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What’s it like working with FP? We give founders superpowers...

By

Investor

@ChrisCorbishley

So far, we’ve lifted the lid on what makes our model of Applied VC a better, faster and cheaper way for founders to achieve venture scale outcomes. For those only just tuning into the series now, here’s a recap on what makes us stand out...

Compared to UK angel and venture backed comparables, founders backed by FP:

… are 4x more likely to raise a Series A from pre-seed.

… achieve 55% higher valuations between funding rounds 26% faster.

… have access to a highly-experienced team of tech-product-growth experts who are 32% faster and ⅓ the market rate quoted by UK agencies and freelancers.

While the data shows that FP-backed companies reach venture scale outcomes faster, at better valuations and with significantly less risk, we appreciate the nuances of what it’s like to work with FP doesn’t come through in the numbers.

In most cases, the additionality of VC investment is elusive at best...

… but we’re not like most VCs.

To understand why, we share real-life stories of how we worked at the coal face with our founders, hustled for them and even worked into the night to help them succeed.

We don’t make bets, we make commitments.

The truth is, we back exceptional founders, and our founders back themselves to build phenomenal businesses. We want them to believe, (and the data shows) that averages don’t apply to them.

We believe the founders we back are special, offering terms to 0.2% of the opportunities we see. When we invest, we’re not looking to spread our bets, we make a commitment, which includes so much more than just capital. The thousands of hours of time we spend working with our founders is testament to the fact that we believe in them.

That said, no founder (or founding team) is an island, and the risks, especially at idea stage, are real. While most have to bootstrap or call in favours or pay good people less, at the very earliest stages this has serious implications for speed, quality, and also founder equity, which is given away to incentivise early stage hires. Besides some inevitable market risk, it’s speed and quality of execution that makes or breaks a startup.

Our team delivers both from day one.

Combining best-in-class product with a world-class brand

How we met? Our Head of Growth met Freddie at a networking event. They got chatting and Freddie was introduced to our investment team.

At the time, Freddie was working full-time as a brand manager. However, he wanted to solve a pain point he had experienced personally. Specifically, the difficulty that urban gardeners had in finding suitable plants to transform their homes. Freddie had a landing page and some suppliers but no way of transacting with customers.

With no shortage of interest from angel investors, and early stage funds, Freddie was looking for something more from his first funding round...

“I was looking for a partner to help me, not just back the business but also really build it”

Freddie Blackett, CEO & Founder, Patch

Patch is now a well established brand with young professionals and urban gardeners, selling over 10,000 plants each month, predominately to house-proud Londoners. Off the back of its strong brand, platform efficiency and month-on-month growth, Freddie has raised a Series A investment and is well positioned to become the go-to player for buying plants and garden furniture online.

Developing an MVP

As a senior consultant at BrandCap, Freddie came to Forward Partners with a clear understanding of brand and his target customer. Where we made the difference was in providing expertise around customer development, to understand the target customer, and using that understanding to build a great product.

Over the course of a five day sprint, we went from user research and a product vision to iterating site designs and testing them with users.

“I went full time in April and we wanted to launch on 1st May, so the first four weeks were incredibly intense, but also exciting”

On the strength of the design sprint, Patch was ready to move forward with an initial product built by the FP team. Freddie’s vision was to provide tailored plant recommendations based on each customer enquiry.

Managing the pivot

Of course, the journey wasn’t a simple case of ‘build it and they will come’. Six weeks into the journey, Freddie underwent a major change to his business model. The fact that Patch had paying customers within six weeks of receiving investment was great validation of consumer demand, but attempts to scale revenues were proving to be expensive.

By analysing the user flow, the team realised that poor conversion was due to the long buying cycle of “enquiry-led” product flows. This had significant implications for their unit economics. The team explored product improvements that could increase conversion, moving towards a pure ecommerce offering, with a simpler buying journey.

As December was approaching, Patch tested the new site with a single product line (Christmas trees). The test was a massive success. The new site achieved a 5% conversion rate and Patch sold 1,000 christmas trees in just under a month.

“The value we get, from not just the investment but the guys working in the business, I don’t think you can put a price on that”

Onwards and upwards: In under two years, Patch has built a remarkably deep brand. In combination with a great product experience, which has enabled the company to attract and retain customers cost effectively, drive strong and consistent growth while turning the heads of some of the best late stage VC funds.

Getting to a £1m run rate, profitably

How we met? Jonathan and Stephen attended Forward Partners’ FP Live event and introduced themselves to the team. Following that first encounter, they came to our Office Hours and pitched their vision for The Drop.

Facing pushback from traditional VC funds, despite receiving termsheets from angel investors, they realised they would need more than cash to grow at the pace they wanted:

“We were keen not only on funding but hands-on help. Most VCs told us they would need a £1 million run-rate before investing, but this wasn’t an issue for Forward Partners. They were offering to help us get there instead”

Jonathan Kruger, CEO & Co-Founder of The Drop

The Drop started as a tailoring business named Jon Kruger, which the founders had set up to trial bespoke menswear, tailored in two weeks and delivered directly to the customer. With the insights gained through their initial trial, they wanted to build an ecommerce business that could be everyone’s personal fashion concierge.

Fast forward 18 months and the team have built a successful menswear brand, underpinned by a fully functional ecommerce site. The business has grown 30% month on month to achieve an impressive £1 million run-rate in Summer 2018.

Managing growth by metrics

As always, it wasn’t all plain sailing. After some initial marketing tests, the team had realised that attempting to scale on their original ecommerce site was proving to be extremely expensive. Customer acquisition costs were through the roof and the team had been overly focussed on one segment of the market, selling wedding suits.

Concerned with whether they could build a profitable business, they worked with the product and growth teams to put together a set of KPIs that could be matched against objective key results (OKRs) within the team. These specifically related to product improvements that could boost conversion rate and marketing initiatives to bring down CPAs.

Through weekly product iterations and channel optimisation, the founders worked with FP to launch a new and improved version of the site, break into the UK workwear market and establish a series of strategic partnerships with Laundrapp and others. Meanwhile our Head of PR & Comms helped them to raise their profile with a feature in the Times Newspaper, whose highly relevant readers helped to drive significantly more organic traffic to the site.

“I felt way more comfortable with the Forward Partners team, a team of experts who were in the room with us and had a vested interest in our success. The silver lining was they were there when we needed them most.”

Stephen Stroud, CTO & Co-Founder of The Drop

Whilst during the same period, their largest UK competitor had fallen into administration, The Drop had worked with our Head of Growth and product team to reduce CPAs significantly, and the business had become profitable on a first-order basis.

MoM Revenue + CPA trajectory:

Onwards and upwards: As one of UK’s fastest growing menswear brands, the Drop have now raised a follow on round at 3x their previous valuation. Additional funding has helped them scale up the team, working with FP’s Head of Talent to hire a full-stack engineer, a product manager and a Head of Growth who was previously at online jewellery brand, Monica Vinader.

 

Developing a purpose-driven brand that punches above its weight

 

How we met? Matt had been a co-founder and marketer of a travel business, which was acquired in 2010. He saw the opportunity for a modern, self-service business dedicated to last minute holiday rentals, with parallels to companies such as Hotel Tonight.

He knew the industry and had a proven track record of running a complex business, but needed help with managing product and technical risk. Matt was introduced by an Angel Investor. Forward Partners was his first and only meeting with a VC, attracted by our idea stage offering.

An Unfair Advantage

Snaptrip went on to raise their Series A, which enabled the acquisition of two of their closest competitors. At the same time, Matt reached out to Forward Partners to help him build a holistic brand that could punch above its weight, one that would not mean going out of pocket by hiring a creative agency. It was important timing for Snaptrip, going up against the likes of Airbnb who were planning to move into longer term holiday rentals.

As part of a four week rebranding project, Forward Partners brought strategic insight, identity, branding, web design and UX expertise to develop a focused product experience.

Lean branding

With a clear understanding of Snaptrip’s business model and target market, FP went straight into a brand strategy workshop. The output helped to drive their brand identity. Our Head of Design held a session on brand purpose, which asked questions such as, why does Snaptrip exist? What is their North Star?

The whole point of these exercises was to help give Snaptrip a personality and moral compass. Traits that allow customers to connect with them on a more emotional level.

“The enthusiasm we felt after leaving the workshop each day re-energised us”

Matt Fox, CEO & Founder of Snaptrip

Once the outputs of the workshop had been generated, the team worked together throughout the creative process. Each mood board played off the workshop output and enabled the team to create the foundation of the Snaptrip Design System, which the team could then iterate and work on the identity as they learned more about their customers.

Onwards and upwards: Having developed a low cost system allowed the team to explore and test ideas without the huge overhead that agencies are incentivised to create. While the rebrand is yet to go live, the team have already seen productivity rise as everyone is able to get behind and drive forward the new purpose together.  

“People are working better and harder as result of the rebranding”


 

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