This question originally appeared on Quora: What tools do associates at venture capital firms use for their daily activities?
Answer by Crystal Huang, VC at GGV Capital, on Quora
Currently I use:
- MS Excel & Powerpoint - for obvious reasons.
- Evernote - taking notes, making to-do lists, and also even for syncing with our deal tracker system, more on this below
- Capital IQ - as an ex-banker, I'm still stubbornly reliant on this for pulling public market information, comparable valuation data, and for the useful Excel plug-in that lets you automate a lot of the financial analysis work. It has its own Excel ribbon with the accompanying shortcuts, and god knows I love Excel shortcuts.
- Crunchbase - sometimes inaccurate vs. CapIQ because they take figures from public news/blogs, not SEC filings, but still useful for getting a snapshot of # of funding rounds, existing investors, exec team names.
- AngelList - mostly I use this to keep track of companies in themes that I already find interesting, such as online lending or maybe mobile language education -- easy way to identify most of the companies in a certain space so I can focus my research and outreach.
- Linkedin - beyond tracking connections, I often use the "get an intro" feature to look for mutual contacts. Usually then I email that person directly; I find the Linkedin intro request form a bit strange and overly formal to use.
- Sevanta Dealflow - we use this as our deal log system; it's not the prettiest system but it was written by an ex-VC, solely for VCs, so it has many investor-focused feature sets (such as a pre-built funnel scoring system, reporting, financial position summaries and coolest of all, the ability to email in notes and autogenerate new deal entries simply by learning one or two pieces of syntax). We worked with the founder to also allow Evernote entries to be sent in and either created as new company names OR synced with existing entries. Our issue with existing CRM vendors was that our investment team tends to take either email or Evernote notes and doesn't want to be bothered with data entry, especially on a system that didn't already fit into our regular workflows. The ease of entering new deals/companies into the system via emails means that we actually record 100% of our new meetings without creating a ton of new work or disrupting existing behaviors of the team.
- Rapportive / RelateIQ - I bucket these together because I use them to the same end: guessing email addresses. Although I strongly prefer to get intros to companies, sometimes when I feel timing pressure, or when there isn't a low resistance way to get an intro, I guess the CEO/founder/executive's email address using one of these; you basically start composing the recipient address in Gmail and test out different iterations until Rapportive or RelateIQ recognizes that person and pulls up a profile.
- eMarketer & Euromonitor - both are great for market sizing data, esp. around ecommerce, mobile commerce, mobile/internet penetration by country, digital advertising spend globally and other commerce or advertising-focused metrics. Both will periodically publish articles or presentations where you can find some interesting data without necessarily having to buy it.
- Surveymonkey - we like to run extensive customer surveys for the consumer-focused companies we diligence, and this gets the job done, plus it auto-generates Excel graphs so I don't have to make them.
- Wechat - because half of our team is based in China, the entire investment team ended up converging on Wechat as an easy communication platform. I love being able to create voice recordings, make wifi-based audio or video calls, and send all kinds of dancing emojis/stickers.
- LogMeIn/Join.me - I manage a few remote interns, and this is a great way to cheaply run screenshare meetings. I know many people prefer to use Google Hangouts, but I've always found this much easier to use. All I have to do is send out an email link (instead of adding contacts, trying to figure out who's in what circles, etc.).
- Weave - a mobile app that is kind of like Tinder for business networking, which sounds atrocious, but isn't! You can basically put up a professional bio, sync your Linkedin, and say yes/no to people you want to meet. You can choose to only be in a few specific rooms, such as for "fundraising" or "looking for a co-founder" if you want to be more targeted. I have met some very interesting founders, executives, and other investors this way. I've tried out a few other attempts at this model, but it's usually hard to get a large enough network of people for you to consistently see quality results. I've definitely set up high quality meetings from this app.
- Noun Project - I don't usually make an art project of my presentations, but sometimes I find it supremely stress-relieving to make pretty slides. (Obviously I'm the life of the party.) This site has beautiful, easy to download/buy vector icons that look great, especially when you're trying to explain how a certain product works and want to cut down on words.
- Product Hunt - maybe once a week I'll look at this to stay up to date on new products, but the volume of new companies/products is huge, and the filter is understandably more focused on "cool products" than on "investable companies," so I don't use it for sourcing much. However, if we are already talking to a company, I'll always peruse their Product Hunt feedback just like I would their app store reviews, Yelp rating, and Glassdoor page
A few others that I know investors like to use:
- Clara Labs and x.ai are both AI-based virtual assistants that help you schedule meetings automatically. I've had VC friends set up meetings with me using both (you can tell because they are cc'ing either Clara or Amy, the placeholder names for the bots). I do enjoy writing very personalized responses to emails, even for scheduling, because earlier in my career, I resented receiving the "you can talk to my assistant" brush-off, but I definitely foresee myself using one of these more often in the future.
- Yesware/Toutapp - both are perhaps better suited for salespeople or demand gen people as they help you send out email templates at scale, then help you track open rates, response rates, and even links clicked to test which messages have the highest conversion rates. VCs aren't really going to send out spam templates and A/B test them, but they WILL appreciate knowing when their emails have been read, so they can decide when or whether they should follow up.
A product that I wish existed:
- A tool that gives me an email alert every time a Linkedin connection with a certain title (founder, CEO, VP of Sales, VP of Engineering, iOS Engineer) leaves his/her company. Recruiting is obviously a key value-add that VCs are expected to bring, and it's always good to know when people might be open to conversations (or at least might want to catch up and tell me about his/her next company!),
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