Rebranding a VC is different; here’s my playbook
👋 I’m the ‘brand person’ at an early stage VC. This job was not that mainstream 5+ years ago, but today I’m part of a thriving community of venture capital Value Creation folks — including lots of brand/content/marketing ones.
Earlier this year, I asked for advice from anyone who’s previously completed a VC rebrand and the overwhelming response was, ‘+1!’ Seems like everyone getting into this position seeks insight on what it takes to do a VC rebrand — including:
- How’d you get the partners on board?
- How do you choose an agency?
- What are you looking to accomplish with this?
- What’s the best way to do this?
Now that I’m on the other side, here’s my take 👇
First: Are you really here for a rebrand? 🙋♀️
As fun a project as it may sound, we shouldn’t take rebrands lightly, even at companies. People who don’t understand what ‘brand’ is often end up doing a top-coat redesign — but that isn’t a ‘rebrand’. There’s nothing wrong with a redesign — if you’re looking to change an outcome on your website, freshen up a longtime logo, etc.
What I’ve been busy with is considering who we are as an org, what and who we stand for, what the takeaway should be when someone encounters us in real life or online. What we value, and if/how we want to relate that outside of our team. How to match the public face we show with who we are day-to-day.
Brand ≠ design.
Brand = what makes you you, how your ‘you-ness’ is expressed, including your values, your vibe, and, crucially, how others perceive you.
Skip to the Recipe
That said, make sure you have the ingredients to make this really work as a VC rebrand, and not redesign. High level:
- An understanding of what a rebrand is
- A clear goal
- A ton of buy-in
- Project management skills
- Plus, a dash of reason
Let’s break that down.
1. Understand what a rebrand is 💡
So, we know this is a rebrand and not a redesign! Let’s continue deeper into understanding what exactly we’re about to embark on:
Know if/when it’s time
Is now the time to do this? When I started at Hetz Ventures, I knew a rebrand was inevitable. We didn’t have a visual brand to work with (which wastes a ton of time as a one-member content team), and the website didn’t reflect the essence of who we are in the real world.
But I waited a year to raise it as a serious project (even while team buy-in started building up organically). I needed to feel it out, learn by doing, and get at what it really would mean to do this.
If you’re being pressured to undertake this within three months of starting, I’d strongly encourage you to reconsider. To show the world who you are, you need to live it first.
Know the truth about rebrands
- They take a ton of time (add 2–3 months to your original estimate)
- They take a lot of energy not only from you — but from the people around you (even if it doesn’t seem that way from the outset)
- They’re a long game in our business (you won’t feel ‘results’ for a while)
There’s no escaping any of this, and I recommend making it clear to your stakeholders as well.
Know what it’s going to take
Like anything else in life, set expectations. There’s no way around what you will spend to accomplish your goal:
✓ Energy. This won’t be the only thing you work on over the next half-year. But it sure will be there, every other day, ping-ponging to-do tasks at you. Take your own task list into consideration when starting. You will have to bring in other members of your team as well — less often of course — but scheduling with them, waiting for them, requiring their headspace — should also be understood in advance.
✓ Time. I’m blindly optimistic about timelines. Please take it from me: Your timeline will extend. Create a realistic expectation in your team’s mind, and a buffer in yours.
✓ Money. Budgets are an issue for everyone, and before you seek out the most ‘affordable’ option, I’d consider where your own strengths lay; are you excellent at written comms and have done brand messaging projects before? You might get away with partnering with a brand-oriented design team who gets the importance of brand messaging (while you provide it). If this is not your strong suit, you will definitely want the eyes and ears of a team who works on the whole package — the content and the design.
Know that rebrands are not for the weak — or impatient
Like so much of what we brand/content people do, ROI is not straightforward like it is for direct selling. ‘Proof’ I’ve hit my rebrand KPIs comes in the forms of contacts messaging my teammates saying they like the new look, or getting on a zoom with a VC or founder I’ve never met and the first thing they do is tell me how much they like my content.
I know it’ll take months before I can even fractionally prove that my goals were accomplished… and this is an important point to make when setting expectations, especially in point #3 later on — getting partner buy-in.
But in the meantime — goals. What are yours?
2. Be clear on the goal 🔍
In our case, there was something outdated and/or incorrect about our visual representation, and the messaging needed a serious refresh after four years of operation. Our content (and portfolio) was already reflecting our DNA, but our core visual brand and messaging were not there. We needed to start dressing the part we were already playing.
Our goal: Create a visual and contextual brand that properly reflects how we operate in the real world, day-to-day and long term. Make it easy for founders, LPs, corporate execs, other VCs to absorb who we really are, both locally and abroad, especially as we are a relatively young yet locally established fund.
We knew we needed a whole rebrand vs website redesign, and we also knew what we didn’t need/want — a name change, for example. That’s important too. You may need to change messaging and visuals, but not necessarily logo. You may decide it’s a complete overhaul and change your firm’s name (!). Knowing what your limits are is critical- no reason to go overboard if there’s no concrete goal attached.
What’s your reason for rebranding your VC? Then you can decide what your actual project is: a rebuild or a refresh.
That also makes it easier to set expectations, get that buy-in, and make sure you’re on the same page with your partners.
3. Get buy-in or get out 🤝
Many of us ‘brand’ people at VCs used to work at companies and/or really love working on messaging and content. But the truth of this endeavor is inescapable — as much as we do love working on such core, tangible efforts, it won’t work if we don’t have buy-in. This decision is not solely ours, not even close.
Your VC’s partners have to buy in.
Fact is — true VC — well, definitely early stage — is about people, more than it’s about gobs of money, trends, or even products. At the end of the day, people are meeting people in order to decide who to back, and whose backing to accept.
And the people associated with your brand no matter what you do — the partners — are the people who ultimately need to buy in. As team-oriented as we are at Hetz, the bottom line is the rest of the ecosystem thinks of the partners and investment team when conjuring up our name. Those are the people they interface with, check in with, seek out opinions from.
You can knit the cutest Christmas sweater for someone and they can thank you profusely, but if you didn’t consider what they’re into or it doesn’t fit, they won’t wear it. The nightmare for me would be doing months of knitting to find out after that my team would be embarrassed to wear it.
If your partners don’t see the vision you’re proposing or they assume you’re just going to handle it all while leaving them out of it — they’re not bought in and this will not work.
If they are, though — you’re set for yet another job title: project manager.
4. It’s a ton of project management 🗂
A lot of us came from companies before we got into VC. If you’re used to managing rebrand projects within companies, understand the big differences in working with an outsourced brand/design/content agency, especially for a VC project:
- You don’t own the timeline
- The agency has a learning curve — and you are the teacher
- No one is as invested as you are
This is all true re: any company out there, but with VC, it’s heightened. The biggest one is learning curve. As a VC, you won’t fit into a tight, well-established agency template for a client rebrand. It’s even different to other types of big, established investment firms. There are a lot of things to explain before your rebrand partners can truly dive in:
- What VC is and isn’t — plus some level of industry terms/do’s don’ts
- The culture of the ecosystem as a whole — as opposed to ‘getting’ one industry
- Multiple audiences, which are quite different than classic ‘customers’
- What VC audiences care about is very different
- The CTA is different (and often not very visible by design)
Choosing who to work with
That said, when choosing who to work with, it’s not just about the talented, creative output they have delivered in the past. It’s also choosing the team that is flexible enough to learn about VC and be prepared for nuance and to trust you that you know industry well, as well as they know brilliant messaging or beautiful design.
One of your main jobs is going to be interpreter, on top of everything else you’ll be running. As previously said —
- The CTAs are different
- The language is different
- The messaging is different
- The goals are different
They won’t get it on the first shot every time, but if you choose wisely, you go with a team that’s naturally curious to take on something different, ready to listen, and happy to work on this together.
Get input — it’s not a lone job, even if you feel like a lone wolf
Two things about this VC-brand role:
- It’s often lonely; we’re naturally accustomed to being very brainstormy people and we often are built to work best this way.
- It’s easy to get caught up in the echo chamber of it all.
Think like a product marketer or product manager for a second, and make sure you get opinions from several stakeholder ‘personas’ so you don’t end up siloing, and you do end up with richer ideas.
Actively seek input — from your partners, your wider team, your portfolio, a trusted LP, colleagues in the industry, marketers you used to work with. If it’s just you and the agency you hired, the work just cannot come out as rich and deep and relatable.
Getting outside opinions also helps keep you in line and on track; let’s move on to several reasons why staying on track is important.
5. A dash (or two) of reason before you start 🧂
Don’t be a perfectionist
Your VC brand and website are not everything that makes you successful — it’s not like a tech company you invest in, with its key metrics and clicks and downloads — at the end of the day, what needs to get across for our VCs is our reputation (team, portfolio and standout value/s).
Your website is essentially a business card
Rebrand or redesign — if you find yourself spiraling into overthinking — remember: for us as VCs, our websites are essentially big, expensive business cards.
Go check out your website analytics — which are the most clicked sections on the menu? Team and portfolio. Bottom line, whether founders, other VCs, or potential LPs — these are the things people are digging for on a VC website. Don’t make that hard to find.
All rebrands come to an end.
You have a bigger job to do; this process is temporary, even if it takes 4–6 months. But long after the rebrand is done, you’ll still be working hard at raising the firm’s profile, being of service to your portfolio, creating kickass content, forming great communication with LPs, and so on.
Hetz Ventures, Before and After 💃
I’ll show you mine if you show me yours (link ’em in the comments)!
Here’s Hetz Ventures, before and after:
Well, go on: www.hetz.vc
I’m really pleased with our outcome — as is our team, the agency we worked with, and the word on the street.
Big thanks to the team at wearecapri.com for the collaboration, the genuine curiosity, and the amazing outcome.
And of course, to my own team, for being excellent partners for all the reasons listed above.