Library Podcasts

Ep. #11, Feat. BlueRun Ventures’ Jana Lee

Guests: Jana Lee

In the latest episode of Venture Confidential, Peter is joined by Jana Lee, Principal at BlueRun Ventures. Jana recalls her non-traditional path to a venture career and reveals how she created a feedback loop using deal flow to evaluate her performance. She then shares BlueRun Venture’s approach to identifying, evaluating and capitalizing on investment opportunities.


About the Guests

Jana Lee is a Principal at BlueRun Ventures, a series A investment fund that is focused on consumer mobile and other tech companies that rely on real-time data systems. Prior to BlueRun Ventures, Jana was the GM and Founder of Tapestry, a mobile storytelling platform.

Transcript

00:00:00
00:00:00

Peter Chapman: Jana, welcome to Venture Confidential.

Jana Lee: Thanks for having me.

Peter: You had a somewhat unconventional path into venture and I'd love to start there. How did you get into this business?

Jana: Previously, before I started BlueRun Ventures I was an entrepreneur. Had two companies prior to this. The last of the companies was Tapestry, out of Betaworks in New York. I think you know all of our Betaworks guys too. It was a really interesting time at Betaworks when I started working on Tapestry with Borthwick, who was technically my co-founder of that company which is kind of funny.

Peter: Sorry, Borthwick?

Jana: John Borthwick, the CEO of Betaworks. A lab type incubator, now a fund in New York. But at that time it was really a lab where Tartbeat, Bitly, all of those things really came out of those early social analytics, social flow. But it's always been very consumer-driven. It can be applications, I mean even Dots the game came out of there. So that's about the time I came on board. I had just shut down my company did the ten days, no internet, talked with Borthwick and said " yeah this is great, I'll see you in ten days, I'm going to read ten books, I'll come back."

At about that time kind of lined up what they were thinking about this company called Tapestry. So I joined them and at that time they had just kicked off their Hacker In Residence program. So that's where the gify's came out of, Dots actually came out of there. This is way more of an east-coast thing but Pancho, do you guys know Pancho?

Peter: What's Pancho?

Jana: Its a bush wick cat that tells you the weather. They were just on Planet of the Apps. Yeah, they're still kicking, they were in that original class. There's a few others that were there as well but it was a really cool interesting time.

Its a low risk situation for an entrepreneur at Betaworks because you have a lot of resources.

I mean John's a product guy as well. So we once a week would just nail down product there. But I was at Betaworks for about a year and a half building Tapestry. As that business kind of shifted; it was short story telling platform that really turned into a native mobile ad unit, not where my expertise was.

So, we brought someone on to kind of run that side of the business. At that time, Betaworks was really looking at revenue opportunities so we didn't want to kill it off yet.

I started helping with some of Betaworks other portfolio companies and at that time knew I was going to move west. Started speaking with Medium on a content role because that made a lot of sense. It was a bigger, badder, more funded Tapestry that I was already doing kind of in the content space.

And while I was here talking with Medium, I get this text from an old friend. Jeff Tannenbaum at BlueRun Ventures and he just asked me if I was ever interested in the venture route.

And I texted him "fuck no" because that just wasn't in my plan. Then I was like "why, do you know I'm leaving Betaworks?" and his response was all caps "you fucking leaving Betaworks?". And I was like "yeah, do you know I'm in San Francisco right now?" and he picked up the phone right away and was like "get down here" so I took the Caltrain, met the partners.

Again, still had no interest in it until I started talking to the partners some more. John and Jonathon are partners at BlueRun Ventures, been there since the beginning, 20 years. Started talking with them and I realized what we know on the east coast of Silicon Valley really probably is more story telling than what is actually happening.

Peter: So, hold on cause I'm interested in the no. Why was venture so unappealing to you back then?

Jana: Like we've talked about before,

I'm an operator I'm a builder. My entire background is product and I like to break things. There's a feedback loop in product. There's not one in venture.

I didn't learn that until later but it was something that I never thought that I would be in that route. I also didn't have my MBA from Wharton. I didn't have these you know stereotypical pedigree for venture so that wasn't really anything I thought about. I knew I didn't want to start something new after going at it twice. I needed a breather but I still wanted to be in something fairly new.

Medium, at that time, its been three years since I've been out here. So Medium seemed like a really good opportunity at that time. But after talking to John and Jonathon and Cheryl, she's a partner there as well. We really started talking about what the role looked like. It was an associate role, so I was coming on as going to be the oldest associate probably in San Francisco.

I bet there are some older ones I just don't know them. Even all of these things around Silicon Valley, and everything around venture I wasn't sure. And then I started thinking about it, when I looked at one role, I could do that. I knew the content piece at Medium, I knew it was going to be partnerships and strategy and I could do that.

But then I looked at this venture thing that was financed and things that I had no idea how the proper process worked. At that time you probably could've asked me how kerry works or you know. So these things are just no, but that looked really really scary.

And I look back at all the things I did even jumping on board with Betaworks and when I built my previous company Fun I kind of see that fear of unknown as challenge accepted. I was offered the role at BlueRun Ventures and moved across the country. I used to take the Caltrain everyday down to Menlo. That was a hard shock coming from transit in New York City to transit here by the way.

Peter: Oh, its not a fun comparison. Yeah, I lived in Manhattan briefly and when I first moved to San Francisco I had nothing but terrible things to say about it.

Jana: Well I wanted to prove everybody wrong. I'm going to take the bus to the Caltrain and take the Caltrain to Menlo Park and I'm going to make this work. After so much wasted time I gave up, I'd drive a lot. I'm a Californian now I guess, right?

Peter: Welcome, welcome, you've converted.

Jana: Yeah, three years I'm in. Anyways so it was a very non traditional path. I've mentioned this before too, that after I was offered the role I then Googled "how does one get into venture?". Don't do that, at least I had already signed the offer. Again that kind of just reiterated that there's a stereotypical VC in the valley and I didn't match that. That intimidated me a little bit but it also like I said you know the fear of that really made me again think like challenge accepted right?

I didn't go to Harvard, I didn't have the Wharton MBA. But I had a lot of experience building, crashing and burning two companies and being part of big product teams before that that I think was really rare. And knew that I could really offer something to companies.

Peter: How did the team at BlueRun Ventures sell you on the role?

Jana: I think it was how they started talking about their founders and their companies. So, do you know me to tell you a little bit more about BlueRun Ventures?

Peter: Yeah, lets start there. What is BlueRun Ventures?

Jana: So BlueRun Ventures. We've been around about 20 years. We've had great hits like PayPal and our first fund. We have Waze in there, Koopa is one of our companies that went public last October. We are a kind of typical series A investor. We do dabble in some seed. We are really opportunistic about that. But with any of our funds

We only are going to do about 12 to 15 deals in 2 1/2 to 3 yearss. So thats a lot of no's. But we do get hyper involved with our companies.

There's five of us on the investment team and we all know every business because they're cycles right? We talk about how you work on the funnel. There's not going to be one person that knows every part of the business so that's really how, when you asked the previous question, that's how they really sold me was the involvement with the companies and then even how they spoke about their founders. I saw a lot of opportunity and I also saw, like I said before, that I could really have impact with these companies.

Peter: Awesome, so you start really tepid on venture. You start talking to the team and they cue you into a really intimate relationship with the founders where the entire team is really in the weeds operationally.

Jana: Yep.

Peter: And you feel like you've got something to contribute because you've done this before and you've got a ton of expertise on the content and product side.

Jana: Yep.

Peter: What was it like diving in and bringing some of that to bear year one?

Jana: So the first year, I think is the most difficult in venture. Especially when you are coming into a new market. I think the team told me, "we're hiring you on for your New York network". I was like, "yeah, I know that ecosystem well. I know founders there, I know investors there." But when I got here I didn't know that many, couple that with no-feedback loop, really in venture so no one is telling you you're doing a great job. No one tell you you're not doing a great job. It is really heres a job go make things happen.

So I think that first year was really really hard for me. Coming from the product and operational kind of background rule about six months in I take a look. I'm like, "I don't know how I'm doing. I know when I build a product when its broken pretty quickly and I just didn't have that." And I felt like I was attending I mean my entire nightlife was every meet up. You're shaking your head, have you been there or you just know better?

Peter: I'm so averse to meet ups.

Jana: It was the whole like Silicon Valley thing I was afraid to come to but I had to start building that network. And I had to be fearless at that. I think about six months in when I was really banging my head like "I don't know many people here, how come companies aren't just coming to me, we have money why aren't they talking to us?" You realize that its all relationships and then I realized okay I'm good at that. I realized in relationships you always have to, especially within our business world, have to bring value.

I actually think that's how we originally met. I reached out, out of the blue like "hey, I'm building this thing, you know a lot of CTOs and developers, I'm building this thing and I tried to make sure I was bringing value to you and bringing value to the CTOs or CEOs of your company."

So, I really realized at that like six month point of like "okay I can say no to meetings, first." That was really really important, not taking everything. I wasted a lot of time I think in those first six months. But I also think it was training wheels. So I tried to make sure that I was bringing value if I'm meeting with any of our companies that we've invested in or if I'm meeting with a new company.

I mentioned that we're a typical series A venture firm but it's really important for us to meet every seed company because hopefully they're going to need that A and it's best to build that relationship at that seed level and so we're kind of bringing value at that stage. You meet the founder, you believe in the company and what can I bring at that stage? So, my product background, any of those skills that we have. Just bring them as close as possible.

Peter: So, you said two things there that I want to dive in on a little more. You said venture doesn't have a feedback loop and that's been a pretty common refrain in this podcast. So I'd love to talk a little bit about how you actually get feedback. You also talked about bringing value outside of investing in capital. Let's start with feedback; what are some ways that you know if you're doing a good job?

Jana: Yeah, so, about a year in you start to realize that people are starting to respect you a little bit and why I think that was in my career was that I respected their time and brought value and I could see that feedback loop that way. Because its not like hey we invest in this company and a year later they're doing great and there's that feedback loop, that's not how it works. I think that I started building those relationships both at the VC level with other investors and at the founder level both our companies and other founders that I was bringing value to them and so

My deal flow started to pick up. Deals were coming to me and that's the feedback loop.

So I really kind of got in that fly wheel and I knew what to start repeating and that's where I started to realize I would host these dinners of early stage entrepreneurs that maybe weren't even at seed yet. But, they were all getting so much value from each other. Obviously, I was getting value out of that. I was learning, as they mature, they may or may not get to that A level. But they definitely hang in the right crew to keep sending me additional fabulous companies. So, I guess I made up my own feedback loop.

Peter: Well it sounds like you're saying the feedback you're getting is sort of the relationship, right?

Jana: Yep.

Peter: You know you're doing a good job because people are coming back to you and they're providing you with intros. You said one of the ways that you provide us value is just connecting entrepreneurs to each other. What are some other ways that you can help companies before you've invested in them?

Jana: I think some of the earlier companies that we've looked at a few that we've gotten pretty close and maybe passed on, I think that I just get in the weeds from the beginning. If I'm going to understand your business, I want to know the product. Not only, I don't want you to sit there and present the product to me. I want to really understand it with you.

I'm probably going to tell you when I have ideas, and I try to be careful because the founder really needs to get there on their own. But, I almost have those brainstorming sessions with them and like "let's white board this out. What does this look like in two years?"

Peter: So you've been at this for three years now.

Jana: Yes.

Peter: You said that the first six months is sort of a furious flurry of activity. Going to all the meet ups, taking all the meetings you can. How is the Jana of 2017 different than the Jana who's just started as an associate?

Jana: Just as busy, same amount of meetings just really targeted. I think that the deal flow, its takes time to build that. But I think that the warm intros that you get now; a certain person will email me, even kind of before I look at the company, it's like I know that person, I know that fund, I know that founder. I will take that meeting. It might not be something we invest in but I'm sure there's alignment somewhere. My day to day is still as busy as it was three years ago but its more targeted.

Peter: You said it's important to talk to every seed company. Is there a particular area of focus that BlueRun Ventures likes to hone in on?

Jana: So, I think in BlueRun Venture's history, we were really consumer mobile focused. We were kind of on that train before. Nokia Venture Partners, was one of our LP's in the beginning. And so, you know, you look at the Waze and those companies that came out of that. That's where my background was too so there was alignment there.

But we've really kind of matured since then. If you even look at something like Waze or Kabbage, which is one of our companies, there's a lot more similarities. And I think what we really look for is real-time data systems that can change the way an industry works.

So let's take a look at Waze. So Waze gets you from point A to point B. That's the consumer thought about that. If you look at it, there's access to real-time data. That really changed how we drove and move. So, if you look at Kabbage. Kabbage is access to capital for small and medium businesses I wouldn't say that we're infant tech, we do dabble there.

But they make real-time decisions on loans for small and medium businesses. Where a bank would take you know two three weeks. Its not just the instant decisions, its the access to that real-time data about those businesses.

Connecting into their Quicken or whatever that might be. All of those signals that they can take so much quicker. So it's those real-time pieces of data that are really shifting how that loan industry is working for those small and medium businesses.

So if you were to open BlueRun Ventures and look at our portfolio companies you'd see that what strings a lot of them together is their reliance on real-time data.

Peter: This is really interesting. You're telling me that to date, BlueRun Ventures has largely invested in companies that are building products that react to lots of information in real-time. Is this fundamental to who BlueRun Ventures is, or is this an investment strategy that you see changing over time?

Jana: I think it's a great question, it leads into kind of how BlueRun Ventures ebbs and flows. So like I said before, we're very consumer mobile. And as we grew a little and aged a little it went into more of the real-time data systems. So now we're kicking off our sixth fund and that's going to look a little different. So I kind of love how when you look at BlueRun Venture's portfolio where it looks like there are companies that may look all over the place.

We're in Kabbage, there's Fintech or Koopa which is enterprise. Then you look at Human API which is in health. Well those are all siloed into your typical industries.

But when you look at what we're doing with each of those Human API is real-time data as well. That's kind of where we were we still get really excited by that but now we're kind of looking forward to what does the next 20 years of BlueRun Ventures look like. So, we're pretty fluid around that so I guess you could call us a typical generalist at this point but we do still get excited around nerdy data.

Peter: I'd love to shift gears a little bit and talk about that initial engagement. One of the things that I like asking VC's is sort of how do you start to diagnose a company? What frame-works do you apply when you first start working with a company? Maybe you could tell me about the first two weeks of BlueRun Venture's engagement. What are the some of the first questions that you start asking?

Jana: So after pitch, after investment's been made and then we're actually full on involved.

Peter: You're in.

Jana: Two weeks after? Okay. We already know a ton about you, I'd say through that process we're pretty deep. You've met the entire firm, we've met most of your team. We're looking at what were those things we said in the investment process that in 12, 18 months what does that look like for you guys. Then we see what's the first thing that we need to tackle. Generally in series A it's hiring, right? So that is where we just dive deep in to our networks. Some are hiring so much that we go to our staffing agents that we have access to. So that's generally how series A's go.

They're like "we have money we need to hire now." So that's generally the first one we go to. But we look deeper in their go-to market or if there's pricing. By the time we invest, again it definitely depends on the industry and the product, but by the time we invest we like to see kind of repeatable customers.

Whatever that customer might be it could be consumer, enterprise whatever it might be. So we look at and dissect how that process has gone and if there are any hurdles or if it's going really really well, why. And how do we scale that. I think that's where BlueRun Ventures can help, at the series A and that's why we really really focus on that. Is that how do we scale that, make a real business and we build that company and really get you to that B. I mean, we're in the business of building companies.

Peter: Could you walk me through an example of scaling customer acquisition?

Jana: Yes, actually a really good one to talk to you about is Blue Cart actually. So Blue Cart is a B2B2B. So Blue Cart is a company that works with restaurants and suppliers. But typically, it is phone, fax, and paper to place orders for the lettuce you get every day the beer you get every day, all of those things. So they started working with restaurants to try to place the orders with the suppliers and they were kind of getting a little traction on both sides. So, when we got involved it was pretty early with Blue Cart. So we looked at "okay when we get a supplier on, we get 10 to 20 restaurants on. And once you get that restaurant on, they want the rest of their suppliers to be on."

You can see how that fly wheel starts going so we really kind of took a look at that and what was really working for them. We also saw they had ads on their site for when you were actually a client. So we do things like "hey let's not monetize there, let's really look at where this is." And they weren't charging yet so you can imagine the state we get some companies that are just hitting everything.

What can we do, what can we scale? By the time they get to us we really look at what's really working what's the actual opportunity. With Blue Cart it really was like "okay let's focus on the supplier and the rest we'll just like fly wheel on and it's really been working." So they're live I think New York, Chicago, San Francisco, LA I'm pretty sure. And we've been with that company maybe a year and a half and just seen numbers catapult because we focus so early on what was working there.

Peter: Which in this case was building relationships with suppliers and trusting that the rest of the ecosystem would come from that.

Jana: A few different things. It was finding the value that the supplier brought and that we didn't maybe necessarily need to charge for certain things with the supplier because we needed to get the mass amount of suppliers in every market on. So, finding that like charging too early or free-mie or what would that look like so we looked really closely at that. A really interesting at Blue Cart was we had suppliers come on then a restaurant would come on and a restaurant would try to place orders with all their suppliers on Blue Cart. Well it looks like because all of the information for all the suppliers is on the platform so it looks like all of them are there so smoke and mirrors.

Blue Cart would actually place that order with a supplier that wasn't on just so that restaurant would fulfill their order but then they go to that supplier, because they can call and make the order just like anyone else could. But when they would then get to that supplier we have 4, 20, 25 of your restaurants that are trying to place order through Blue Cart; probably should get on. So just really at that early stage examining how what was working and just like sometimes it is smoke and mirrors and then you examine what worked right. So how do we build a business that way.

Peter: You said that it's very much a team effort that everyone at BlueRun Ventures has their own area of specialization. How do you fit in to the BlueRun Ventures team?

Jana: I think that I tend to fall in go-to market when it goes around content. Like with Blue Cart early on I think I was really digging in on their email marketing and what that looked like for them. In more consumer companies it's everything from product and usability to building their content team. With early stage like that with a content team it's really like how do have the fewest people to output the most.

Peter: I'd love to hear more about that question. Content is so critical to so many of our companies. How do you have a maximally effective content team?

Jana: I think this is a very venture like response is it depends, right?

Peter: Great.

Jana: So, my background content it's consumer right it's very different than I think companies that like Heavybit think about content. I think content in the Heavybit companies is really going to be more around thought leadership and those type of things. It's not going to be virality perse. So my previous company I built, Tapestry.

It was a social platform to build short stories so we had a lot of interns making really wonderful content that then somehow caught a fly wheel within that perfect millennial age of taking the cream of the crop of Tumblr creators that pulled it over. So different than when you look at an enterprise company that's trying to create a content program around marketing and outreach.

Peter: Mm, so the companies you're working with tend to specialized content teams that just do content?

Jana: No, I'll clarify that a little bit. Because we do have some consumer we have some enterprise, it just depends. The one I was most involved with was nom.com and that was the one where I went in and helped them build the content team and the partnerships and everything to really scale that content team and their reach. So we could do that with three people with different partnerships that aligned with the food industry for them.

Peter: You know, a common refrain I hear from our companies when I ask about marketing is that we should be doing more content marketing. "Yeah, we have a blog we publish once a month. Okay the last blog was two months ago I guess like sometimes one of us will write an article we could be better at it." How do you get a company to treat content like a first class problem?

Jana: So it's funny is that I think that even though we help our companies with that I think a lot of venture firms struggle in that as you're going through that thinking oh I haven't posted blog posts in like a month I mean we're guilty. So, how do we like convince companies when we're not even doing it? I think through trial and error. Actually I was listening to one of the previous podcasts.

Hammy really talked about this how you make so many experiments and do them rapidly and measure. I think everyone believes, like every company, especially when you get to enterprise and that space really believes that "yes I need a content strategy. Yes I need a marketing and email strategy."

But like that's not their expertise. So you look at the company you look at the space that they're in and you really kind of examine where their expertise is or where can we put you at "thought leadership." Then, how do we amplify that. If you post a blog post and you're a seed company and the chances of that getting seen by who you want it to are pretty low, right?

So who can we partner with who can we have guest. All of these things these little tricks you can do cause it only takes one to really kind of get that going. You also have your current customers that you can use as well to really be that thought leadership as well. So if you have a great customer that is already considered a thought leader like really diving in with them.

Peter: You said something really interesting there which was that many venture firms struggle with content themselves. I certainly empathize with this, is content important for venture?

Jana: I laugh because a podcast is content and you're leading this podcast.

Peter: We're doing it right now, we're doing it right now.

Jana: So, you definitely know the answer to your question. I do believe it's really important. And I think gone are the days of the blow hard blog post from venture.

I think it's really important at least for us and other early stage firms like us to explain why we made a certain investment out there. That's important because it sets the tone for future investments.

And I think it also shows where our head's at around a space and industry. You also can just from that type of content understand how we work with our founders. In venture firm world, I think all of our content is straight marketing. Its straight like how do we get in to the conversations that we need to be, attract the flies that we need to it's those type of things.

Peter: Are you measuring this?

Jana: As BlueRun Ventures?

Peter: Trick question I should say, we struggle to measure the effectiveness of our content.

Jana: Okay, thanks for making us look good. We are actually building all of this now. I think it's been a theme throughout this conversation with you is how we are really looking forward to our next 20 years. We've had a really great run. How do we get to keep doing this fun job for the next 20 years, too. I think I'm building all of that structure now.

Everything from re-doing our site and how we think about content and really engaging with our companies to really put out their thoughts to our platforms as well. And then what we're teaching our companies to do actually start doing with us as well. And the biggest reason for that is we are a small team, smaller than our companies and the only way to I think scale that with such a small team is to really measure and kind of hack what you can.

Peter: I'd love to get super tactical here for a minute. I come from a fairly analytical background where at Heroku we tried to quantify the results of everything. Sometimes that was easy, sometimes that was hard. One of the domains where it tended to be harder was content. So we know that when we write good content, people come to our site. And we have this theory that the more people who come to our website an engage with our content the more deal flow we see. But it's really hard to draw that end to end story of this blog post generated this much.

Jana: Because more deal flow could come from anything so you can't connect it directly.

Peter: Yeah, and when people talk to us sometimes they'll say "oh I saw some great videos."

Jana: You're like oh I'm going to go mark that in my spread sheet that came from this.

Peter: Yeah, so, I guess the question I have is is there another level of sophistication that we should be aiming for or is it appropriate for folks like you and I to just measure that content as generating traffic and trust that more traffic is better?

Jana: Always trust that more traffic is better. But I do think that I'm in the middle of that experiment to be totally honest. And I think that I have never put the content hat on for a venture firm before so can we do what we teach our companies or can we do what I did at previous companies at a venture firm in the same way and can that be tracked the same way. So that's literally where I'm at right now and I would say that's about half of my job right now.

Peter: We're going to have to get you back on here in a year.

Jana: Okay, we'll just come back every year.

Peter: Sure, yeah I'm down. So, you're just at the beginning stages about getting a little more empirical about your content's performance.

Jana: Yep.

Peter: What motions are you going through right now?

Jana: There's some soft motions. As we meet with a founder we tell them that we're founder friendly. And I think every venture firm says that. But how do you portray that in your content and your site and everything that I said about you. I think that I'm kind of experimenting with that so those soft things that are really really important rather than hitting our site and it looking like a banking site.

There are certain things where that's really important. So being on the more empirical side or the numbers side it is getting analytics set up correctly and actually starting that measurement. Simple as Google Analytics right? And then managing our reach, all of that. No one's been there to do it.

Peter: What does it mean for a website to be founder friendly?

Jana: So that cringe worthy word founder friendly. We don't have BlueRun Ventures as founder friendly on our home page. But there are things like "we help build great companies." Just in that rather than "we invest in..." Those are the little soft things that really actually do matter but that's how we speak to our founders before we invest in them. It's a big shift in conveying that and I think from all aspects of content marketing I think it's pretty important.

Peter: I'm thinking about an earlier episode of Venture Confidential that I listened to but was not on. Where a partner talks about his companies like he's in the company. He says well we're going after these customers and we're experimenting with these price points. And I remember as a young sort of a new venture capitalist.

Jana: A budding venture capitalist.

Peter: Right, I was like oh this is really interesting it really feels like he's on the team he's not just pulling strings from afar.

Jana: Yeah, I think both from my background as an entrepreneur and what I've learned from my team. Especially John Malloy, he's our founding partner. Again in that first six months, I just attend a lot of meetings with him and just listened to how he communicates with companies. Both ones we were looking at and investing in.

He is one hundred percent a part of those teams. Just like you said its like we're looking at this market we're looking at this pricing structure. I think I really learned that really early on and the questions to ask companies that are pitching us around that as well and what the team looks like. All of those things are minor but they really do matter.

Peter: Okay, so, founder friendly tone. Being a human, being part of the team. Talking about your companies trials like they're your own trials. Any other tips for venture capitalists on how they can show that they're really on the side of their founders?

Jana: Again, I think that comes from practice more so than words. I know that we're talking about content I know we keep going back to that. Even what I said early on in my venture career was building that trust in value it's those actions so watching my partners watching other investors in the community I think that's way more important and that kind of says it before you. But i think it's really important to match the tone in your content. You can't just say we are founder friendly and we are part of the team you have to actually do that work.

Peter: I'd love to bring it back to you, watching John are there ways that you shifted how you act with entrepreneurs?

Jana: Yeah, I think when I came into this it was here are these questions I need to ask. I need to know what they're raising I needed to know what their business model was and I read this is what I'm supposed to ask. And then I started to realize the more important questions and where our values really aligned. One thing I didn't say about BlueRun Ventures earlier is that the tech is always the most important piece for us because in our world if everything, shit hits the fan you can still sell the tech, right?

So it's really really important to us because I think that's always at the core. So how I kind of changed those questionings was like not how are you going to use the funds but let's talk about big is your engineering team right now. What's your plans once you close the A. What are your hiring plans? And you can tell quickly if it's hiring up on the sales and marketing at that stage or hiring up on the engineering side. For us, it's always pretty important to sway on that engineering side. So, those types of small things really started to shift how I asked questions and how I listened.

Peter: What are you listening for?

Jana: You always have your kind of bullshit meter, right? Does their hiring plan or their engineering plan match up with their product road map? And then you're listening for the passion behind the problem from that founder. I feel like this is all very typical venture capital things but I guess our audience for this wants to know that right?

Peter: Sure, yeah. I want to end by asking you the same question that I ask all of our guests.

Jana: Okay.

Peter: What do you wish you knew going into this?

Jana: I thought about this one hard. I told you I listened to a lot of these so I could be as prepared for you as possible a couple weeks ago. I was like "oh my gosh that's a really good question; what would I have told myself?" Its a long con, I think it goes along with patience but it's definitely a long con.

Peter: Say a little more about that.

Jana: So we've talked about my three year career in venture. I think in the beginning it was must take every meeting must close this deal must get this done and I also thought make a dent right now and then I don't know why I had this feeling that in a year or two you could really prove yourself by these deals and then now I know everything about this business is a long con. The relationships, the deal flow, the investment itself obviously, patience and have a sense of humor. So, it's definitely a long con.

Peter: Jana, thank you so much for joining us on Venture Confidential.

Jana: Thanks for finally letting me on.

Peter: It's been a pleasure.

Want developer focused content in your inbox?

Join our mailing list to receive the latest Library updates. After subscribing, tell us your preferences to receive only the email you want.

Thanks for subscribing, check your inbox to confirm and choose preferences!

You've been here a while...

Are you learning something? Share it with your friends!