Venture capitalists and angel investors weigh in on what they're looking for in your company blog.
Aaron Gowell, CEO of SilverRail Technology, which is helping to build an online travel platform for high-speed trains in Europe, decided to start blogging in July of this year.
“For a business like ours, in which there are no comparable companies, it truly is an entrepreneurial idea, and you have to explain it and build credibility,” he says.
His company works directly with high-speed rail providers to build what amounts to an Expedia for trains. He does most of his business in Europe, where high-speed rail is a burgeoning market. He doesn’t have to worry about mass consumer appeal. Yet, founded in 2009, the company is still young, and providing an online presence that may entice investors is important. “We’re thinking about doing a series B,” Gowell says.
“We try to make our posts fairly statistic-based, and it is deliberately written so potential investors and partners look at this stuff,” he adds.
And Gowell's on the right track. Fundraising has never been easy, and the emphasis put on a company’s online presence has only added a new wrinkle for many entrepreneurs.
While stories of a small company's bold Twitter and Facebook pages attracting investors make headlines once in while, experts say investors often look to blogs for a level of depth that can't be found on Twitter or Facebook.
An entrepreneur's regular contribution to their company's blog—even their own personal blog—gives investors a look behind the brand. And aside from personality, investors are looking to see that entrepreneurs use the power of their blog wisely.
Here, experts discuss how a company blog can help attract an investor.
Strategize the content. Edward Williams, partner at Brook Venture Partners, says that he looks at all the standard data when considering an investment, but treats blogs a little differently.
If a company has a blog, he says, he’ll look at that to get a fuller picture of what the company and the founder are like, and, though blogging is often thought of as an informal medium, Williams’ standards are no less exacting.
“I want to know this company. I want to see disparate posts that are not affiliated with the company," he says. "I want third-party content that evaluates a product or service.”
Michael Greeley, a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, says that founders should follow one dictum that applies to all aspects of a company’s self-presentation, no matter what the medium: “Be very judicious about what you put out.”
Be transparent. A thoughtful company blog may be one way to get attention, but Greeley says he likes to see blogs of companies that champion transparency-- his own included.
“We are one of the few firms where every partner blogs,” he says.
Greeley recalls one company that was courting, and being courted by, several venture capital firms. After the start-up received an offer from a firm, it posted the offer, stripped of identifying details, online.
The start-up founder had, it seems, conceived of his postings as a way to help other company founders understand what a funding round looks like from the inside, and the effect was that the investment firms began bidding against one another.
“It ended up becoming a competition, it ended up becoming this remarkable phenomenon,” Greeley says.
Use press to get press. Let's face it: Investors will always be more interested what reputable publication says about a company than what that company says about itself. But there are certainly ways to use your blog as a vehicle for such press.
Once your blog is established and it has generated a following, think of your bloggers as expert voices.
“My CTO just did an article for the BBC that got a fair amount of coverage,” Gowell says. “When you go to a new investor and they do a Google search, you sure like to see the first page be on the BBC.”
A company blog should also be a place where investors can see any other press about the company.
Williams says highlight the big guys: The weight an investor will give to a piece of press he or she finds online will depend on the publication that ran it as well as the credibility of the writer or reporter. “It depends on what kind of press it is,” he says.
“Who is the creator of the content, if it is local XYZ versus local ABC, that will have a certain weight.”
Read what investors write. Before you start blogging, read what investors write on their own blogs and use it as a guide.
Williams doesn’t blog, but Greeley does, and he has certain rules for his own posts that small business owners may do well to emulate.
“My advice is to have the post be short, and to follow the truism that if I had more time I would have written a shorter letter,” Greeley says. “It has to be really thoughtful and on point.”