What makes Benchmark unique? TechCrunch founder and CrunchFund founder Michael Arrington tackled this question in an on stage interview with the entire Benchmark partnership at TechCrunch Disrupt Europe today.
The firm, which has backed Twitter, Instagram, OpenTable, Uber, Nextdoor, Zendesk, Snapchat, Yelp, ResearchGate, New Relic among others, was represented on stage by Matt Cohler, Bill Gurley, Peter Fenton and Mitch Lasky.
Gurley explained that the firm views venture capital is a services business. “We try to earn our reputation and brand every day,” he says. “We focus on one place, where we can take an ownership stake big enough to allow us to take board seat and practice the art of adding value. Once we do, we want to be the highest executing board member that founder has and we’re out there everyday trying to earn that reputation.”
Twitter board member Fenton, says the firm focus on providing what does’t scale. “What brings us joy and motivates us is the company building stuff. Developing a strategy, closing a VP, you can’t create more time to do that. You can’t do that with seed investing.”
One of the major differences in Becnhmark’s structure from other VCs is that it is an equal partnership–each partner has the same compensation and equity. That structure manifests itself in a different operation strategy–partners don’t exclusively work on the companies they source; company building is a firm-wide effort. While Lasky may sit on a startup’s board, Fenton may be involved with recruiting for the company.
When Arrington asked the partnership whether they always answer emails and calls from founder, Gurley revealed that the front desk of the Benchmark office has a list of all the firm’s founder and CEO names so that the receptionist can always immediately forward the call to a partner.
The firm admits that there are multiple ways to win in VC. Andreessen Horowitz, who Arrington compared to as the Walmart of VC firms, has approached venture capital in one way–the agency model–and Benchmark has executed on a different strategy.