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

Ulu Ventures, in collaboration with Illumen Capital and Impact Experience, sponsors 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 are 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 . . .

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Ulu Ventures is an Amazon Web Services (AWS) partner and is able to offer our early-stage companies access to an attractive package of value-adding resources.

  • Privileged access to experts at AWS who exist solely to work with them in a free, advisory capacity. These experts (e.g. Startup Business Development Managers, Solution Architects, Product Owners) typically play a key role in optimizing products and operations for price, performance, security, compliance, growth and regional expansion. They can also offer insight into our roadmaps and privileged access to new technologies currently under wraps. Ask me about setting up an office hour appointment with a Startup Solution Architect to review your technical architecture for best practice use cases and scaling operations.
  • Subsidized Cloud access. AWS Activate is designed to help early-stage startups experiment risk-free with cloud infrastructure and services. Ulu Ventures’ portfolio companies are entitled to a choice of $25,000 in AWS promotional credit that expires two years (for very early stage companies doing initial development), or $100,000 that expires one year after the date of a first institutional round of financing (seed or Series A stage). Another benefit that comes with Activate is 1 year of Business Support (up to $10,000). Business Support is another set of separate credits that provide 24×7 access to technical support and architectural guidance in the context of your specific use-cases.
  • Visibility. When appropriate, AWS can help companies raise their public visibility and tell their story globally. Many find this useful just from the standpoint of recruiting talent. Others find it builds their credibility in the market. We have a range of tools at our disposal including blog posts, video interviews, case studies and speaking engagements at our Lofts, Summits or our annual re:Invent conference.
  • Migration. AWS has recently launched a Startup Migrate program for companies that are running on other platforms, in co-location, or on premise and are looking for assistance in moving to AWS. The program is designed to take some of the pain and effort out of migrating to AWS by providing credits to help offset the expense of running on two platforms while transitioning, and provides funding to bring in a partner to assist with the migration where needed. Our only qualification criteria is that the startup be spending at least $5K/month on the current infrastructure they are looking to migrate from.
  • Go-to-Market. For commercial-stage companies, our account manager will also help founders to take advantage of Amazon channels for sell-through or sell-with. These can be one-off introductions to targeted enterprises or even better is getting startups plugged into more scalable programs like our AWS Partner Network (APN), AWS Marketplace or AWS Data Exchange (ADX).
  • Exposure to the larger AWS or Amazon org: Whether in a specialized vertical (e.g. fintech, gaming, healthcare/life sciences, blockchain, auto tech) within AWS or in a B2C context with Amazon.com, the Ulu Account Manager can help make introductions to the appropriate resources. The Launchpad program is designed to highlight startup brands and provide them with onboarding, merchandising, and growth opportunities when selling on Amazon.com. We can also provide access to the direct-to-consumer team that can deliver more customized support to many start-up consumer product lines that launch on Amazon.com.

For details on signing up, please contact Kevin Hoffberg.

HubSpot

We are strong believers in the use of technology to automate and support a firm’s marketing and sales processes. While there are many platforms from which to choose, and we have used many of them ourselves, we are confident in recommending Hubspot as a place to start and grow.

The company offers a comprehensive set of “hubs” to support a company’s growth engine.

We are able to offer our funded companies very attractive pricing as they grow from “Seed to A.”  The following links describe the benefits and pricing available to Ulu Funded companies. We recommend starting with CRM and add hubs as needed.

Strategic Account Management Association

Coming Soon!

Many startups need help acquiring, managing, and expanding strategic account relationships with large domestic and multinational organizations. To help support this critical function, Ulu has created a unique partnership with SAMA, a globally recognized source for research, best practices, training, professional development and networking events throughout North America, Asia.

  • Assistance with launching or enhancing a strategic accounts program
  • Peer networking and benchmarking with the world’s foremost B2B companies
  • Assigned account manager to locate resources specific to their challenges
  • Invitations to members-only executive symposia
  • Guidance building a SAM training and development curriculum
  • Preferred pricing for all SAMA events, including training and certification
  • Original applied research
  • Extensive online resource library, including more than 120 on-demand webinars on SAM best practice topics
  • Velocity® magazine subscription

The Strategic Accounts Management Association (SAMA) is a nonprofit association dedicated to advancing and supporting best strategic and global account management practices. Founded in 1964, SAMA boasts more than 11,000 members worldwide, and we know from direct experience it is a wonderful resource.

The SAMA Venture Membership is currently available only to Ulu Funded companies, and pricing varies depending on the amount of capital you’ve raised.

For details on signing up, please contact Kevin Hoffberg.

Submit Your Quarterly Update

Please use the form to the right to submit your quarterly financial report in the form of an attachment. Note you may attach multiple documents.