To the Victors Go the Spoils
When I first got into the business of venture capital, one of my new colleagues compared it to parenthood. ”Making investments is the fun part,” the analogy went. ”It’s raising your kids (i.e., working with growing companies) that is the challenge.” I never really bought into the comparison, as it is founders who give birth to an idea, nurture it, and bring it into the world. And it is the company’s management team that deals with the day to day challenges of raising a growing company. Investors should be considered, at best, interested observers (maybe grandparents would have been the better analogy).
The one place, however, where the analogy works, is upon an exit. If you are lucky enough to work with a company from its formative days, and watch it overcome the inevitable obstacles while growing into something of real value, then an exit (like sending your grown child into the real world) can be a bittersweet moment.
This is certainly the case with Victors & Spoils. Last week, it was announced that we had sold a majority of our interest in V&S to Havas Global. The transaction represents a great move for the Company, a terrific strategic acquisition for Havas, and a very nice return for us as investors. Most importantly, it partners V&S with the one holding company in the industry truly committed to leading advertising into the future. It is a great combination, and I look forward to watching them do big things in the years to come.
We invested in V&S a mere two and a half years ago. At the time, it was nothing more than a crazy idea hatched by three incredibly smart and ambitious people. John Winsor, Claudia Batten and Evan Fry told us they wanted to create an advertising agency built on crowdsourcing principles. While we didn’t know a lot about the world of advertising, we did know the industry was ridiculously inefficient and ripe for change. We were also strong believers in the power of the crowd, and the ability to create leverage through an open platform. It didn’t take long to get on board.
Because we shared connected office space, and because we were friends with John long before we were investors, our working relationship with V&S was a close one. At first, we communicated with the team almost daily — helping hatch their plan to disrupt the industry. We interviewed the first employees, gave our two cents on the new logo, and watched them fill white board after white board refining their strategy and vision. It was only a matter of weeks before we all stood in a small circle, shots of whiskey in our hands, and toasted the first client. They were off and sprinting.
Somewhere along the line, our daily meetings transformed into weekly meetings, and eventually monthly board calls. A couple of clients turned into a robust pipeline, and the small crew next door grew into a bustling office of people with titles, job responsibilities, and cars that competed for our precious parking spots. In other words, it happened like it was supposed to happen.
It is rare when market conditions, ideas and passion collide in a timely manner. When they do, you want to make sure that you ride the wave. With that being said, you always have to make decisions based on what’s best for the company. In this case, there was no doubt that partnering with Havas was the right answer for V&S, and I’m excited to remain a minority shareholder going forward.
Nevertheless, when you believe in a business, it’s tough to see it go. I’ll miss the creativity and passion of the team at V&S. I’ll miss the constant chip they carry on their shoulder, and I’ll miss the mischievous streak they bring to the workplace.
To the team at V&S, thank you. It was a fun ride. Stay true to who you are, continue to conquer the world, and please don’t forget to call home once in a while.