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A little bit about Kate Talbot
Kate Talbot is Senior Forbes contributor and Marketing strategist for great VC firms such as Plexo Capital, Community Fund and Flybridge. Kate has a background from working directly with none other than the famed Sir Richard Branson, in startups backed by revered firms such as Andreesen-Horowitz and has now started her own consultancy where she works with VCs on developing and executing their marketing strategy.
Some things you’ll learn from Kate:
– The importance of saying “Yes!”.
– The strength of a well-crafted content marketing strategy & how to build it.
– How to benefit from your ethos and use it to hack current media agendas and stand out from the crowd.
– Why marketing needs to be top of mind of any VC firm.
– How to humanize VC & make it leverage the power of community.
If you’d like to listen to more of these meetings with European VC champions, follow the EUVC Podcast.
Kate Talbot (Kate): Thank you so much! Working with Lo and seeing how much he skyrocketed this past year-and-a-half has been amazing. I can’t wait to share more.
Andreas: There’s a funny story because, when we reached out to you, I didn’t realise you were actually working with Lo and Plexo Capital, and once I found out I was super happy because I am a big fan of your work without knowing!
Kate: Yeah, that’s great! We think that we’re just tweeting for a small audience or for the US, but to know that it’s international and so many people are becoming huge fans of Plexo Capital and Lo, who’s done amazing work all throughout his career, is just incredible. We’re a small team but, when we hear these words, it means a lot.
David Cruz e Silva (David): Kate, you were introduced to us via Shomit Gose, and we could start our interview there. Shomit gave you some career advice years ago: What was it and how do you apply it to your career today?
Kate: I love the story of meeting Shomit. I was getting my MBA in San Francisco, one of our courses was Silicon Valley immersion. I was the only woman in the course, it was me and 10 men. We went to Sandhill Road where Onset Ventures is located, to ask Shomit some questions and show our interest. I think my question was “what was it like going to UC Berkeley at the age of 15?” Shomit was, of course, very humble about it.
My project at Silicon Valley immersion was to write about social venture capital. He helped answering some questions for my white paper and, through that, he saw that I was a great writer – I don’t say that boastfully, I say it because that’s what he said. For the last 10 years he’s, literally, told me “you are smart, you can do anything.”
He also told me to always say yes. So, as I built out my own consultancy, every time something incredible comes my way, whatever it is that seems so outside of my comfort zone, I tap into what Shomit said to encourage me. Remember to always to say yes, in your career. That led to diverse challenges as becoming a Snapchat expert witness, to interviewing Courtney Kardashian or do a series B deck. The action sparked by Shomit’s advice made me catapult my career. And I hope anybody who’s listening just says yes to any adventure that comes their way.
David: That’s so cool! I think that story speaks both about Shomit, he’s a great friend of The European VC, and about you, Kate. Andreas is a real fanboy of Lo Toney and, as he said, you made some really amazing work with him, and I truly believe that it embodies the strengths of a well-crafted content marketing strategy. I’d love for you to lay it out for us, explain the overall rationale behind it and what it has done for Lo and Plexo Captial.
Kate:. So just some background. I worked with Lo about six years ago at a social media startup, we sat next to each other and that startup pivoted. Then, in November 2019, as Lo was about to launch Plexo Capital – it was a spin-off of Google Ventures – I get an email that says, “Kate you’re running my social media”. It was very much faded in the stars that we would work together. I’m not sure I even had a say in it but, as Shomit told me, I said yes, and it’s been a great journey.
So, this was in November of 2019 and Lo launched his firm to the public in December with great fanfare. We worked with a PR firm but, after that, it was just Lo and me working together on a social content and PR strategy. My background, as you guys said, is in social media. I’ve worked with many VC firms and startups, so I knew what we need to do, focusing on Twitter as well as on LinkedIn.
What’s great about Plexo Capital is that it is focused on diversity and inclusion. So, our brand ethos was always in the messaging that we’ve done and has been a part of every single social media tweet, LinkedIn post, and every kind of content that we did. But a lot of people might not know that we’re also an institutional investor going across all different aspects of the startup ecosystem. That’s a big part of Plexo Capital that we want to bring into our messaging as well. Therefore, from November to March, Lo would go to a lot of events. He went to Upfront Summit, we got a great photo with Paris Hilton and him, and we thought about influencers from the start. That’s a funny story that maybe I’ll tell on another day. And we did a lot of “on the fly” content – he was in LA and I was in the bay area. But, when COVID hit, we really thought about real-time communications and being part of conversations that were happening. In March Sequoia did a Black Swan about what founders should do in these times. And we drew from that idea and did it for what emerging managers should do as they’re raising a fund. We’ve always been trying to help the VCs that are also raising funds at the same time.
Then, a pivotal point for Lo and for Plexo Capital happened during the summer, with the unfortunate events of George Floyd. Lo is a black man, he grew up in Oakland, and he also has an amazing voice. We were able to get out an incredible medium post called “I’m a VC, but still a black man in America”. Maybe that’s when you guys heard of him, because it truly catapulted everything to a next level for Plexo Capital and Lo. That article got Lo tons of press: Fortune, Tech Crunch, Forbes, you name it! For them Lo became the go-to venture capitalist that had insights about Black Lives Matter and what we could do as a community, to make changes within the startup and tech ecosystem.
The fact that we’ve always focused on community, diversity, inclusion, and how we can be part of conversations that are happening in real time, helps not only the founders, because we do direct investments, but also our institutional investments. That’s just been part of our strategy. We’re really lucky and thankful that people have been so receptive to the words that we put out there.
Andreas: Kate, just to double tap on the fact that Plexo Capital actually acts as institutional investors, since VCs that invest directly into companies and also into management companies is something that most in Europe people haven’t seen. I’d like to ask you what it has been like to target emerging managers, in contrast to targeting founders. Have you seen any difference there?
Kate: From a marketing perspective it feels a little bit different because traditional VC firms try to find their specific founder audience, so that they can speak to them and get deal flow. But, since we’re an LP and about 15 GPS, that definitely requires a different way of looking at the market. We’re not just doing the direct investments; we’ll soon launch an open source YC for GPs. We’re going to help emerging managers learn how to be better fund managers and let them know and all the stuff that can help them rise up.
So, when we talk to founders, we’re not only thinking about what we can do to get deal flow, we also want to empower the emerging managers that are out there. Lo built-out Plexo Capital on his own, he has insights from his past learnings and has a great network that we’re going to bring in, so that we can teach the Emerging Managers. And this might all change by the time it launches, we’re going to use emerging platforms like Clubhouse to do our open-source communication. The marketing looks different as a firm that’s not just doing direct investments but, because of that, we’re thinking of ways that we can empower and help the emerging fund managers out there.
David: Will it be open to European emerging managers?
Kate: If you’re on Clubhouse… [laughs]
David: Well, many of our readers will keep their eyes peeled as this might be interesting for them!
Andreas: David and I are in our day-to-day work trying to help emerging managers in Europe, because there are so many people trying to crack into VC, and people are just left out on the field. We need people like Lo and Founder Institute working to create a new breed of VCs. That alone gets him all the respect in the world from us.
David: Kate, as you know, Europe is made of several different countries, and this makes it very hard to build established brands because it’s hard to have that consistent ethos, that’s embedded in every single piece of content you put out there. What would be your tips to face this challenge?
Kate: At the beginning of this conversation, Andreas pointed out that he’s a big fan of Lo. And when I think of my own content, I don’t think hitting specific geographies. I think we’re just creating for Lo to be the best diversity investor in the ecosystem. Therefore, I wouldn’t think so much about Europe and being geo specific. We live in a Zoom world or however you want to call it, we can think about how you build your brand to be the best investor in the the FinTech space, or the Green space, or whatever space you focus on. I know obviously there are differences between Europe and Silicon Valley, but now I feel it’s a whole different world. So I would encourage anybody within Europe to just think of ourselves as one big ecosystem, because we all have the same tools to connect, converse and build a brand as somebody who’s going to be great within the vertical that you’re investing in.
Andreas: That also speaks to an interesting point, Kate. It means, to a large extent, you’re saying to transcend the traditional media sources. PR is one of the things that I see many of the older school European VCs thinking as an important source, but if you went to the local media you’ll be only hitting that’s media’s national community. What are your thoughts on PR in general and using it to get your word out?
Kate: PR and the traditional media forms still need to be part of your strategy. PR is great, especially when a startup is in the early fundraising stages, when they raise the Series A and they get that PR, they get mentioned in Tech Crunch or Venture Beat. That visibility helps with varied things, such as hiring better, and I’m sure the VCs are always happy to see their investments out in the press.
In terms of traditional media, you can build relationships with press and then use social media – Twitter, Instagram, or any kind of social media – to nurture that relationship. So, when you have an announcement – launching a new fund, for example – and you want press for it, those relationships are super important. Another option is to own your own press: you can put it on PR Newswire, see who’s reaching out to you, and what you get from that. Or you can use your social media to do your announcement.
Right now, I think it’ll always imply a mixed approach. You can own your own press and make your announcement on your own channels; you can also build those long-term relationships with journalists that might not be so close to you; and you are able to connect through social media like Clubhouse, Twitter, LinkedIn, and then you might get visibility that way.
Either way, I think press is great, but you also want to be thinking about how you can live on different channels. Not everybody’s reading Tech Crunch, they might be scrolling on Twitter for their insights, and the world is always changing around press and media.
Andreas: Kate, I understand that you’ve been helping some VCs raising their funds during COVID. Covid has changed how things work and I guess it has also had some impact on the VC fundraise playbook. Can you share some of your learnings on that subject?
Kate: This is one of the first times that I’ve been part of the fundraising process. At Plexo Capital, Lo’s involvement with the Black Lives Matter movement helped us get more investment from some of our previous investors. We’ve been fundraising for the last couple of months and, despite being a marketer and not taking part of the fundraising meetings, there are some COVID changes that helped us. We did our LP meeting virtually, that made it possible for us to record it and make it into something for us to learn from. We branded the whole LP meeting to be an asset for our fundraising. This was an unexpected benefit that the COVID situation brought and made it possible to have those assets that we can always use.
Recently we did a Clubhouse room with Lo Toney and Richard Kerby from Equal Ventures, and that room had 1100 people, which is really big for Clubhouse. It was all about how to raise your first fund and we had some other VCs there, like Sheel Mohnot from Better Tomorrow Ventures, who’s also a Clubhouse influencer with 2 million followers. After that event, Kuji Chahal who helps raise with Lo, got tons of inbound, some of the people that they’re targeting were in that room such as people from CalPERS. We’ve been really cognizant about who our target list is, how we can communicate better with them, show them who we are, build our brand, and then throw it all together to make sure that we get our funding.
Andreas: I’m an avid Android user so I’ll be looking for my wife’s old iPhone 4 to try and run Clubhouse to get in those rooms! [laughs] I wanted to dive in your help to emerging managers, especially the under-represented ones. In Europe you can often meet managers thinking that external marketing advice is something you get if you are a big, well-established fund. But is that really the case?
Kate: No, definitely not. I think that most venture capital funds in America have a marketing specialist part of their team, whether in-house or as a consultant. Even The Community Fund, which is run by Lolita Taub and Jesse Middleton, that’s only a $5 million fund – it’s more like a rolling fund –that had marketing as well and I helped them.
Marketing is great and I think it’s an amazing resource to have. The world of marketing, and the world of VC, is always changing, so you want to be up on the trends, understanding how to get the best distribution, how to tell your story, and build your brand to the global audience.
David: When we fist talked, you said something that really stayed with me – you talked about making VC digestible and, connected to that, you talked about humanizing it. All of that to understand and use the power of community to achieve the goals of the emerging managers and their funds. Can you share your views on that with our readers?
Kate: I think that’s best exemplified when I worked with The Community Fund. Lolita Taub, who is pretty huge on social media, has done a really incredible job of being vulnerable and telling her story. She’s a female millennial and I think that some of the best influencer storytellers out there are female millennials, because they understand the social ecosystem very well. So, when we launched The Community Fund, we launched with Lolita Taub’s and Jesse Middleton’s personal stories front and centre. It wasn’t about how big is the fund? It was, this is my story: Lolita had cancer, her dad had passed away, she’s building the community fund because she came from the ghettos of LA and now has access to capital.
Now, if we just had come across and said: “we raised $5 million for the fund and X, Y, and Z.” That story isn’t exciting, you’ve heard it many, many times before. But the story of Lolita being very vulnerable made so many people connect with her, and we were able to really galvanize our audience. The community fund has 11 additional partners and we’re using a soft launch where they tell their stories to get inbound and to have people be part of the fund.
I think almost 500 people applied to be part of the fund right then and there, because people share their stories. The fact that they started with their stories and humanized themselves from the beginning led to everybody that they chose to be part of that fund having a beautiful story as well. So, when the fund actually launched, we also had every single partner share their stories – maybe that was an Indian, or a black guy from Chicago, or a black and Jewish from LA. The way that we look at storytelling in 2021 is really what is different about us, and that really helped out.
The digestible part is that our attention spans are really short. We look at something like TikTok and that’s doing well because it’s based on 15- or 30-second videos. So, I know a lot of VCs love long form content, people get a lot from it and that’s value, but also try to think about having that long form article, but then you do a two-minute LinkedIn post, or a short newsletter. Always take a long form piece of content and then diversify that across the content distribution spectrum to make it shorter and more digestible, because not everybody has time to read your long form content that might take 30 minutes.
David: Through the podcast we’re trying to find ways to help make VC more understanded by people. Andreas and I are working with founders and some terms are completely alien even to them. When you’re building a community, you want to bring in all the players in the ecosystem, not the just the founders, the GPs and the LPs, and you need to make your message super clear. Could you share some learnings from working in the industry – some concepts that are particularly hard to translate and make them digestible?
Kate: I’m a newcomer in some ways this whole world, I’m not an investor, but I had a conversation once with Lo about GP stakes, the private equity world and how you do management fees – I’m not perfect with it either. That was a conversation that blew my mind, and I spent the weekend researching it.
What I like to do when I’m editing or revising content with VCs is thinking: how I would understand this if I was just a normal person. Somebody I worked with, Jeffrey Bussgang, a Harvard business school professor as well as a partner at Flybridge Capital, does a tremendous job of making stuff digestible and understandable for the common audience. And I think any writer, whether writing about VC, crypto, cybersecurity, or fashion, has to make it digestible and understandable for everybody out there or you’re just not going to get a larger audience. If that’s your goal and you don’t make things digestible, then you’re going to be missing out. So, we all must write for the common person like me [laughs].
Andreas: To the tough people who would only want to talk to VCs and say they don’t need the common people, the point would be that the LinkedIn algorithm doesn’t like people who don’t talk for a lot of people, so they won’t get to the VCs unless they talk for everyone.
Kate: Exactly! That and doing the right content for each medium – long form posts don’t do well on LinkedIn, but short videos do.
If you have a bigger message, that’s harder, but always be thinking about how can you make it quicker, digestible, and understandable because we have to base our lives off the algorithm at this point.
David: Kate, I want to circle back and ask you a question suggested by Shomit Gose. You have interviewed a lot of super interesting and famous people – Sir Richard Branson, Kourtney Kardashian, Maria Shriver, Alex Morgan, just to name a few. What would you say that you see in common across them? And is there any insight to the regular mortal that we can use to build our personal brands?
Kate: [laughs] Well, I’m not a reality TV mogul or a super soccer star, but here are some things that I’ve thought about that might answer your question.
The first one is perseverance. If you look at every single one of the people I’ve interviewed, they’ve all hit rough patches or launched something that didn’t go well. Sir Richard Branson did Virgin Cola, the Kardashians have launched many things that haven’t done well, but instead of letting it stop them, they’ve gone right back up, tried again and iterated.
I think that’s a big lesson for the VCs or startup founders reading us – to truly have perseverance. And I use that in my own entrepreneurial journey as well. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, it’s just not going to go our way, but we’ve got to have a positive attitude and move forward.
The second thing that I think they do great is having diversification. You look at somebody like Alex Morgan, who’s a soccer star, but she also has her own clothing line, she’s done great partnerships as a brand ambassador. You look at the Virgin brand and they have everything under the sun. The Kardashians have so many different product lines and businesses.
So, think not only about what your main core product is, but how can you diversify yourself as an entrepreneur. And I do that myself, I have about eight different business lines of revenue, and that helps me out because if the service side of consulting isn’t going well, maybe I’ll get a great Forbes interview and that will help me out.
And the third one I’ve thought about, and which I really love, is that every single person I’ve interviewed references family and I think that’s so important. A few years back, I was at the Hollywood walk of fame with Sir Richard Branson and his family when he was getting a star and you could tell that he really cared about making sure that his family was well taken care of and that they were part of the journey with him. Then you look at the Kardashians and it’s all about a family business. And Alex Morgan is a new mom and really thought about how her business is going to look that way. Maria Shriver is now doing a show with her son, Patrick, and she loves all her kids. I think that the fact that they put family first really shows that these celebrities’ entrepreneurial journey is also supported through having great family and friends and making sure that they’re a part of that, because without them it doesn’t have as much value.
I’m so thankful, for being able to interview these incredible entrepreneurs and superstars. And I’ve been able to take their insights to my own business and, hopefully, spread the word through my Forbes writing as well.
Andreas: A lesson for all of us: Family and perseverance, and oftentimes I find that those things go hand in hand. It’s time to challenge you with the quickfire round, are you ready to go?
Andreas: What would you say to VCs thinking that they can take care of their marketing themselves without a dedicated resource in their team?
Kate: You definitely need to hire out because you want to make sure that you’re seen and visible to the whole public.
Andreas: What’s the one thing VCs should remember when building their brand on-line
Kate: You brand is a moat that differentiates you from everybody else. Invest in it so that you’re able to be seen when people are looking for funding.
Andreas: What’s next for Kate Talbot?
Kate: Well, I just launched my course about how to be a solopreneur and I’m really excited! It’s now out in the public, and it’s all about how to craft your founder story, get press, scale your social media, and work with influencers. It’s been very exciting to add that as an entrepreneur, and it’s one more thing to my business revenue! You can see it on my website, and I also have a newsletter that you can find there. You can also find me on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, and I love connecting with everybody who reaches out!
David: It was really great chatting with you today, we both wish you all the best in your future endeavours. Reach out to us if we can ever be of assistance, you can always count on us at the The European VC!
Kate: Thank you guys so much! This was awesome and I’m so thankful.
And this wraps up our interview with Kate Talbot, founder of Kate Talbot Marketing.
As you know, here at The European VC, we just can’t say no to a good peek into the mind of a great VC so, if you happen to know one you think fits these interviews, we’d love to hear from you.
But this is not a one-way street – if you are raising an international round or advise a startup you truly believe in, do reach out! We’ll be happy to help and introduce you to relevant VCs in our network.