A year (and a bit) of sharing dealflow

tl;dr: 44 companies. 474 intros. $1m+ invested in 6 companies (that I know of) so far.

A little over a year ago, I started sharing dealflow with about 35 friends. The inspiration was pretty straightforward. A lot of the investors I knew in the US and Asia wanted to hear about interesting companies in Europe and worldwide — particularly at pre-seed, seed and Series A stages. I was also inspired by what Anthony was doing, and what Charlie and Samantha were doing for the NYC community, and I wanted to do more to connect smart investors with great companies.

So far, the idea has been a qualified success. Every month or so, I sent out an email with some info on between four and eight companies. If investors are interested in a company, they let me know, and I do the intro. I vet everyone on the list to make sure they’re an accredited angel or from a fund.

That original group of 35 has grown to over 500 investors who get the email every month — and that’s growing every time. You can sign up here. That group comes from the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, LATAM, Australia and beyond. The 44 companies that I’ve featured have come from all over — the US, UK, Estonia, Finland, Ukraine, Portugal, Ireland, Japan, Korea, the UAE and many, many others.

The most exciting sectors (based on the volume of intro requests) are food, ML/AI and computer vision and AR (having tried the Magic Leap earlier today, I understand why). There’s probably a *slight* bias towards B2C, though that’s probably my bias showing.

At least six companies have raised off the back of the mailout. Those raises have ranged from smaller $50k tickets to a $500k investment in an A round that will be announced pretty soon. I’ve personally invested in two of the companies, and have, on occasion abused my position to share info on rounds that the companies from Techstars Connection, Techstars London and beyond have been raising. Shameless, perhaps, but I regret nothing. In total, over $1m has been committed to rounds that came about as a result of the mailout.

I did worry about negative signalling risk for the companies I wasn’t investing in, and over-abundant signal in general. As it turns out, the recipient list is pretty split across stage, sector and geography, as are the companies. Open rates are higher than I thought (in the 70%/80% range), as are the click throughs (30% to 40%) to look at company websites/decks — so the interest is there.

The reason I made it a bit more labour intensive on my side was so that I could see if it was the same people looking to just see everything (or just ignoring everything). That didn’t happen. Around 70% of the people on the list have requested at least one intro — and even those that have been on there a long time and haven’t requested an intro are still opening, occasionally clicking, and regularly emailing to say that even if there’s nothing of interest for them in that issue, I should look at company a/b/c for the next one.

I think if it were just a blast of 10 companies and a description of them, the open rate and engagement rate of the mail would be far lower. Because it’s a bit more curated, and has (hopefully) more personality — I think it gets over that signalling risk — as I’m super up front about the times when I’m talking about portfolio companies or folks that I’m actively considering investing in. I’m also very honest if people get back and say ‘why aren’t you investing in this company’ — so maybe given that it’s more personal, that risk diminishes somewhat. I’ll be curious to see if that trend continues if we add some or many more investors.

What it has shown me is that capital is more mobile than ever before. Smart investors are looking further afield for great deals, strong founders and jaw-droppingly good companies. The Pitchbook data below shows the volume of investment from the US into London deals alone. The same is happening with capital coming from Asia — Japanese and Chinese funds are investing more and more in ecosystems to their west.

Data from Pitchbook

The quality of companies is showing no signs of slowing down either. I’ve been lucky enough to visit over 30 different cities and ecosystems in the last 12 months, and have been blown away by the calibre of companies coming through.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that the global playing field is levelling— far faster than many realise. Thanks to Coursera, Udemy and many others, people have access to similar lectures, reading materials and more. There is still a serendipity to being in a big hub city, but thanks to Product Hunt, Stack Overflow, Slack groups, Harry’s 20 Minute VC and countless others, you can talk to peers, get feedback and learn from experts with a phone signal, Slack, a browser and some podcasts.

The level of interest and enthusiasm from investors in learning about, engaging with and investing in companies from all over the world is heartening. What’s even better is that I’ve been approached by a few folks who are setting up their own, local version of these emails. I’m excited to see how they grow.

So what’s next for this dealflow email? Inspired by VC3.0 in SF, I’ve started a Slack community that I now need to manage and nurture properly so that people can get access to support, partners, co-investors and great dealflow from around the world. The email will continue to go out — my big goal for the next 15 months is to schedule it to go out on the same day at the same time every month (it’s good to have micro-goals). If there’s demand, it might go fortnightly before too. If you’d like to help, if you think there’s a great company I should know about or if you just have general thoughts (good, bad, indifferent and mad), let me know. I’d love to come back in a year and be able to talk about over 1,000 intros to over 100 companies with well over $3m committed/wired…

Lastly, if you’ve made it this far, and you haven’t signed up, you don’t need to worry about going back to the start. Here’s the link to register your details.

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