Posted on
August 22, 2023

The power of authentic business relations

Stéphane Nasser
Co-Founder @ OpenVC
The power of authentic business relations

In this conversation, we discuss the journey of OpenVC, starting as a community-driven VC list and evolving into a comprehensive startup fundraising platform. We delve into customized growth strategies, genuine networking, and the power of educational content. Additionally, we explore how OpenVC's dedication to authentic connections created a supportive community, a crucial factor in their success.

What is your company doing and how did you get started? 

Having worked in both startups and with investors for nearly a decade, I witnessed the struggle founders face in connecting with potential investors. The existing VC lists were either outdated or unreliable, and paying for access to such lists wasn't always feasible for early-stage startups. My co-founder, Lucas, and I wanted to build something different, something that would empower founders and foster collaboration within the startup community. That’s how the idea of an open-source VC list came to mind. We want to build it community-driven (like Wikipedia), but focused on investors.

A platform that would provide verified and up-to-date information on investors, thus, OpenVC was launched as a side project. The initial plan was to build a platform that offers a reliable and accessible VC list. However, as we progressed and gathered feedback from users, we realized the potential to take it much further. Over time, OpenVC has evolved into a comprehensive platform that not only offers a trusted VC list but also a CRM tool to raise funds and a seamless connection system that enables founders to directly engage with investors. The response from the community has been overwhelming, with users appreciating the transparent, collaborative approach we've taken. 




How do you identify and prioritize new growth channels? 

We're more into the organic and SEO game. For now, we are not focusing on paid channels. That said, we first believe it's crucial to be where our target audience is, so we tailor our approach based on their preferences. For instance, we've noticed that German and Singaporean investors are more active on LinkedIn, while American investors tend to be more engaged on Twitter. So, understanding these preferences helps us tailor our approach and connect with the right people. To ensure we're making informed decisions, we collect data from user sign-ups and analyze how they found us. This data helps us gauge the effectiveness of various channels and enables us to double down on what works best for us. For instance, we found out that word-of-mouth and social media, especially Twitter and LinkedIn, have been significant contributors to our user base. So we go all in on that.

Quality content creation is key. The general convention for most social channels is to post a lot. Post every day on Linkedin, post multiple times on Twitter, and so on. But we have focused on quality instead of quantity. We strive to deliver in-depth, high-quality content on topics like VC portfolio construction and financial modeling for VCs. This not only establishes us as a trusted resource in the industry but also helps attract organic traffic through search engine optimization. This has helped us gain significant visibility and attract an audience. Due to our quality, a lot of our users have supported us by upgrading to premium. We've considered trying out TikTok and YouTube, but to be honest, we're a small team, and we don't want to spread ourselves too thin. Right now, our game plan revolves around Twitter and LinkedIn because that's where we feel confident and can really shine. We're all about being data-driven, providing top-quality content, and connecting with our audience where they're most active. It's been working well for us, and we're always on the lookout for new opportunities to grow and expand. 

What are your top skills as a founder? How do you work on it? 

My journey before being a founder contributes a lot to this. After business school, I landed my first job at Microsoft. I had the fantastic opportunity to work in their startup accelerator in Paris, where I was exposed to the world of VCs, startups, and seed-stage ventures. But the real adventure began when I moved to San Francisco and joined a niche consulting firm specializing in connecting US tech companies with major corporate players overseas. In that role, I had the privilege of matching and facilitating high-level interactions at the C level. I observed and learned from the challenges and successes of both sides, engaging in open and genuine conversations that went beyond the usual smoke screens. This exposure to the startup world was invaluable and became the foundation for my journey as a founder of OpenVC. In general, two things are close to my heart.

First, I'm all about efficiency and the love of building great products. When I conceptualized OpenVC, I wanted to take sourcing startups and connect them with VCs on a global scale. That's when the idea of a product-driven approach came in. I realized that scaling up required a transition from a service-based model to a product-centric one. I've always been fascinated by productization, finding ways to translate services and human interactions into efficient and seamless interfaces. It's been an exciting challenge for me, and I derive immense joy from creating something that empowers entrepreneurs on a larger scale.

The second aspect that's personal to me is building authentic relationships. Networking, for me, has never been about traditional handshakes and superficial connections. Instead, I believe in creating and sharing outstanding content, providing valuable and honest insights to the startup community. I've seen how being sincere and genuine resonates with people, and it leads to meaningful relationships. At OpenVC, we've embraced this philosophy by giving back to the community and sharing valuable resources without expecting immediate returns. It's about building trust and fostering a sense of familiarity, where people recognize the value we offer and want to join us on this exciting journey.

In fact, when Lucas and I co-founded OpenVC, we worked together for a whole year before finally meeting in person. We were driven by passion and excitement to create something valuable for entrepreneurs, and that authenticity forged a strong bond between us. My advice to aspiring founders is simple: focus on giving value and let it be known. Share your insights and expertise on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, and you'll see how it pays off in the form of genuine connections and opportunities. By combining my love for building products, and authentic networking, I continue to grow as a founder and strive to make OpenVC a go-to platform for entrepreneurs worldwide. 

What is that one opportunity that had a significant impact on your company's growth or direction? (e.g. scaling a newsletter, growth hack). Can you walk us through it step by step? 

One significant opportunity that had a tremendous impact on OpenVC's growth was the decision to collaborate with a top financial modeler on an extensive financial modeling guide for venture capitalists. We never even met in person; our connection was purely online. We communicated for about three years, exchanging ideas and insights on Twitter. And then when I asked him about his interest in writing this guide, he was on board. Putting together this guide required a huge amount of effort and expertise, and we were lucky enough to find someone who had built their knowledge and expertise over 25 years. He invested a significant amount of time and effort into creating a comprehensive guide, going above and beyond to make it bigger and better. Once we finally released the guide, the response we got was incredible. It ranked super well on Google, and we saw a huge surge in organic traffic. Venture capitalists and investors absolutely loved it! Not only did it bring a lot of new users to our platform, but it also established a sense of trust and credibility within the startup community. It's fascinating how the right educational content can have such a profound effect. In a world where everyone seems to want to be a VC or an investor, there's a strong demand for high-quality, insightful content. And that's exactly what we aimed to deliver. Working on this guide and seeing its success reinforced our belief in the power of building authentic connections and providing real value to the community. It strengthened our position as a go-to resource for aspiring VCs and startups. And you know what's amazing? This guide is still bringing in traffic and engagement, even years after its initial release. It's evergreen content, and that's something we truly believe in – creating content that stands the test of time. 



What part of your business are you most proud of? Why? 

The aspect of OpenVC that fills me with pride is the overwhelmingly positive user feedback and the sense of community support we've received. It's not just another product; it's genuinely appreciated and valued by our users. Knowing that we've built something that brings immense value and assistance to entrepreneurs in their fundraising journey is incredibly fulfilling. Though we're still in the early stages, the strong support and enthusiasm from our community motivate us to keep improving and delivering on our promises. It's the love and trust that our users have shown towards OpenVC that make us truly proud of what we've created.


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