicates, and LPs, ensuring someone missing a conversation or call will not result in lost information.

Introductions that matter

To help manage relationships with portfolio companies and the founder network, the firm built the SOSV Community Portal, a place for founders to interact with SOSV staff and each other. Affinity’s API helps the firm automatically maintain data of 1000+ companies and establish a single source of truth. Founders of SOSV’s portfolio companies can provide updated descriptions, names, company names, or other information in the SOSV Community Portal, and in turn that information is automatically synced with Affinity, eliminating the manual task of data updating and management.

SOSV can make more informed introductions powered by relationship intelligence with Affinity. Additionally, Affinity’s data enrichment provides SOSV detailed insights, like which investors have invested in which companies, the sectors they’re interested in, their minimum check size, and whether or not they lead rounds. “​​We can use Affinity to respond to specific requests from portfolio companies, providing them with valuable data and introductions."

Results

A CRM that adds value to a growing firm and a growing founder network

Tools like Affinity have helped SOSV scale to a firm of 160 people across over five offices globally, ensuring everyone, regardless of location, title, or tenure can make data-driven decisions and manage relationships with all the available and most up-to-date information in one place. 

As with any office, people sometimes leave the firm for another opportunity, and in the past, their network would leave with them. Now, English shares, “Having something like Affinity makes it easier to hold on to that contact data, so that we can then continue to manage relationships or create new ones as a result.”

Looking to the future, the firm wants to incorporate other integrations and use cases in its day-to-day with Affinity. This includes leveraging the MailChimp integration to sync audiences and lists together to better communicate more effectively with SOSV’s network. The firm is also looking to use Affinity’s data to better manage and improve attendance at firm events. And as SOSV has begun the next round of fundraising efforts, it’s turned to Affinity to manage their relationships and conversations with LPs.

As SOSV continues to grow, Affinity ensures that it can strategically scale and capture all necessary information as it expands the portfolio. “We invest in 130 new companies every year, so a lot of new data is coming in. [We want to make] sure data is centralized in one place that people can go to if they have a question they are trying to answer or if they want to pull together some stats quickly.”

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