VCs are starting to get into content. First Round debuted its own version of Harvard Business Review. Andreessen Horowitz recently brought on Wired editor Michael Copeland to lead its content strategy. And Sequoia, who earlier this year hired Ben Worthen away from the Wall Street Journal, is debuting Grove, its new portal for how-to content, videos and events.
Sequoia has been one of the few firms of late that has attempted to avoid putting the focus on the firm’s partners in favor of focusing on the Sand Hill Road giant’s portfolio. But one of the key pieces of feedback that portfolio founders had begun to share with the firm over the past year was that they wished there were a centralized place where they could find advice and how-to’s on important topics like hiring, fundraising and other business advice. While Sequoia partners blogged sporadically and the firm shared small tips on how to structure a business plan, there wasn’t a single destination where all of this content lived.
“The industry is evolving and the world is changing and founders have consistently said they want to hear more for us,” Sequoia partner Aaref Hilaly explained to us in an interview. “So we began thinking of how we can share some of the lessons we have learned as founders with the community in a way that is consistent with our culture.”
The firm decided to take a more entrepreneur-centric approach that would give founders a platform to find practical business advice. More like a Wikipedia and less like a blog (i.e. TechCrunch), we’re told. Thus, Grove was born. It’s a mixture of deep-dives into company-building topics, videos elaborating on these issues, and a destination for events that Sequoia will be planning.
For example, one of the first pieces of content addresses how a startup should approach pricing. It includes a summary of the factors that influence pricing; how customers perceive value; and experiences from companies such as eBay, Evernote, LinkedIn and Weebly. Other topics include how to make non-obvious hires, how to present to investors, winning your first customer, tips on scaling, increasing revenue and more.
Within each guide, Sequoia links to recommended reading, featuring advice posts from Paul Graham, Chris Dixon and others. Grove itself will be edited by Worthen, we’re told.
Sequoia-backed Qualtrics founder and CEO Ryan Smith explains that Grove makes it more of a streamlined process to ask questions from many of the successful CEOs in the portfolio. He adds that this content is public for any founder or startup to see.
Another area where Sequoia will be expanding is in its events for founders. Each month, Sequoia will hold a “drinkup” with a Sequoia partner and portfolio founder, and these events will be free and open to the public. We’re told they will be kept intimate (contained to dozens of guests) with the focus on attracting founders and entrepreneurs. And the added benefit is deal flow and developing a relationship with potentially successful entrepreneurs at an early stage.
As we mentioned above, each VC firm is thinking carefully about how to create a hub for marketing content that is actually helpful to the startup ecosystem. First Round has taken a more intensive approach with its Harvard Business Review-esque site. Google Ventures Startup Lab has started publishing some of its videos and tutorials, which feature Googlers and other technology execs talking about how to navigate things like A/B testing, holding productive meetings and more.
I suspect we will see more VCs throw their hats into the content ring, as there is increasingly more pressure to provide value-added services to founders. And providing this content to the public is good for the startup ecosystem.