Supporting founders

We are optimists and believe that venture funded businesses play a critical role in securing a better future for all of us

As seed stage investors, we understand it is a combination of big ideas and deep customer insights, wide and deep markets, great technology (using that term broadly), and a strong team that set the foundation for future success. And even then, we know that only a very few companies will grow into category makers and leaders.

Having made investments in more than 130 early stage companies, we can say with confidence that many if not most benefit from a light touch from their investors. What they do need is broadly predictable, but idiosyncratic to the firm.

Our process for supporting our founders mixes both process and targeted domain expertise. Our approach to adding value to our portfolio companies reflects the fact that a large percentage will move on to a subsequent funding round (in our case, almost always a “A” round) within about two years of our initial investment. It is usually at this point that lead investors become much more involved.

Process

Our program of support begins with how we onboard new investments to our portfolio and our Ulu family. We conduct an in depth meeting with the CEO to do the following:

  • Coordinate marketing efforts
  • Surface near-term business risks and support needs
  • Identify key performance indicators and metrics
  • Start the conversation about the next funding round
  • Set the cadence for regular check-ins

In some cases, we take board seats, but usually we do not. So, an organized process built around the idea of constructive dialog is the baseline for how we support our founders.

To that cadence of communication we periodically schedule virtual and physical gatherings on specific topics, including fundraising, sales and marketing, human resources, and diversity and inclusion.

Domain Expertise

The Ulu Ventures team brings together a broad range of skills and domain expertise in areas that are important to the success of seed stage companies.

  • Capital formation
  • Business strategy and business model development
  • Pricing, contracting, and revenue acceleration
  • Marketing: branding, funnel management
  • Sales, account management, and customer relationship management
  • Financial modeling and Financial management

And, through our network of contacts, we can marshal resources on almost any question our founders need answering including human resources and technical issues.

Impact Experience

In 2020, Ulu Ventures, in collaboration with Illumen Capital and Impact Experience, sponsored invitation-only two-day workshops for Ulupreneurs, Limited Partners and Friends of Ulu called the Ulu Ventures Impact Experience Workshop on Race.

The goals of these workshops were as simple as they are important.

  1. To help you clarify how you can embed these principles in your business purpose and design, action plans, develop skills of inclusion, and build a community of practice and support that empowers you.
  2. To create social and business connections to support you and your team.
  3. To identify initiatives you can immediately undertake to use diversity, equity and inclusion as a mental model for tackling your toughest business challenges.
More . . .

Sales Improvement

It is fair to say the lifeblood of any commercial enterprise is the ability to attract, retain, and grow profitable customer relationships. For venture funded firms, revenue growth is typically one of the key criteria for successfully raising the next round.

At the firm level, sales success hinges on implementing a repeatable process that moves people from awareness, to consideration, trial, commitment, use, and renewal. It doesn’t matter what terms you actually use to describe your process, just that you have one, you monitor and measure it, and you use it.

The individuals involved in your process will benefit from some skills. The top steps of the process, anything to do with building awareness and driving qualified leads, are the realm of marketing.

Moving prospects from through to a first sale places a premium on sales skills, in particular establishing permission/rapport, uncovering buyer needs, delivering compelling value propositions, resolving sales obstacles, and closing the sale. Along the way, the salesperson will need to move the customer through a series on incremental sales advances or customer commitments.

Post-sale is the world of “customer success” or what we used to think of as “service.”

We’re in the process of creating and curating a series of instructional modules to help you think and act more productively about your sales process. The modules have been created by Ulu Venture Partner, Kevin Hoffberg, who spent decades in the business of sales and marketing improvement.  Please feel free to reach out directly to Kevin with your questions or requests for content on specific sales or marketing challenges.

Call Management

The video and transcript covers the following topics:

  • Setting call objectives
  • Establish roles for the people in the call
  • Using an “agenda buffet”
  • Using connectors to develop buyer needs
  • Presenting to buyer needs
  • Closing with a question

More . . .

Mental Models

The video and transcript covers the following topics:

  • Two reasons to create a mental model (or map): Organize your best thinking; organize the customer conversation and ultimately influence his/her thinking
  • Model 1: Three words
  • Model 2: Four Cell matrix
  • Model 3: Stack

More . . .

Build a Contact Plan for Managing Enterprise Relationships

This module is on the topic of creating a plan for managing and improving relationships between your team and a large, complex organization to which you are trying to sell. The two tools discussed are as follows:

  • Client Contact Map
  • Contact Blueprint

More . . .