Association Series #3: Britt Bloom, Investment Manager @ EVP
Uncovering how interesting minds entered Venture Capital and new aspects of their personality, experiences and processes to light.
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#3 Britt Bloom, Investment Manager @ EVP
1/6 Career overview before joining the Venture Capital fund, EVP
I spent a few years in consulting at a company called Strategy&, working across a number of different customers in the fashion space, the property management space, the financial services space, doing sort of all sorts of weird and wacky projects from the typical cost cutting, which is never any fun, to blue sky projects around pricing, expansion strategy into additional verticals and into other geographies.
Before that, I was at university studying law, and was part of the founding team of a society called Startup link, aimed at connecting startups and students. Previously, there was nothing there — You had your traditional career paths when you graduated, e.g. traditional banking, investment banking and consulting and there was not really a lot of exposure to start ups. The idea with the society was basically — cultivate ways for students to reach startups and, and I think that exposure to a lot of the amazing founders that we spoke to on that journey, sparked my interest in startups.
It was just over three years ago, when I started to get a bit of itchy feet in consulting and look for my next step, and I was introduced to EVP through a friend.
2/6 What was the interview process to join EVP?
It was three years ago when the industry was still quite new. Obviously, there were some big funds and some newer funds starting up with their first or second kind of fund.
At EVP, I was the second non-partner hire after Mark and the sixth person to join. So the process for me was quite fluid (I believe it’s largely the same today with a few adjustments).
Given it’s a small team, the focus was much more on cultural fit, rather than making sure I was the absolute best technical person for the job.
The interviews steps were:
2 rounds of meet & greets with the team
Final round was going through a diligence pack that the team pulled together for one of the companies that they’d invested in, in the follow on round and it was a bunch of charts on a page.
To add some colour to the final case study, the slide deck had all of the SaaS (Software as a service) metrics, which to me, were completely foreign. They included ARR tracking over time, ARR growth, the customer cohorts, net revenue retention etc.
The key question was: what do I think some of these charts represent and how can I pull the insights out and discuss it in a mock investment committee meeting.
It went for an hour and a half interview and I was glad to get the job!
3/6 Looking back on the past 12 months of being an investor, what two skills have you had to accelerate the most?
I think for me, the biggest skills have been networking and relationship building. Coming out of consulting, where it's entirely hierarchical, you have a set place within your team. Yes, you engage with stakeholders a little bit, but you're not actively there building that relationship, as they’re often built by partners — this is super different to VC.
I think being able to let my intuition form part of who I'm building relationships with and who I'm spending time networking with has been the most difficult skill for me to learn, I guess, as a bit of an introvert, I had to get comfortable nurturing those relationships and this has been the core skill that I've had to develop.
Given EVP is an active investor in our portfolio companies, this means being around the board room and having these deep conversations constantly with our founders. So finding an authenticity in those relationships and being myself but being comfortable with asserting myself in those conversations has been very important. Board meetings each have their own dynamic and everyone has their own personalities around the table, so managing this can be quite difficult. Yeah, I think that's been the biggest, the biggest skill to learn.
We do a lot of financial modelling at EVP and it's very different to the financial modelling that I was doing back in consulting. Even though we invest in post-revenue companies, they're still quite early and the drivers for the business are very different to some of the modelling that I would have done back in the day for a large corporation with, you know, hundreds of different sub-groups within it. I’ve definitely had to build out a different kind of modelling muscle where it's more, sit down, think through the strategy, what is driving the business and go from there. I'd say for the majority of our businesses that we invest in, are early stage, and often times, financials and modelling are not the founders core skill set. So it’s really just getting super crisp and super deep on the metrics and understanding what drives that business and being able to articulate it clearly that has been the other core thing that I've had to learn and develop.
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4/6 Three specific things you do directly after meeting a founder for the first time?
Typically we have two people at every meeting that we have with the founder, from the beginning.
We always debrief — it's the first thing that we do. We firstly take time to be a bit introspective, and then we will debrief as a duo. And I think that process is typically anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour, where you're really thinking through an early thesis of the business. We’re balancing excitement sometimes about the business as well as the questions that sit there and we really spend a lot of time trying to unpack what the risks are or what are the question marks that we would need to understand to be able to get there from an investment perspective. And for me, I take that as a bit of a balancing act — if those questions overpower the gut excitement that comes after meeting a founder, we often don’t take it forward.
The second thing we do is meet as a team and we share all the businesses we’ve seen once or twice a week. It really is not necessarily a team decision, but we put forward all of the facts and understand if the team has any kind of opposition to the thesis as a whole, to the business model, whether there's some conflict that we may have missed during the initial meeting. Once we have alignment on these questions, we'll go back to the founder with a light diligence request and the most important part of that is typically the customer data, which forms the base for a lot of the analysis we do.
We don't invest in pre-revenue or pre-product start-ups. So we need to see some density in the customer data set, so we can really get stuck-in and use that to build our thesis.
All the SaaS metrics for us come from that customer data. For example, what does growth look like? Is there churn? Is there expansion? How long do customers stick around? What's that net revenue retention? From this, we can really quickly distil the health of the business as well as the product market fit. If customers like it and they continue to use it over time, this is a bit of a proxy that the product works. And there will be customers on an ongoing basis. So for us, that is, I would say the third thing after building the thesis - using the data to inform our decision.
5/6 What is your top tip for getting into VC?
My top tip is to take away the preconceptions around background to get into VC. It doesn't matter if you come from a finance background, or you come from a philosophy background.
Anybody who has an interest in startups and has some sort of operating mindset without necessarily having all of the business skills, I think, can learn how to be a really good investor. While financial skills are important, and some base level understanding of Excel is critical, I think you can learn this over time. So, I would say the first piece is to remove the preconceptions about what you need to succeed in venture.
Try to build relationships with venture capital funds, or the people within the funds, well before they start to hire. You don't have to wait until there's a job ad out to have a coffee with somebody. Everyone is super open. Everybody's looking for great talent. It's pretty hard even on our side to find the right person.
It's not necessarily that you have to have the biggest, deepest existing network and the most relationships within the industry. I think it's about a little bit of the startup hustle that comes where you're reaching out to people proactively.
6/6 What separates the best investors from the rest?
The ability to cut through the noise and not chase the hype. I think is one thing that underpins why I love where I work. We've got a very clear thesis and the way that the team is honing in on that thesis and not being swayed by the shiny new things that are popping up every now and then, works well for us. I think it makes us better investors. Interestingly, most VCs tend to come from one of two backgrounds - either you've been an operator in a startup or you're from a traditional business background. As a team, we fall into that business background category, which means we don't have deep industry expertise across every one of the different industries across our portfolio. Focusing helps us to be the best investors in our field.
The fact that we have been able to focus in on B2B software means that we've developed deep expertise across the business model and we can really start to help founders who do fit into that business model. As well as this, building out a portfolio of businesses with similar business models, means we can share insights across our portfolio in a really meaningful and helpful way.
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