VC Platform Competitive Benchmarking - a16z, First Round Capital, Accel
a16z (Andreesen Horowitz), First Round Capital, and Accel are all venture capital firms that assist startup companies with various tasks. a16z provides support for executive recruiting, marketing/PR, technology, and business development, and First Round Capital aims at working with technology startup companies. Accel is an international venture capital firm that helps startup companies at the very beginning stages of business. Ut’s important to note here that there were sources available for information surrounding a16z and First Round Capital, but it was harder to track down specifics for Accel. What follows is a breakout of each company as it relates to each company’s respective platform, key features / value-added services, which service they are most well-known for, and how the company sets itself apart from competition. Additionally, the accompanying spreadsheet breakdown down this information as well.
a16z (andreesen horowitz)
a16z is a VC platform that offers "structured support through one of four operational support teams, focused on executive recruiting, marketing/PR, technology, and business development". More than 150 people are dedicated to helping their portfolio of over 300 companies. Operating since 2009, a16z has raised more than $2,700,000,000.
a16z is one of the main VC firms with the "platform" strategy, which is a way for a fund to provide services to client companies who do not have services in-house. These services range from all levels of business development, including access to an executive briefing center, which provides space for face-to-face meetings with customer prospects. These meetings ultimately result in more closed deals.
Portfolio support for a16z is a main priority, because there are more people (150+) helping the portfolio in PR/Marketing, technology, executive recruiting, and business development, than those making investments. They also provide superior blog content and podcasts that serve to increase notoriety and visibility of companies in the portfolio. These bloggers are competitive with the non-firm bloggers and are considered industry authorities. a16z is best known for their platform of services previously mentioned (executive briefing center, PR/Marketing help, technology help), which allows them to reduce costs by outsourcing services for client companies.
a16z is able to set themselves apart from the competition as they consider themselves to be "entrepreneur friendly", and this gives them an advantage in the marketplace, as they can work with clients across numerous business categories. Strategies implemented by a16z are hard for competitors to copy, as they incorporate numerous avenues of business, including content marketing, and software and technology. By maintaining a large support team, a16z can identify as an industry disruptor.
First round capital
First Round Capital is a venture capital firm that focuses on technology startups. Their emphasis is on creating a community of entrepreneurs who they support with a blog and experiential learning.
Operational resources at First Round Capital include "First Round", a technology boot camp that teaches and shifts the focus of startup founders from developing their technology to funding their project. Boot camps are two to six week programs, focused on everything from overall business development and practicing sales pitches, to strengthening the weak points within the startup. These boot camps are responsible for closing more than 1,000 deals for First Round Capital, and are their best-known offerings.
What makes First Round Capital stand out from the rest is their blog, called First Round Review, which shares new information in the technology market, and has an intent to become the "Harvard Business Review" of technology startups. First Round Review is designed to share industry secrets via blog platforms, as they believe the investment industry is too niche, and created the blog to change perception as the industry evolves.
Based in San Francisco, Accel is an international venture capital firm that helps companies from their beginning stages.
A key offering from Accel, "Startup Fellowship" is an application-based mentorship program for first stage entrepreneurs, whether it be “mentorship, infrastructure, or networking”. The two-phase process includes selecting the top 20 applicants for free support, and then developing a small equity investment (roughly 3%).
In 2015, Accel started to focus on API companies (Accel refers to them as APX) to encourage startups to strike deals with other developers, instead of creating areas such as sales technology, themselves. Accel holds conferences on this topic, with large companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Dropbox and Twitter in attendance.
Another service Accel provides is called Skyfund, a program put together by DJI and Accel to promote development in aerial robotics to invest $250,000 in early stage aerial robotics startup companies — this is their best known offer. Beyond identifying as a funding opportunity, Skyfund provides access to support and technical resources that DJI maintains.
Accel has been successful at picking investments that emerge as successful trends, making them stand out amongst the competition. James Cameron is an investor with Accel, and explains that their competitive advantage is to find great teams to get back with founders who are dedicated to moving fast, testing assumptions, and getting to market early.
a16z, First Round Capital, and Accel are all venture capital firms in the market that provide support for startup companies. a16z is entrepreneur friendly, and provides blog content and podcasts to increase their visibility among clients. First Round Capital offers their popular two to six week boot camps, which help clients create business development standards, practice sale pitches, and strengthen their weak points. Accel utilizes their application-based mentorship program titled “Startup Fellowship”, which selects the top 20 applicants for free startup support, and then develops a small equity investment.