(this blogpost builds on the original article announcing the Blume Ventures-DVN strategic alliance, carried below)
“We’re headed to the valley for prospect customer and VC meetings – who can you intro us to?”
“Attending a conference in Singapore in two weeks, and also want to explore setting up our HoldCo and expanding into SE Asia. Need your help”
“We recently had visitors from China and Japan, and learnt about the phenomenal growth of WeChat & mobile gaming in these 2 markets resp’ly. Want to visit Beijing and Tokyo, but don’t know where to start!”
We’ve lost count of the number of times our founders approach us with these “right here, right now” requests. There seems to be a clear pattern behind these asks – the need for an on-demand platform consisting of global investors, customers, partners and and been there/done that founders.
And we’ve been hearing these asks way back from our inception in 2011.
Fast forward to today, just a few days after our 6th Blume Day! Wow, has time flown!
Between Funds I and II, Karthik and I have made innumerable trips globally, especially to the valley, spending time with partners, investment professionals and platform resources of leading VCs like a16z and First Round Capital, to name just two.
Our founder wishlist, compiled over more than half a decade now, centers around some recurring founder pain points, from San Francisco to Bangalore to Singapore:
- How can we best tap into a global network of investors, customers, partners?
- How do we globally benchmark Blume and our founders?
- “Smart money” is now a cliche; what specific new elements can we keep value-adding to our founders?
- The end game: ~ 75% of all M&As take place within the $150-200M range; how do we best understand the needs of Internet giants (Google, FB, Twitter) as well as more traditional behemoths (Intel, EMC, IBM, Salesforce.com) actively scouring for India-driven plays?
- How do we tap into increasing appetite of the Chinese, Japanese, MENA and other nearer-shore corporates and strategics?
- How do we best help our portfolio founders tap global talent?
To map against these systemic pain points, we’ve explored many options, including hiring a senior valley-based resource, closely partnering with global VCs, and so on. We also realized along the way there is no one perfect answer, no one-size-fits-all.
After a Seven-Year Itch, we believe we’ve found the right answer, the right partner.
Enter DVN (Draper Venture Network) !
Tim Draper @ the DVN Summit, November 2016, San Francisco
In a space of over a year, we’ve come to know Tim Draper (the man behind Draper Associates, DFJ, and a closely linked yet wide array of related Draper venture entities) and the executive team of DVN. Through them, we’ve also come to know their member funds (across the UK, Japan, Europe, North Asia, Central America, SE Asia, and of course the US) and in turn, their portfolio founders. What has helped further seal mutual comfort – a common, shared entrepreneurial DNA between our two platforms.
Impact on constituents – what does this really mean?
1) For our Blume portfolio
Borrowing from Alex Rampell @a16z
- Wide distribution and global scale of the DVN platform
- Access to global customers for corporate development and eventually M&A
- If you’re a B2B startup, access to Enterprise clients (e.g. Fortune 500 as well as new age Internet / Tech / H/W and S/W giants and upcoming startup stars)
- If you’re a consumer internet startup, linkages to near-shore e-commerce and other B2C leaders (in Japan, North Asia, Europe, SE Asia and the US)
- Access to other DVN member VCs (for co investments, future rounds, best practices)
- Access to DVN LPs, Valley VCs, domain experts, founders, and advisors/mentors
2) For us (Blume) itself
All the above [for Blume portfolio], plus
- Joint dealflow / pipeline with fellow member VCs
- Shared due diligence especially on cross-border plays
- Access to DVN’s broad network of investors, advisors, CxOs, founders
- Cross learning – sharing of insights, best practices, what mistakes to avoid!
3) For our LPs
While becoming a member fund of the DVN network, Blume retains its independence. In one sense, it is business as usual. That said, our LPs could expect to get access to:
- a wider pool of global peer LPs
- a shared knowledge base for best practices, data driven insights on fund and portfolio company performance, forecasts
Sweating the details
Via an annual calendar of international conferences/events, founder synch ups and other interactive sessions, portfolio will get access to DVN’s full-stack platform. In addition to an Annual Summit in San Francisco, there are also regional conferences hosted by DVN member funds in their home markets.
When you take a deeper look at this alliance, two interesting themes stand out – scale / network effects, and home-grown entrepreneurship. These helped reinforce our belief we’d found the right partner in DVN.
With Gabe Turner, Executive Director, DVN
Tim Draper’s big-picture vision, shared by executives of DVN, translates directly into the expansion of the network to include 10 member VCs, with us being the newest. This conviction around building and amplifying scale matches Blume’s status being consistently one of India’s most active VCs.
Tim Draper and the DVN executive team share a conviction that the most innovative startups seek out the best local fund managers in their home markets. This skin-in-the-game philosophy from peer “home-brewed” funds like Wavemaker (SE Asia) and Dalus Capital (Central America) again mirror Blume’s entrepreneurial DNA.
What excites us most is the network-effects this alliance can create, not just for Blume and its portfolio, but also for India-tech as a whole.
So founders, while you keep your ears to the ground and build quietly, and whether you’re:
- a robotics startup seeking inroads into Europe and the Americas for global customers and R&D talent,
- an apparel supply chain platform, optimizing costs for global brands and factories,
- a clean energy startup focused on reducing carbon emissions in Europe,
- a made-in-India IoT automation startup targeting >50% of ARR outside India, or
- an Indian B2C marketplace keen to incorporate best practices from China,
Founders, thanks to this alliance, the World can be your Oyster ! Full engines ahead !