This is a guest post by Christian Thaler-Wolski, Principal at Wellington Partners, who has been a mentor at many Seedcamp events in the past year. A couple of days ago Wellington Partners announced an investment in Berlin-based social commerce provider Bonusbox (see the press release here). This blog post is less about Bonusbox itself, but rather about how the investment came about, and how big the value of relationship building really is.
I’ve been a more or less regular mentor at Seedcamp for a while and think their team do an awesome job at how they build a great network of mentors and supporters around their mission. I mentored Bonusbox at Mini Seedcamp Berlin in April 2011 in a mixed group of industry veterans, product experts and other VCs.
We gave them some great advice but my final thoughts were this team needed to further flesh out the idea and also bring in a technology co-founder in order to be fundable. Nevertheless it sounded like an interesting story and I decided to keep them on my radar screen and do some initial light research around the topic.
About 2 months later I met Marc Strigel, who was in my group of mentors at Seedcamp, and he told me that he had agreed to an angel investment in Bonusbox. A few weeks later I got a generic email from Robert Heesen, one of the co-founders, updating me about their progress. Specifically, he informed me about their progress of the last 3 months, their current challenges (e.g. going from interim CTO to permanent CTO), and that they’d be closing a small angel round soon.
I archived the email and that was it. In September, I got an email from Paul Gebhardt, the other co-founder, saying he’d be at the Pirate Summit conference, and whether we could reconnect there (I guess he had read the events page on our website). We had a small chat about their progress and ambitions, and agreed to have a meeting in Berlin. That was the initial impetus for us to pick up talks in Berlin and deep dive the idea and potential business models. Early this year, we closed a seed round where we pulled in some more business angels such as Christophe Maire.
The primary message of this blog post is that VCs often (and maybe it’s just me) like to be in the loop early to follow progress for a while. Especially in seed stage companies, those major progress updates can be complemented by informal meetings at conferences or other networking events. Then, it helps a lot to have relevant business angels interested (or already invested) that not only help to make introductions, but also help with their expertise in the early phase of the company.
To close the story, no one should underestimate the value of networking and relationship building and the value of follow ups. I may miss an email, I may not have time to focus on it or I may change my opinion – so please keep in touch!