Kopelman on VC branding and the PR hype machine

By Richard Nieva , written on February 7, 2013

From The News Desk

Every entrepreneur’s experience is different. But there are some things that this certain breed of people all goes through: You plan and you plot and you code (maybe) and you don’t sleep. All the while, you pitch your idea, hone your message and build your brand, so maybe a venture capitalist will give you some money.

But these days, you’re not the only one building your brand and profile. So are the VCs you are pitching.

A lot of this comes from the influx of money into the ecosystem, where a Series A funding today would have been an IPO ten years ago. In the face of this, VC firms have to differentiate themselves, said Josh Kopelman, founder of First Round Capital, tonight at PandoMonthly in New York.

Along with differences in strategies, it also means that VCs are increasingly public figures. (Perhaps it’s a testament to this theory that Kopelmen is even sharing his insight on PandoMonthly in the first place – and that there has been a healthy mix of both investors and entrepreneurs in all PandoMonthlies past.)

Once upon a time, VC firms like Sequoia were press shy and hostile to reporters. Now every venture capital firm has a PR operation, every partner has a blog, and some partners even have a “thing” – ask Ben Horowitz, the hip hop king of Silicon Valley.

But for every well-earned press clipping that a partner gets for a job well done, there are also the hot air examples perpetuated by the hype machine. “I know many super-angels who have gotten a lot of press. Some of them aren’t so super, and some of them are not very angelic,” said Kopelman.

Luckily, the fakers can only hide for so long, with Twitter and the socialsphere making it easier to call out the bullshit. Kopelman likes this transparency. “If you were a bad VC before and you didn’t deliver value, how would someone know that?” he said. “Right now, if I’m a jerk to an entrepreneur at a meeting, he or she can Tweet it out.”

Still, the danger of being overrated is a concern for any facet of the Valley – or the whole of business for that matter. “There are people where their brands get ahead of their reality,” Kopelman said. “There are plenty of startups where their reputation and their names are stronger than the reality.”

To watch the interview in its entirety, click here.