Seeding the Future: How AVG Brings Its Special Sauce to Seed Investing
November 20, 2020 | Abree Murch
Our “Seeding the Future” series explores trends, opportunities, and companies from the seed and pre-seed venture world. This is the investment focus of AVG’s newest Basecamp Fund. The fund is now open! Click below to learn more.
AVG’s Special Sauce
To help bring to life the opportunities and challenges in seed investing, as well as AVG’s unique approach and assets, we interviewed our Basecamp team. The team includes four full-time Managing Partners, based in three key venture hubs (San Francisco, NYC, and Chicago), plus four other full-time Principals and Analysts.
Today’s discussion with our four MPs focuses on the special advantages, resources, and team dynamics that AVG brings to seed investing.
What advantages does AVG bring to seed investing?
Wayne: I think that one of the unique things about Alumni Ventures Group is that we have 16 funds tethered to different university alumni ecosystems. So we have boots on the ground in a variety of locations — including the major VC hubs — seeing and sharing hundreds, if not thousands, of deals a year with each other. In addition, we can bring a valuable network of over 500,000 folks from our community, who assist our portfolio companies in various ways. This helps us cover tremendous ground, not only in the volume of deals we see but also with the value add we can bring to our portfolio companies through our massive network.
How does your team strengthen and complement one another?
Andrea: I think one of our biggest strengths is that we have all been founders ourselves. Further, we have all focused on different industries and categories, giving us a wide range of expertise.
My background is enterprise sales. So when it comes to thinking through the monetization and go-to-market strategy, that’s where I really like to get my hands dirty. Matt has a background in sales and was previously a CRO. Catherine has an amazing engineering background and understands AI and ML. And Wayne knows the marketplace and media landscape better than anybody. So we each bring a little bit of our own personal flavor to our investments.
Finally, while we individually source deals, we assess them as a team. That kind of discipline is invaluable in ensuring quality and portfolio diversity.
Could you talk about the support that Basecamp will offer some of these founders?
Andrea: We say that no ask is too small when working with us. Just a few of the ways we help:
- We let the founders tell us what cadence of touching base they prefer, because we don’t want to get in the way of them building. However, we always offer weekly calls if they want to use the time for brainstorming, product feedback, or fundraising advice.
- We are a source of support when things are going poorly. Recently, we helped a company get through an uncomfortable firing, then discussed things they should be thinking about as they rearrange the team. Being a sounding board sounds so obvious, but many firms are too big to really offer that.
- Because we are part of AVG, we have this incredible access to the portfolio services team. They manage intros to other portfolio companies or to our investors, who are themselves business owners or operators.
- Another area where we excel is helping companies think through who is the strongest lead investor. And we can do that without bias because AVG funds don’t lead rounds.
How do you think Basecamp adds value?
Catherine: There are a lot of different value-adds from our networks and the diversity on the team. When you look at the deals each of us have sourced, a lot of them come from personal networks and relationships. These relationships could have been formed from when we were founders or operators, or from the specific VC relationships that we’ve developed.
Your team is large and geographically dispersed. How do you all work together to build the portfolio?
Matt: Technology, systems, and a disciplined process make collaboration pretty easy across geographies. We find that being dispersed is a real plus. Seed is to a certain extent locally oriented. The fact that we are geographically distributed gives us an opportunity to really get deep within our respective networks.
We all collaborate on every deal to make sure that we’re building a universal conviction around an opportunity — and creating a balanced, diversified portfolio that is positioned to generate the returns we owe to our investors.