How one moonshot VC approaches investing in the COVID-19 era 

Take one glance at Playground Global’s portfolio and a theme emerges: The firm’s investments are forward-looking, longer-term plays, a strategy that runs counter to the fast-return ethos that permeates certain Silicon Valley sectors.

The Palo Alto-based VC firm is banking on the future with investments in capital-intensive and technically complex pursuits, including robotics, autonomous driving, metallic 3D printing and infrastructure. It’s an investment strategy that isn’t for the faint of heart.

So, how does a firm that embraces futurism handle the present-day disruption of COVID-19? It looks ahead, of course.

When co-founder and CTO Peter Barrett joined TechCrunch this week for an Extra Crunch Live panel, the pandemic dominated the conversation. The executive noted that a new and common thread has emerged throughout the many discussions among Playground executives and the startups in which it has invested.

Priorities are shifting toward finding ways to be of service.

Everything feels different these days. Recent months have caused many in Silicon Valley to reconsider their investment priorities, roll up their figurative sleeves and begin the process of helping the world survive and, eventually, recover from the seemingly endless COVID-19 pandemic. Like many others, Playground finds itself at a crossroads — determining how it can be of service, while examining the ways in which a crisis like this can be addressed.

“One thing that underscores this pandemic is a realization that we need to be doing other things if we want to avoid being stuck inside for six months to a year,” Barrett said. “The biggest trend is a recognition that we need to make the investments that give us agency over our biology, and to build the tooling and infrastructure, so the parade of maladies which is behind COVID won’t have the same consequences that COVID-19 has.”

The pandemic has also driven people to reflect on what they want to do with their lives, Barrett said, suggesting that this phenomenon could influence which startups emerge from this period as well as what venture capitalists choose to invest in.

“If you’re an entrepreneur, I think a dating app looks less appealing than contributing in some way,” Barrett said, adding that entrepreneurs are looking at areas that “put us in a position where we really don’t have to be stuck inside because of a certain kilobase virus.”

Playground has a number of startups that are in position to offer some support, though, as is the nature of the firm’s tendency toward long runways. Most, however, appear better positioned to consider how we can prepare ourselves for the inevitability of some future pandemic, rather than the one we’re currently battling. Click through to read the highlights and watch a video with our entire conversation.

Nearer term plays

Playground’s portfolio is a mix of companies that are building things on a longer timescale that have the capital and patience to weather this pandemic, Barrett said.

However, in the near term, there are categories of companies that have an opportunity to be of service and grow their business.

How one moonshot VC approaches investing in the COVID-19 era 

Take one glance at Playground Global’s portfolio and a theme emerges: The firm’s investments are forward-looking, longer-term plays, a strategy that runs counter to the fast-return ethos that permeates certain Silicon Valley sectors.

The Palo Alto-based VC firm is banking on the future with investments in capital-intensive and technically complex pursuits, including robotics, autonomous driving, metallic 3D printing and infrastructure. It’s an investment strategy that isn’t for the faint of heart.

So, how does a firm that embraces futurism handle the present-day disruption of COVID-19? It looks ahead, of course.

When co-founder and CTO Peter Barrett joined TechCrunch this week for an Extra Crunch Live panel, the pandemic dominated the conversation. The executive noted that a new and common thread has emerged throughout the many discussions among Playground executives and the startups in which it has invested.

Priorities are shifting toward finding ways to be of service.

Everything feels different these days. Recent months have caused many in Silicon Valley to reconsider their investment priorities, roll up their figurative sleeves and begin the process of helping the world survive and, eventually, recover from the seemingly endless COVID-19 pandemic. Like many others, Playground finds itself at a crossroads — determining how it can be of service, while examining the ways in which a crisis like this can be addressed.

“One thing that underscores this pandemic is a realization that we need to be doing other things if we want to avoid being stuck inside for six months to a year,” Barrett said. “The biggest trend is a recognition that we need to make the investments that give us agency over our biology, and to build the tooling and infrastructure, so the parade of maladies which is behind COVID won’t have the same consequences that COVID-19 has.”

The pandemic has also driven people to reflect on what they want to do with their lives, Barrett said, suggesting that this phenomenon could influence which startups emerge from this period as well as what venture capitalists choose to invest in.

“If you’re an entrepreneur, I think a dating app looks less appealing than contributing in some way,” Barrett said, adding that entrepreneurs are looking at areas that “put us in a position where we really don’t have to be stuck inside because of a certain kilobase virus.”

Playground has a number of startups that are in position to offer some support, though, as is the nature of the firm’s tendency toward long runways. Most, however, appear better positioned to consider how we can prepare ourselves for the inevitability of some future pandemic, rather than the one we’re currently battling. Click through to read the highlights and watch a video with our entire conversation.

Nearer term plays

Playground’s portfolio is a mix of companies that are building things on a longer timescale that have the capital and patience to weather this pandemic, Barrett said.

However, in the near term, there are categories of companies that have an opportunity to be of service and grow their business.

Recruiting for diversity in VC

Like many industries with a high concentration of wealth — and the careers that help professionals accumulate it — investment firms have a severe dearth of diversity in their ranks.

Regardless of whether the focus is venture capital, private equity or any other investment asset class, the firms are replete with white men. Though there have been some modest efforts of late to push for diversity, particularly in VC, these have yielded single digit percentage changes at best — and nothing at worst. Only 9% of investment decision makers in VC today are women; just 2% are Black.

Some firms have made reasonable inroads on this problem with good intentions. Based on my search experience recruiting investment professionals, I would guess that at least half of those searches were for clients with a strong preference to hire a “diverse” candidate. The Black Lives Matter movement has recently advanced the dialogue even further and has shined a light on underrepresentation in VC more than ever. “How do we increase our pipeline of diverse candidates?” is a question I heard frequently before 2020, but in past weeks this has become a chorus. Unfortunately, if solving this problem were as easy as telling a recruiter you want more diversity, it might have been solved long ago.

Below are a few common pitfalls we see in our searches with VC firms in particular, as well as some thoughts on how firms can improve their hiring processes, in order to work toward having more diverse representation within their investing teams.

Job description: Great comes in many forms

The most common reason I see for hiring processes leading to a slate with primarily white male candidates is because the criteria my client views as required almost completely precludes the possibility that the candidate slate will be diverse.

Taken as a given that women and minority men are not well-represented at senior levels in VC, any job spec that asks for a candidate to have seven to 10 years of experience in the industry, or a large number of board seats or investments led, will mean that the pool of “qualified” candidates will consist of mostly white men. This has historically been referred to as the “pipeline problem” and it’s an increasingly well-studied concept that academic literature is beginning to point to as a bias that pushes the onus of hiring minorities away from the hiring manager and on to the candidate pool. Even for firms that remain committed to hiring underrepresented groups without making adjustments to their criteria, the result is a zero-sum game where proven minority investors rotate from firm to firm, and an outcome that does not increase diversity in the industry as a whole.

VC firms seeking to improve their diversity have to recognize that great comes in many forms. By crafting broader specs and really thinking about the qualifications for their investing roles, a whole new talent pool opens up. To see that new pool of talent though, firms must first determine what characteristics are relevant to the role, and avoid tenure (or other tenure stand-ins) as the main criteria. VC investing is as much an art as a science; firms should decide what personal traits make somebody strong in their organization and why. How would a different viewpoint be additive to sourcing or diligence discussions?

Firms then need to commit to interviewing for those traits and perspectives, and assessing candidates along those same lines. One VC firm I worked with interviewed dozens of candidates before they realized that their process focused too much on financial acumen and not enough on the other factors they felt would make somebody a strong venture capitalist, resulting in a final slate of safe, “qualified,” and mostly nonminority candidates.

We reworked our process, and theirs, to interview for different criteria moving forward. We asked about overcoming hardships and about risks taken, and we got a sense for what type of impact that person made in whatever organization they came from rather than just asking about deals and transactions. It should be no surprise that the candidates with noninvesting backgrounds are performing much better in the process now, and the value they’d add to the organization more clear, even though the interviewers and the roles are the same.

Affinity bias: Go beyond what’s familiar

A broad spec and a team committed to hiring diverse talent, and interviewing appropriately, are great starting points. But then there is much more to do. Affinity bias is a well-known phenomenon that many investors are likely aware of, but it is pernicious in hiring settings and can be a serious challenge to overcome. Affinity bias in hiring is when a person or group of people prefer a candidate who looks, talks, acts or has a similar background to them.

In the case of hiring candidates with diverse backgrounds, affinity bias may be the tallest hurdle. In VC, the job is in many ways to seek common ground with the people you talk to. Good VCs are relationship builders — with entrepreneurs, other VCs and strong executives they want to recruit into their portfolio companies. But most investors are white people from affluent communities who attended elite universities and have worked at top-tier banks or consulting firms. In some cases there may have been a stint at another top-tier institution, be it a technology company or another investment firm.

White men are more likely to have these backgrounds. In a hiring process, white male VCs will naturally find ways to connect with candidates with similar backgrounds (i.e., other white men), in contrast to candidates with none of those same experiences, even when the candidates with other backgrounds are equally qualified for the role.

Affinity bias can be very subtle. It is human nature to feel the conversation was easier with somebody who in many ways has led the same life you did. It can feel somewhat logical even: The critique of the nonwhite or nonmale candidate is never as obvious as “They didn’t go to Stanford” or “They don’t belong to my country club.” Rather, it is often expressed as something softer and subjective — a seldom-articulated criteria of cultural fit. “Our culture is different from the place they work” is the most common. “I’m not sure they have the drive” is another, or “They don’t have an X-factor.” Now, these critiques can be completely legitimate.

A candidate may indeed be a bad fit for the culture of the firm because, for example, their prior employer was a gigantic corporate machine reliant on extraneous processes and they are interviewing for a role at a small entrepreneurial organization. But sometimes, particularly when interviewing candidates from different backgrounds, culture fit is a mask for affinity bias, and VCs (like all interviewers) need to be conscious of this tendency.

Look in the right networks

Investment firms almost always try to make a hire through their own network before leading a full search, and even before posting a job as being open anywhere online. This has become such an ingrained behavior that it is often discussed as a best practice. Unfortunately, “hiring through our network” almost certainly means the slate of candidates that a firm considers at the outset is going to be heavily nondiverse. Unless a firm (or to broaden this guidance, an organization) is already diverse across multiple vectors, then beginning a search by canvasing the firm’s own network is highly unlikely to yield a “diverse” candidate. This seems innocuous but it can actually be harmful to the odds that the firm ever hires a candidate from an underrepresented group. Why? There is another bias at work, the status quo bias.

Studies have shown that people tend to make choices that favor the status quo. Creating a balanced slate of choices is critical to avoid disfavoring minority candidates inadvertently. One study showed that having multiple women or Black candidates on a finalist slate increased the odds that the selected would be a minority by 70x-100x. But if a group of interviewers meets five white men through their networks before they meet anybody else, it is going to take an disproportionate number of underrepresented minority candidates to overcome the group’s bias toward hiring the “status quo” of the white men they met at the outset of the search.

At True Search, we recently audited one of our own searches to look for candidate-selected markers of their identity. We compared our pool of candidates to the NVCA diversity data from 2018. Compared to the industry averages, our pool of candidates was half as white and twice as female as the industry at large. I am not sharing that data as an advertisement for True Search, and in fact we strive to do more and are working on multiple programs to increase our networks with diverse candidate pools. The point is, when a VC firm uses a search firm or any outside consultant for a search, the pool of candidates is going to be much more diverse than if that VC firm simply calls up the people in their network, who probably are not all that diverse.

Focus on inclusion

A commitment to hiring more talent with underrepresented backgrounds is great; actually doing it is even better. Many studies have shown that diversity improves the performance of a team, but the onus is on the organization to foster an environment where those viewpoints are appreciated. In my discussions with VCs who are minorities, they point out that once they are in the door of the firm they still face challenges that white male colleagues don’t.

They are less likely to have mentors who share their backgrounds, and investing is largely an apprenticeship business. If they did not come from Stanford or Harvard, they are less likely to see deals that come through the sorts of personal networks that the firm is likely accustomed to seeing. If they came from a noninvesting background, they may be taken less seriously when presenting investment ideas to the team of career investors. A firm has to support diversity of thought once it is in the door, or the contributions of those team members may be unappreciated.

Firms can do many things to foster strong talent from diverse backgrounds once they are in the organization. Minority investors have shared some great ideas with me as I was thinking through this article, so these suggestions aren’t just my own. Underrepresented groups have historically (in the short history of such groups having any significant representation in the investing world) formed mentorship networks that transcend the walls of a given firm, such as Latinx VC, BLCK VC and All Raise.

VC firms should build as much connectivity with those sort of networks as possible. This will not only increase the odds that a firm will see more candidates from underrepresented groups, but it will also mean that the firm can play a role in finding strong mentors for their diverse talent throughout their career. Those networks can be built through small individual actions like attending and sponsoring events, or sharing job postings in the firm and portfolio with those networks.

VC firms can also help to jump-start a hire’s network in venture. Imagine a scenario where a firm hires a noninvestor with a unique yet amazing background into an investing role. Their peers all went to Stanford or worked at Facebook and are sourcing their deals through those personal networks. VC firms can use their resources to help close that network gap, such as by setting aside small pools of capital for a seed fund to be deployed by new investors with diverse backgrounds, thereby giving them a boost in early network building. I’ve seen firms deploy this strategy as a way to keep tabs on high potential operators, or on partner-level candidates they want to get to know more before they commit to hiring full-time.

Firms can help train junior talent and better prepare them for future full-time roles in venture by running intern or analyst programs and emphasizing the hiring of underrepresented groups into those roles. Even a part-time gig in VC will give a candidate a leg up in future interview processes, and even if that person goes off to another firm for a full-time role, the network back to that person will remain and could be helpful as a source of (or mentor to) the diverse talent the firm hires in the future.

The iron rule of founder compensation is dead

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

We had the full team this week: Myself, Danny, and Natasha on the mics, with Chris running skipper as always.

Sadly this week we had to kick off with a correction as I am 1. Dumb, and, 2. See point one. But after we got past SPAC nuances (shoutout David Ethridge), we had a full show of good stuff, including:

And that’s Equity for this week. We are back Monday morning early, so make sure you are keeping tabs on our socials. Hugs, talk soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PT and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

We’ve updated The TechCrunch List with 116 new VCs ready to write first and lead checks into startups

We asked, and you have delivered.

We first launched The TechCrunch List two weeks ago to help founders find VCs who are ready to write first and lead checks into 22 specific market verticals like enterprise applications or digital biotech. We based that initial list of 391 investors on direct recommendations from more than 1,200 founders, who often supplied a great level of detail about the investors who helped them on their journeys to build their startups.

I’m pleased to report that since that initial launch, we have had an avalanche of recommendations and emails flow into TechCrunch, and we are ready to unveil a full update to The TechCrunch List.

Now using more than 2,600 founder recommendations — more than double our original dataset — we have underscored a number of the existing investors on our list as well as added 116 new investors who have been endorsed by founders as investors willing to cut against the grain and write those critical first checks and lead venture rounds.

I’m pleased to report that we are starting to get a trickle of investors flowing in from outside the United States, particularly in Europe. That said, we still need more founder recommendations from Europe, LatAm, Africa, and Asia to round out the list. If you are a founder from these regions, you are particularly encouraged to help us identify the intrepid investors that are leading these ecosystems.

If you are a founder and haven’t submitted your recommendation yet, please fill out our very brief survey.

If you have questions about The TechCrunch List, we have put together a Frequently Asked Questions page that describes the qualifications and logistics, some of the logic behind the List, and how to get in touch with us.

Thank you to every founder who has helped us — our hope is that The TechCrunch List will be an up-to-date compendium of the best and most ambitious investors worldwide and a key tool in the chest for founders launching their fundraises.

We’ve updated The TechCrunch List with 116 new VCs ready to write first and lead checks into startups

We asked, and you have delivered.

We first launched The TechCrunch List two weeks ago to help founders find VCs who are ready to write first and lead checks into 22 specific market verticals like enterprise applications or digital biotech. We based that initial list of 391 investors on direct recommendations from more than 1,200 founders, who often supplied a great level of detail about the investors who helped them on their journeys to build their startups.

I’m pleased to report that since that initial launch, we have had an avalanche of recommendations and emails flow into TechCrunch, and we are ready to unveil a full update to The TechCrunch List.

Now using more than 2,600 founder recommendations — more than double our original dataset — we have underscored a number of the existing investors on our list as well as added 116 new investors who have been endorsed by founders as investors willing to cut against the grain and write those critical first checks and lead venture rounds.

I’m pleased to report that we are starting to get a trickle of investors flowing in from outside the United States, particularly in Europe. That said, we still need more founder recommendations from Europe, LatAm, Africa, and Asia to round out the list. If you are a founder from these regions, you are particularly encouraged to help us identify the intrepid investors that are leading these ecosystems.

If you are a founder and haven’t submitted your recommendation yet, please fill out our very brief survey.

If you have questions about The TechCrunch List, we have put together a Frequently Asked Questions page that describes the qualifications and logistics, some of the logic behind the List, and how to get in touch with us.

Thank you to every founder who has helped us — our hope is that The TechCrunch List will be an up-to-date compendium of the best and most ambitious investors worldwide and a key tool in the chest for founders launching their fundraises.

NYC pre-seed powerhouse Notation has a new fund and a new community for founders

While we often focus on the mega rounds that drive big startup valuations, the reality is that every startup has to start somewhere and find that first check that few to no investors are willing to actually write.

Notation though has made that first hurdle its key differentiator.

Across its first two funds, an $8 million vehicle raised in 2015 and a $28 million second fund with more institutional capital in 2017, the New York City-based firm has been intensely focused on the earliest stage startups: founders thinking about spinning out of companies, engineers with ideas scrawled on whiteboards, product developers with PowerPoints or maybe a workable MVP.

For the firm’s two GPs, Nick Chirls and Alex Lines, that stage of a startup’s life was both the most rewarding stage to invest in and where they had the most experience. Formerly, the two had worked at Betaworks, the fund / workspace / incubator / community that has helped bring companies like Giphy to life.

Now, with the pandemic in full swing, the duo are tripling down on their thesis.

The firm announced today the launch of its third fund, a $42 million vehicle that was “closed it in the depths of the coronavirus” according to Chirls. In addition, he highlighted the firm’s first external hire of Katherine Wu as a principal, who officially joined roughly a year ago.

In addition to investing, she will be launching with Lines and Chirls a new program called Notation Moonlight this September, which is designed as a community of up-and-coming tech leaders who are considering building a company someday.

Chirls said that while Silicon Valley has a lot of infrastructure in place to help founders go down the path of starting a company, such resources were less prevalent in New York City and other smaller startup ecosystems. With Moonlight, “we want to begin to build that same set of resources and community for folks that are going to start a company but haven’t yet,” he said.

Wu noted that more direct outreach through initiatives like Moonlight could help improve the pipeline of founders, particularly from less traditional backgrounds or from under-represented groups. “If we’re being totally honest in New York City, entrepreneurship and startups, they’re not as deeply entrenched into everyone’s minds as [they are] in San Francisco and Silicon Valley,” she said. The goal is to “just give them the tools … essentially bring our network to them.”

The initial cohort is targeted at somewhere between 15 and 20 potential founders. Moonlight will not take equity, doesn’t require its participants to give up their day jobs, and essentially will act as a decentralized community for participants to talk to one another and think through the steps of fleshing out products, investigate interesting markets and build friendships that can help make the startup experience a little less lonely.

As for Notation’s new fund, there are some small tweaks. The bulk of the fund will remain devoted to the same geo — New York City — and the same general markets, which include enterprise software and infrastructure, blockchain, and other technical projects. Wu will add a bit more of a consumer flair to the team’s investment interests, and Notation is also intending to invest a small chunk of its fund in smaller startup ecosystems like Boston and Atlanta, where the firm recently made its first investment.

They are looking at these markets “For all the same reasons we loved New York five years ago — there’s great talent, there’s not enough capital, there’s not enough first check firms,” Chirls explained. That’s a sentiment that every founder can empathize with, and Notation now has even more capital to solve it.

NYC pre-seed powerhouse Notation has a new fund and a new community for founders

While we often focus on the mega rounds that drive big startup valuations, the reality is that every startup has to start somewhere and find that first check that few to no investors are willing to actually write.

Notation though has made that first hurdle its key differentiator.

Across its first two funds, an $8 million vehicle raised in 2015 and a $28 million second fund with more institutional capital in 2017, the New York City-based firm has been intensely focused on the earliest stage startups: founders thinking about spinning out of companies, engineers with ideas scrawled on whiteboards, product developers with PowerPoints or maybe a workable MVP.

For the firm’s two GPs, Nick Chirls and Alex Lines, that stage of a startup’s life was both the most rewarding stage to invest in and where they had the most experience. Formerly, the two had worked at Betaworks, the fund / workspace / incubator / community that has helped bring companies like Giphy to life.

Now, with the pandemic in full swing, the duo are tripling down on their thesis.

The firm announced today the launch of its third fund, a $42 million vehicle that was “closed it in the depths of the coronavirus” according to Chirls. In addition, he highlighted the firm’s first external hire of Katherine Wu as a principal, who officially joined roughly a year ago.

In addition to investing, she will be launching with Lines and Chirls a new program called Notation Moonlight this September, which is designed as a community of up-and-coming tech leaders who are considering building a company someday.

Chirls said that while Silicon Valley has a lot of infrastructure in place to help founders go down the path of starting a company, such resources were less prevalent in New York City and other smaller startup ecosystems. With Moonlight, “we want to begin to build that same set of resources and community for folks that are going to start a company but haven’t yet,” he said.

Wu noted that more direct outreach through initiatives like Moonlight could help improve the pipeline of founders, particularly from less traditional backgrounds or from under-represented groups. “If we’re being totally honest in New York City, entrepreneurship and startups, they’re not as deeply entrenched into everyone’s minds as [they are] in San Francisco and Silicon Valley,” she said. The goal is to “just give them the tools … essentially bring our network to them.”

The initial cohort is targeted at somewhere between 15 and 20 potential founders. Moonlight will not take equity, doesn’t require its participants to give up their day jobs, and essentially will act as a decentralized community for participants to talk to one another and think through the steps of fleshing out products, investigate interesting markets and build friendships that can help make the startup experience a little less lonely.

As for Notation’s new fund, there are some small tweaks. The bulk of the fund will remain devoted to the same geo — New York City — and the same general markets, which include enterprise software and infrastructure, blockchain, and other technical projects. Wu will add a bit more of a consumer flair to the team’s investment interests, and Notation is also intending to invest a small chunk of its fund in smaller startup ecosystems like Boston and Atlanta, where the firm recently made its first investment.

They are looking at these markets “For all the same reasons we loved New York five years ago — there’s great talent, there’s not enough capital, there’s not enough first check firms,” Chirls explained. That’s a sentiment that every founder can empathize with, and Notation now has even more capital to solve it.

Extra Crunch Live: Join our Q&A tomorrow at noon PDT with Y Combinator’s Geoff Ralston

From Airbnb to Zapier, and Coinbase to Instacart, many of the tech world’s most valuable companies spent their earliest days in Y Combinator’s accelerator program.

Steering the ship at Y Combinator today is its president, Geoff Ralston . We’re excited to share that Ralston will be joining us on Extra Crunch Live tomorrow at noon pacific.

Extra Crunch Live is our virtual speaker series, with each session packed with insight and guidance from the top investors, leaders and founders. This live Q&A is exclusive to Extra Crunch members, so be sure to sign up for a membership here.

Ralston took on the YC President role a little over a year ago shortly after Sam Altman stepped away to focus on OpenAI.

In the months since, Y Combinator has had to reimagine much about the way it operates; as the pandemic spread around the world, YC (like many organizations) has had to figure out how to work together while far apart. In the earliest weeks of the pandemic, this meant quickly shifting their otherwise in-person demo day online; later, it meant adapting the entire accelerator program to be completely remote.

While still relatively new to the president seat, Ralston is by no means new to YC. He joined the accelerator as a partner in 2012, and his edtech-focused accelerator Imagine K12 was fully merged into YC’s operations in 2016.

How to time your Series A fundraise

When founders start fundraising is as important as how they make their pitch to investors.

Timing matters and it’s more complicated than founders might realize, but it’s not just about picking the right month or time of day. Finding the right time to fundraise requires a micro- and macro-level strategy, according to Jake Saper of Emergence Capital, who joined TechCrunch’s virtual Early Stage event last week.

“There are really two angles to think about,” Saper said. The first is the macro perspective that takes into account the general flow of deals in the industry. Then there’s the micro timing that is specific — and different — for every startup, he added.

While Saper was particularly focused on giving advice to startup founders who have already raised a seed round and are preparing to raise a Series A, he said that most of his guidance can be applied to companies at a variety of funding stages. Let’s get started with the basics.

Peak pitch deck

The reality is that founders fundraise in all times of the year. However, there are certain times of the year when investors are more actively reviewing pitch decks.

January and February, followed by September, are the most active months for investors, based on data from DocSend that measured visits per pitch deck sent out by entrepreneurs each month.

Emergence Capital pitch deck data Early Stage

Image Credits: Jake Saper/Emergence Capital

This fits with Emergence’s anecdotal evidence. The firm sees founders who spend a lot of December preparing for a big launch or fundraise in January and February, Saper said. By the time founders begin sending decks out in January, VCs are back from holiday vacations or other tech-related events, like CES. The same rhythm begins in summer with founders using these months to prep for fundraising in the fall.

While this is a common time to pitch VCs, keep in mind that you’re also fighting for their attention, Saper said.