The Forward More Than Money Report 2021

Money is
not enough.

Welcome.

Can venture capital work harder for founders?

The UK's startup ecosystem is more competitive than ever before. It means that VCs have had to adapt. Many offer ‘value added services' to attract great businesses. To negotiate the best terms. And to drive the best outcomes.

But do VCs follow through? Does it help founders to beat the odds?

The More Than Money report is the first report of its kind to investigate ‘value add’. It brings together insights from over 500 founders and investors to uncover what works. What doesn’t. And crucially, what great ‘value add' services - and the future of VC could look like.

Explore the first deep-dive analysis into value-add VC.

Defining Value Add

We look at what value-add really means in 2021 across the full spectrum from ‘great VC’ to ‘full service’.

Assesing Impact

We decipher what really contributes to startup growth - and what’s missing.

A Deep Dive

We look deeper into what ‘value’ underserved founders need from their VC’s.

Closing the Gap

We outline what founders need to know and what VCs need to consider to close the value-add gap.

Foreword.

The UK tech ecosystem is booming. In the past 5 years, over $50 billion has been invested into UK tech companies, and a growing an ecosystem considered to be the top scaling tech hub in Europe.

Nationally, entrepreneurship has become more admired and respected than ever before - and rightly so. Our best innovation comes out of founders who are willing to take a leap.

In the early days, investors with an appetite for risk were few and far between and VC’s were hard to reach. Now, capital has been commoditised. Between tax breaks, 0% interest rates, the influx of operator-angels and alternative financing, cash has flooded the startup market. Founders are empowered with information and the power balance has flipped.

If you’re a VC operating in today’s market, cash alone won’t win you the best deals. Reputation helps, but value-add - the additional services and capabilities offered by venture investors in addition to money - has become the true differentiator.

‘Value add’ is attractive for a reason. The odds are stacked against founders - funding doesn't guarantee success. We’ve seen first hand at Forward that ‘value add’ applied well can build better businesses, faster than ever before and create an unfair advantage for both founders and VC’s.

But in this new ‘value-add’ world, it’s hard for founders to filter the signal from the noise - or rather the reality from the marketing. Our hope is that with this research we open a dialogue with both sides of the ecosystem - founders and VCs - to build a better understanding of ‘value-add’ - what works now and how we can build the future of VC together to drive better outcomes for everyone.

Nic Brisbourne, Founder and Managing Partner, Forward Partners.

Partners.

Brought to you by

Forward is an early-stage venture capital firm meets startup studio based in London.

With support from

Google for Startups is a startup program launched by Google that offers hands-on support for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Landscape is a review platform for startup founders to leave feedback about venture capital firms.

The Black Report is the first qualitative report on Black startup founders in the UK. It was launched by 10x10 in partnership with Google for Startups.

The More Than Money Report 2021

1. Key
insights.

Value-add VC is (almost) the new normal.

Capital Availability

There’s more cash available in the startup ecosystem than ever before. It means VCs have to do more to win the best deals.

Founders First

Founders are (finally) being treated more like customers, and less like assets. It means VCs have to think about service to survive.

Why Almost?

Our data shows that value add is often offered by investors but it what it is and what it does for startups is rarely defined well.

Founders want more than money.

61% of founders want it.

92% of investors offer it.

But 3 in 5 founders feel duped.

59% of founders report a negative experience with value-add compared to what they were promised.

Research shows that services are not as specialised, results-driven or honest as they should be.

NOT SPECIALISED

47%

of founders believe their investors had little knowledge of the sectors they are investing in.

NOT RESULTS DRIVEN

49%

of founders reported that value-add had no impact on their business.

NOT HONEST

33%

of founders felt that value-add was over promised and under delivered.

... And that they rarely take differing founder needs into account.

3x

as many B2B founders wanted support with go to market strategies vs their B2C counterparts

1/3

of respondents saw access to an investor's network as the highest-impact value-add service for growth.

2x

as many B2C founders cited mentoring and emotional support as important vs their B2B counterparts.

6x

more seed stage founders cited mentoring and emotional support as important vs their series A counterparts.

There’s a value-add gap.

92% of VC’s interviewed self-describe as value-add investors.

61% of founders rated their value-add experience 'below average'.

Explore value-add with us.

Read on the hear how value-add really works for Founders. What it can do for a business. And how a more balanced relationship between founders and investors could grow the tech ecosystem in a faster, fairer way.

The More Than Money Report 2021

2. Value add
defined.

2.1What makes a great investor?

What makes a great VC? Here’s what founders say they look for.

Sector Expertise.

Great VCs have a wealth of relevant knowledge and experience, and can provide strong strategic oversight.

Understanding of a Founders Business.

Great VCs make the effort to understand the nuances of each startup they invest in, and advise accordingly.

Empathy.

Great VCs understand the challenge startup founders face and provide empathetic mentorship, coaching and guidance.

“I have WhatsApp exchanges with all our investors and am constantly bouncing ideas backwards and forwards about the different strategic ideas I am working on. Being able to do that casually without some of the seriousness that one might expect in an investor relationship is really important for me.”

Digby Vollrath,
Founder and CEO of Feast It

“Capital can almost be considered a secondary value if you get the right investors onboard and aligned with what you are trying to achieve, because the value they can add will be way beyond what you can do with capital alone.”

Jamie,
Founder of CyberSmart

But, according to founders, great VCs are hard to come by.

47% of founders believe their investors had little knowledge of the sectors they are investing in.

Source: Forward Research

Research shows that great VCs provide support in two distinct ways.

Smart capital

Smart capital VCs give trusted, ad-hoc strategic advice and provide a strong sounding board for decision-making.

Whether it’s at board meetings, via email, or over Whatsapp, smart capital accelerates a founder’s learning curve and helps them plug knowledge gaps.

Capital with Capability

Capital with capability actively contributes to the growth of a startup through dedicated internal resource.

Activity can be tactical or strategic, but the best results come through outcome-driven services that maximise the chances of a founder hitting their next milestone.

There are 4 key delivery models for capital with capability in the early-stage UK ecosystem.

Network-driven

Provides access to a quality, vetted network of talent/partners/investors/customers. Likely helps with follow-on fundraising.

Knowledge-first

Provides resource hubs, rich content offerings, and access to exclusive knowledge-sharing communities or workshop programs.

Platform

Provides access to in-house operators who connect, advise and consult on strategy and specific challenges, often focusing on PR and marketing.

Applied Venture

Provides access to a larger in-house team that helps with many aspects of startup growth - from product to recruitment, marketing to PR. Often paid for in cash or through a larger equity stake.

“Our VC not only committed to us to invest in our business, but also to use our product from day 1. They acted as early adopter as well as a supporter… that was one of the most appreciated things in our relationship, and that’s why I really chose them. I really think it was amazing...”

Kate Pljaskovova,
Founder and CEO, Fair HQ

"There are two products that you get when you take Connect as an investor. You get the partner that you have chosen to sit on your board as an individual. The second thing you get is what people call “Platform”. We call it the Connect Portfolio Network which primarily supports the founders, and then the function leads as the companies grow. For us, it is really about helping founders because we are a seed stage investor. We are really focused on helping along the journey from seed to series a, when it’s all about finding and iterating product market fit.”

Rory Stirling,
Connect Ventures

2.2The rise of value-add.

92% of VC’s interviewed self-describe as value-add investors.

Source: Forward Research

Market trends have driven value-add services from 'nice to haves' to table-stakes.

8,000 VC investors in UK

There's more capital.

Between tax breaks for high-net-worth individuals, 0% interest rates, and the influx of operator-angels, cash has flooded the venture market. Value-add is a means to differentiate - to LP’s and founders.

source: Tech Nation

$8.6BN invested by angels in 2018

It's becoming commoditised.

There are more avenues to funding than ever before. Crowdfunding, revenue-based finance and operator-angels mean VC’s are no longer the gatekeepers of startup capital.

source: Eban

The ‘Glassdoor for VC’ launched in 2020

Founders demand transparency.

Founders are increasingly empowered with information. Networks are stronger than ever and new tools like Landscape VC provide ‘Glassdoor’ like transparency for VC experiences.

Many VCs consider value add as critical to compete in today’s ecosystem.

  • “Globally when I started at Connect, there were 240 or so people in ‘platform’ roles, and this has now gone up to 980 odd individuals in just over 4 years. Platform is commonplace now, and every fund will have to have it because funds that don’t could end up losing out to funds that do.”

    Keji Mustpha,
    Head of Platform, Connect Ventures

  • Our view at Kindred is that value add is absolutely critical, but because it is absolutely critical to have a service orientation. This almost makes it a hygiene factor and not a point of differentiation. What really makes the difference is how you bring that to life in a real and valuable way that goes beyond it being words on a slide.

    Leila Zegna,
    Founding Partner, Kindred

  • “What a lot of people don’t realise is that venture capital is one of the only asset classes where the asset chooses the investor as much as the investor chooses the asset.”

    Rory Stirling,
    Partner, Connect Ventures

  • “Key for us (and the founders we have surveyed) is our equal partnership model. We had this at foundation (20 years ago) and it remains today. This means every partner is equally aligned in every investment and so always available to every founder. Over the past six years we have additionally invested more explicitly in a formalised platform. In our case, that’s a team of people grouped around the four key areas of marketing, legal, finance and talent.”

    Suranga Chandratillake,
    Partner at Balderton Capital

There’s demand. Supply.
But what really works?

Read on to hear how founders really feel about the services VCs provide. We’ll break down what matters. What makes a difference. And how that need varies from founder to founder, business to business.

The More Than Money Report 2021

3.Value add
impact.

3.1Key Insights.

Founders need different things.

Our research was met with strong but varied opinion by founders. Above all, we uncovered that when it comes to value-add, there is no one-size-fits all. The needs of a founder vary greatly by value creation model, business type and simply by the founder themselves.

We asked: “What value add services contributed to your growth?”

Insight #1. Connections make a difference.

1 in 3 founders reported that access to an investor’s connections and network contributed to their growth.

Whether you need to find a CTO, land an enterprise client or broker a partnership. Those contacts could get you ahead and help create a strategic advantage.

52% of investors surveyed promote ‘connections and network’ but in order for it to work, it has to drive results.

  • What we take a look at in the most detail is how the value add proposed by fund managers will contribute to the critical KPI’s important to the businesses they are investing in. We make sure that the network piece is not just well-connected investors, but investors that are actually mobilizing that network for the benefit of their portfolio companies and founders.

    Sam Ettelaie,
    Senior Investment Manager, British Business Bank

  • “Introductions are most impactful when they help you meet your first few clients. The first client that was intro’d to us [by venture investors] was the most transformational client in terms of driving post product market fit growth. It was a key milestone.”

    Anonymous
    SaaS founder

Insight #2. Help to fundraise is important.

30% of founders reported that a VCs support to fundraising contributed to their growth.

It’s clear it’s needed. But fewer founders than we anticipated received help to raise their next round.

Countless founders asked for more explicit support during their consequent fundraises.

An introduction, co-sign or conversation from their current investor was seen to be immensely helpful in getting deals over the line.

  • “Support is all well and good, but support me with your capital. Capital is king, and at the end of the day, it’s what helps us continue to move forward.”

    Anonymous founder

  • “The biggest single thing that venture capital investors can do in a value added sense is help you raise more cash.”

    Jolyon Martin,
    Founder of PetMedix

Insight #3. Knowledge sharing is important for eCommerce founders.

Running an eCommerce business in a digital world involves keeping abreast of ever-changing algorithms, regulation, and growth marketing tactics.

As a group, eCommerce founders stood out amongst those surveyed and interviewed, highlighting a specific desire to learn from their peers.

This was a trend evident across industries - we believe because of the similarities in growth marketing and margin optimisation strategies and tactics.

37%

of eCommerce founders cited knowledge sharing via their portfolio community as a contributor to their growth.

Source: Forward Research

37%

of eCommerce founders cited help with fundraising as a contributor to their growth.

Source: Forward Research

25%

of eCommerce founders cited mentoring and emotional support as a contributor to their growth.

Source: Forward Research

Insight #4. SaaS businesses are focused on growing their customer base.

Founders leading SaaS companies highlighted that the value add services that assisted them in expanding their customer base were the most important to the growth of their businesses.

Our interviews uncovered that many founders came from product or tech backgrounds and that VCs could assist in filling the knowledge gap in sales development and go-to-market strategy at early stages of growth.

42%

of eCommerce founders cited knowledge sharing via their portfolio community as a contributor to their growth.

Source: Forward Research

37%

of eCommerce founders cited help with fundraising as a contributor to their growth.

Source: Forward Research

29%

of eCommerce founders cited mentoring and emotional support as a contributor to their growth.

Source: Forward Research

Insight #5. Go-to-market support is most valuable to B2B founders.

Three times as many B2B founders reported that support with their go-to-market strategy contributed to growth versus their B2C counterparts.

We’re not surprised. Our interviews uncovered that a B2B go-to-market strategy can be a daunting endeavour for a founder. Will you opt for self-serve? Or a concierge onboarding? Is it something you’ll sell in through leadership? Or through cold outbound? Where VCs hold deep industry knowledge, their mentorship is highly prized by founders.

Insight #6. B2C founders value mentoring.

In fact, 2x as many B2C founders cited mentoring and emotional support as a contributor to their startup’s growth versus their B2B counterparts.

Consumer products and services are a part of our daily routines and rituals. Increasingly, they're a part of who we are as people too. We shop in line with our values and so expect more from the brands and businesses that we’re loyal too.

Our interviews uncovered that as a result, consumers are demanding more from the apps and products that fill their lives, and with that comes added scrutiny and exposure for B2C founders.

Insight #7. Mentoring & emotional support is more important at an early stage.

Starting a business is tough. It’s no surprise to us that this theme was cited in almost all of our interviews and research, particularly with pre-series A founders. Finding product-market-fit in an environment of high uncertainty and resource constraints meant mentoring and support from an expert within a VC was as a highly sought after ‘value add’.

58%

Of post-seed founders reported that a VCs mentoring and emotional support contributed to their business growth.

38%

Of seed founders reported that a VCs mentoring and emotional support contributed to their business growth.

6%

Of pre-seed founders reported that a VCs mentoring and emotional support contributed to their business growth.

3.2Founder wellbeing.

VCs are picking up on the need and importance of founder wellbeing.

  • “We underwrite a year’s worth of executive coaching for all of our founders because we believe this is very useful for them to have.”

    Leila Zegna,
    Founding Partner, Kindred

  • “For the last few years we’ve really focused our value-add on the coaching and well-being side of things. We connect our founders to coaches to help them have a thinking partner, enable them to think through how to intentionally grow their company cultures and ultimately, how they should be developing themselves as founders and leaders as their companies scale.”

    Keji Mustapha,
    Head of Platform, Connect Ventures

  • “We have also been honing in on how we can help founders more with the mental wellbeing aspect of building businesses and what we landed on were peer exchange groups. This is a group of 8 to 10 founders that meet up for three hours every month.”

    Emma Phillips,
    Partner at Local Globe

Mind the gap.

Read on to hear how founders really feel about VCs fulfilling their value-add promises. Hear from leading voices in the industry and explore where the opportunities lie for VCs to advance and innovate.

The More Than Money Report 2021

4. The value
add gap.

4.1Founder opinion.

Not all value-add is as honest, specialised, or results-driven as it should be. As a consequence, key players in the ecosystem are sceptical.

33%

of founders explicitly feel like value add is overpromised and underdelivered.

Source: Forward Research

65%

of founders who gave their investors a low ‘beyond money’ score quoted “they tried, but failed” as the reason.

Source: Landscape VC

Is ‘value-add’ a tactic to appear ‘founder friendly’?

“Some founders that I speak to complain about investors not being founder friendly enough.

My interpretation of that is that they feel investors give them too much of a hard time for behavioural or performance issues or are possibly not always agreeing with the founders’ decisions.

The way you learn isn’t by being treated with kid gloves and being told that you are fabulous all the time. The way that you learn is by getting some hard lessons and having the supportive relationships that hold you to account in a grown up and productive way.”

Giles Palmer,
Founder and CEO, Brandwatch

Could too much hand-holding risk adverse selection?

“We find it quite puzzling that many UK venture funds are designing themselves to be the support person. We are doing the opposite in designing ourselves to never be the support person.

This is done knowing full well that we like engaging, but on the clear proviso that it is never a dependency. If they are dependent on you what the heck are you doing investing in them? You should have just invested in yourself.

I think you can also run the risk of adverse selection because the founders that require the help and extra services will come and seek you out. The people that can do all that stuff and figure it out for themselves don’t come and seek you out because the value add they really want from their investors is someone that is going to turn up for board meetings and be really productive.”

Hussein Kanji,
Hoxton Ventures

Value-add should be results-driven and focused on driving clear outcomes. It’s not about being blindly supportive, or being a crutch for founders. Rather, it’s about helping them move faster.

Is value-add a tactic for raising a fund?

“The cynic in me thinks that in many cases value add is often an LP marketing differentiator, which is exaggerated to help raise funding for the venture capital firm. As a result, I think a lot of value add is not that useful, not taken up by the portfolio companies or gimmicky. In some negative cases, it can be quite destructive; in other cases it can be very expensive when founders could find better value, relevant and quality support on their own more easily. We are thoughtful and selective in the value add and support we offer because of this, and really try to make sure that what we are doing is additive and useful.”

Check Warner,
Ada Ventures

... Or one to lure founders?

“There are some firms that see it as a marketing tool. Founders by nature are quick learners so that sort of thing cannot be disguised for very long. You then run the risk of having a negative image for your platform, which is worse than not having a platform at all. There is no point in doing things half-cocked.”

Suranga Chandratillake,
Partner, Balderton Capital

4.2Insights for investors.

Keeping your word is non-negotiable. Overpromising on value add fractures trust with founders and is counterproductive in the long-term.

61% of founders rated the experience of the value-add they received as below average.

Source: Forward Research

Does compulsory value-add prevent founders from working with the best?

“We are very sceptical of the approach whereby an investor offers £30,000 cash, but bundles in the equivalent of £250,000 in services. With those funds spent on services in hand, we could go to the open market and find someone best in class to buy into our business and get the job done as an excellent asset for the company.”

Anonymous
e-commerce founder

“If we are forced to use the investors’ resource, it might not be the right resource for us. Access to a talent manager maybe useful when you need one, but you don’t want to feel obliged to use the same one all the time regardless of the circumstances and requirements.”

Jamie Akhtar,
Founder of CyberSmart

Building best-in-class services is essential, but tough.

“Is your inhouse recruitment company going to be as good as a Heidrick & Struggles or a Korn Ferry? If not, it doesn’t matter that they are cheaper or free, they are noise to Founders because you need to be optimizing for best in class.”

Hussein Kanji,
Hoxton Ventures

“I would admit that we have tried to offer value add services that we have ended up shuttering because the standard we were able to reach was not comparable to what was available out there on the open market. If you can’t move the needle in the right way, then why bother?

I think that the industry is littered with crap. I call it value minus. You have people that act like they are doing something but in fact they are not.”

Scott Maxwell,
Senior Managing Director, Openview Venture Partners

If the value-add services are not best in class, then they are not worth offering.

One size doesn’t fit all.

Read on to uncover why best-in-class services alone are not always enough and what under-represented groups need to thrive.

The More Than Money Report 2021

5. Exploring under-represented founders

5.1Female founders.

Just 23% of the VC backed founders we spoke to were women.

In 2017, The British Business Bank ‘UK VC and Female Founders Report’ outlined that just 17% of UK VC deals went to start-ups with at least one female founder.

We believe the sample size gathered for this report is simply representative of that small number of female founders that still exists today in our ecosystem.

Despite the smaller sample size, we uncovered valuable insights about female founders and their appetite for value added services.

“The make-up of the entire ecosystem is primarily middle class, privately educated, white, straight men that are able bodied. That has created the paradigm for what a founder or venture capitalist looks like today. There are multiple challenges that come with that.”

Check Warner,
Ada Ventures

86% of female founders consider value-add important when picking a VC - that's 26% more than their male counterparts.

Female founders consider value add more important than a VC’s brand.

Female founders rated value add over twice as important than brand and portfolio in their investor selection.

Male founders rated brand and portfolio to be more important than value add in their investor selection.

Female founders asked for more focus, follow through and operational expertise.

  • “The two most valuable things for us are (1) Things you cannot buy - access to time/networks from people who really give it (not a generic webinar) and (2) access to things you'd otherwise pay for, office space, legal templates, accounting advice, etc”

  • “We need people with deeper sector knowledge of scaling businesses - it's a skills gap in the VC community and means that the board meetings become a little useless after a while.”

  • “Deliver what is promised. I don't mean to sound glib, but it's very simple. It should only be offered if it, in fact, can be delivered.”

  • “Talent, GTM, product are all key areas which need to be discussed at an early stage Board but often the expertise isn't in the room to do so.

    Anonymous female founders,
    2021

5.2Founders of colour.

Only 12% of founders in our core data set were founders of colour.

In the last 10 years, UK based black founders have received just 0.24% of VC funding.

With just 12% of founders being of colour, and 2% being of black heritage, we recognise that there’s more work to be done if we are to paint a representative picture of value add that takes into account a range of diverse perspectives.

Pre-accelerators and technical support could help move the needle.

Pre-accelerators can create more opportunity.

Programs that equip founders to go from idea to venture-ready concept, like Forward’s Founders Programme , are not traditional value add but are worthwhile endeavours that support non-traditional founders in getting funded (and accessing value add services).

Great commercial founders need technical counterparts.

VCs can empower founders by providing access to their networks to find strong technical talent across product and engineering that complement their skillsets.

Tailoring value-add services to the needs of under-represented founders is essential to building a more representative portfolio.

Founders need value-add long before the investment.

Helping entrepreneurs to understand what's required to make an investment is key to their success.

Andy Davis,
Co-founder 10x10 & Co-author of The Black Report

Funding must come first.

Before value add, allocation of funding - and access to VCs must be addressed for black founders.

Anika Henry
Operations lead, Google for Startups UK & Co-author of The Black Report

Take outs.

Read on to get an overview of how VCs and founders can address the issues covered in this research and close the value add gap.

The More Than Money Report 2021

6. Closing the value add gap.

6.1Founder take-aways.

Choosing an investor is personal.

Every start-up and every founder is different. This research has uncovered that these attributes play a huge part in the value that value-add services can bring to early stage companies.

If you’re raising a round, seriously consider ‘must haves’, ‘should haves’ and ‘could haves’ in your initial reasearch and later on in your negotiation. Think about what’s vital for you to success - from a personal point of view and in the context of your market and value creation model.

There’s no ‘right’ model for VC value-add (though we’ve uncovered that are certainly services that add more value than others in specific scenarios). Rather the ‘good’ VCs are those who follow through to provide the expertise and services promised in their marketing. If you’re a founder raising a round, separating the signal from the noise here will be important to getting the most from your investor.

Research is the key to getting value from your VC.

1.

Seek VCs with deep sector expertise.

Almost half of founders (47%) believe their investors had little knowledge of their sector. Finding a firm - or a partner - who can guide your progress is extremely valuable. Take note of how much insight a VC is able to offer during your pitch. Ask for their opinions on your market, and assess whether you can learn something from them. Get them to explain the results that their value add has driven, for your specific type of company.

2.

Seek best in class services.

If an investor offer includes services, consider the real value that they’re providing by measuring outcomes. Researching their operators and network of providers is a good place to start. To get the full picture, consider how the connection between founder, investor and service provider works. Look for evidence of the outcomes and benchmark against external help to get a full picture of the value that they can provide.

3.

Thorough due-diligence is key.

There’s no better way to cut to the chase than by speaking to other founders in a portfolio. A serious investor should be more than happy to connect you. To discuss the outcomes these founders have had; their propensity to deliver and the experience that the founders have had working on specific projects (whether that’s strategic advice, a fundraise, recruitment or growth project).

6.2Investor insights.

VC can do better.

This research has uncovered promising signals for the future of our industry. That capital and capability can work well together and that founders can see the benefit of value-add services - 61% of respondents sought it out in a fundraise.

But it’s also uncovered some uncomfortable facts on the reality of what our industry currently offers. Despite 92% of VCs surveyed citing value add as part of their offer, 3 in 5 founders felt ‘duped’ by value add, showing that in reality it rarely hits the mark.

Done right, value add can build great relationships & businesses.

1.

Honesty is the best policy.

This research has shown a growing dissatisfaction with VCs and ‘value add’ services amongst UK founders. 61% of founders rated the experience of the value-add they received below average. 33% explicitly felt it was overpromised and underdelivered. Its use for both inbound marketing deal flow and later on as stakes at the negotiating table isn’t necessarily bad form - as long as the promises made are followed through.

2.

Deliver best in class services.

Every investor wants their porfolio companies to succeed. If a founder can get better services on the market than what we can offer them, it’s best for everyone that they procure them there. Many services simply don’t seem to be hitting the mark. 65% of founders who gave their investors a low ‘beyond money’ score quoted “they tried, but failed” as the reason. Specialisation, deep industry or sector knowledge or specialist expertise are the key to delivering great services, but execution is everything.

3.

Unlock your network for founders.

82% of founder respondents cited access to connections, help with fundraising or introductions to customers as the key value add services that contributed to their growth. But in light of the dissatisfaction founders have shown through our research, the connections simply aren’t made as often as industry players might promise. We’re culpable as an industry to follow through and to seek growth opportunities for our portfolio - not just when they ask for it - but proactively as part of an ongoing dialogue.

6.3A final word from Forward.

A final word.

I hope this report has made for interesting reading. With it, we hope to spark discussion, debate and open a dialogue that helps investors to shape our sector’s offer to the ever-changing needs of founders.

At Forward, we believe that founders deserve more from their VC. We favour an ‘applied venture’ approach where our investor and Studio Teams work together with early stage founders to greatly increase their odds of success. But this is just one of several models out there - and there’s no ‘right’ answer. The one thing that I hope we can all agree on is that no matter what shape the offer comes in, capital and capability work best hand in hand.

I’d like to offer a few words of thanks. Firstly, to a group of over 500 founders, VCs and industry experts who provided insight for this report - and in particular those who gave up their time to speak to us one-on-one. Second to our partners whose support have made this report possible: Joe Perkins at Landscape VC whose concept is bringing transparency to the VC sector; Marta Krupinska and Michael Cavanagh at Google whose insight and support is greatly valued; Kosta Kolev for his work referring founders to us and Andy Davis and Anika Henry whose relentless work to promote under-represented groups is a reminder to us all that we have to do better as an industry. Finally, to all in the Forward Team who have worked tirelessly to bring it all together.

Nic Brisbourne,
Founder and Managing Partner, Foward Partners.

The More Than Money Report 2021

Appendix

The research methodologies for this report were both quantitative and qualitative.

23 interviews were conducted with VCs, founders and LPs. Many of the founder interviews were anonymised.

A founder survey was also conducted with 100 respondents participating.

88% of founders responding were pre-seed, seed and Series A founders, thus the focus of this research is at the early stages.

A secondary data source provided by Landscape VC, who provided survey information from over 400 founders.

This report focuses on venture investors and how they add value, thus accelerators and incubators were not included.

These methodologies were complemented by extensive desk research of secondary sources.

The research concentrated on founders’ post-raise experiences so as to clearly focus attention on how venture investors are working with founders after they give them capital. We intentionally excluded feedback about the fundraising experience itself as it was tangential.

Survey data analysis identified trends and patterns in terms of what value add was most applicable to businesses depending upon their profile and circumstances.

Interview analysis took a theme based approach to support initial findings from survey data.

18% of respondents were female and 13% from BAME backgrounds presenting challenges around making gender or ethnicity distinctions around value add.

We would like to extend a word of thanks to all who participated for your valuable contributions.