February 16, 2023

April 25, 2023

🧱#5: Content Is King

Content is king - yet it's incredibly hard to do. Here's how we're thinking about our own content strategy at focal.

brick by brick

Episode Transcript

After looking inward during our January offsite and challenging our own content strategy as part of it, we decided to start sharing more of our own thought pieces in this newsletter.

Why?

Because in the last two years, we shifted towards being a digital first firm and writing is a key pillar of how we operate internally. Specifically, it:

  1. Is the best way to clearly structure ones thoughts (if you can capture it in writing in a simple and clear way, you’ve fully thought it through)
  2. Forces us all to think upfront
  3. Holds us all accountable
  4. Allows us to look back and learn from past decisions (we can’t wait to start exploring tools such as Pal / other AI assistants for our internal data)

Likely, none of this is new to you. However, because we do spend a lot of time documenting the things we work on internally, we figured we might as well start sharing them externally too - hoping to start a dialogue with our peers that makes us all better at building our respective firms.

Okay cool, but that’s not what I signed up for / subscribed to…

That’s totally fine, we will not be offended by an unsubscribe. As our firm’s favorite Barry’s instructor always says:

“If you don’t like mine, there are a lot of great other instructors and classes to go to”

How we are thinking about content:

As we all know, the world of VC is being flooded with content these days. Almost every firm and every individual is a (wannabe) thought leader these days.

Why do VCs produce “thought leadership”?

Our end goal is to invest in people and businesses that ultimately provide a great return. However, to get there, you need to see the right businesses in the first place and then the cherry on top is providing guidance that helps founders reach their goals. Back in the day, a VC firm could operate behind closed doors. But as we all know - unless you have a strong brand already - those days are gone. Nowadays, being a VC requires much more sales and marketing know-how.

What is the ROI on this content?

The data on this is kept close, and is often only shared if the number is big. Qualitatively, we think that success is defined by how often a firm comes to mind for the RIGHT people and/or target audience.

Those who write (or have their ghostwriters write) 5 star content earn more brain share. However, despite (or because of) tools like ChatGPT, creating insightful and unique content has become incredibly hard. Nathan from Divinations recently wrote a good post on what it takes for essays to spread. He also wrote a good piece on why content is king - citing an essay by Bill Gates with the same title published on the Microsoft website in 1996 where he argues:

“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

He was right. Many great businesses were launched and / or supercharged by written content. From Bridgewater to Fred Wilson / USV to newer media businesses turned investors such as 20VC and Not Boring Capital to name a few.

How do we compete with these though?

Our answer: We don’t.

Rather, we narrow down our target audience, go more niche, and write about things where we actually have an opinion. It’s hard to force oneself to focus but focus is a superpower.

Differentiation is key here. In fact, this piece by Packy McCormick was required reading for our team going into our offsite. This line was echoing as we finalized our content strategy:

“The Internet uniquely rewards people with Personal Monopolies because it rewards differentiation”.

In line with that, we landed on ten “cornerstones” for our content strategy / writing:

  1. We all pick a niche we enjoy thinking and writing about
  2. In that niche, we can actually have a differentiated voice / opinion of our own
  3. The niches we pick as a team have to be complementary 🤝
  4. What we write about supports the overarching firm goal of increasing the (right) brand recognition with our target audiences of early stage (pre-seed) entrepreneurs / operators and other early stage VCs - i.e. it has to be relevant for what we strive to do as a firm
  5. We keep measuring and iterating 👩‍🔬, but stick to that niche
  6. We maintain an internal knowledge base / idea repository 💡
  7. Using this repository, we build the ideation process into our daily processes so that each time we sit down to write a post, more than half the thinking is already done (vs having to start with a blank sheet of paper —> guaranteed writer’s block 💀).
  8. We aim for our writing to be clear, to the point, and consumable by our audiences - everyone is busy⌚️
  9. We give our writing personality - otherwise we might as well let ChatGPT do the writing
  10. Consistency is 🔑 - it’s very easy to deprioritize writing, especially because initially, it feels like you’re writing for yourself and no one actually cares. That will change. But it takes more time than you think.

All that said, writing interesting pieces is only half the work.

The other half is distribution. Something we’re not very good at yet (self-promotion doesn’t come super natural to us…) but an important piece of the content strategy that we’re looking to tackle / improve over the coming weeks and months.

If distribution of content is top of mind for you too, shoot us a note ✉️.

A lot of our thinking around content will likely evolve over the coming months and we’ll naturally get to a point where we’ll have to decide what to double down on vs what to deprioritize. We’re excited to keep you updated along the journey and continue sharing insights with you.

🏗️ Reads

Useful nuggets on firm building / VC we came across.

1. VC Key Term Refresher
Reading Time: ~3mins

A written piece from Doug Dyer on the terms you should know before you step into an LP meeting (a good bookmark!).

Basic to some, but we could all use a little refresher every now and then. Another longer piece on some of these terms can be found here by Law of VC.

2. 20VC: Homebrew edition
Listening Time: ~1hr

While not in the title, I found this conversation between Harry and Homebrew to be a masterclass on how to run a lean firm successfully under a solid two person partnership.

3. How Fifth Wall Did it (#10LessonsForStartupVC)
Reading Time: ~2mins per

Brendan Wallace walks through the lessons he’s lived through here as he built a multi-billion dollar firm since it’s founding in 2016. The short clips are easily consumable - great content strategy 😉

🤨 Something Fun

Fun and (more or less) useful things we’ve read this month.

1. ChatGPT Plus and Its Reach
Reading Time: ~2mins

A simplified analysis here from Pierre Herubel on what ChatGPT Plus could generate in ARR. The comments are equally interesting. Look out for a future post on how we’re thinking about implementing ChatGPT into our firmwide workflow.

Until next time 🧱,

Sydney & Pascal

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