Silicon Valley’s venture capital firms, as The New York Times points out, have discovered that they need to market themselves. But, as with lawyers, VCs can’t really advertise without coming off like sleazeballs. Many have worked with PR agencies — Kleiner Perkins started retaining OutCast Agency years ago. But the effect of courting the press has its limits in an era of dying publications and constant layoffs of journalists.
So what we’re seeing now is a surge in VC blogging. And in that realm, the strategy that seems to work best fits with the idea of branded content — that is, create content of value that’s not overtly trying to market the firm.
Two VCs in particular have managed to create blogs that people in the tech industry actually seek out and want to read. (Many of the VC blogs do not, at this point, fall into that category.)
One is Ben Horowitz, who cofounded Andreessen Horowitz with tech superstar Marc Andreessen. The other: Fred Wilson, a principal of Union Square Ventures in New York.
Horowitz over the years has made a name for himself as a first-rate coach of young CEOs, and he uses his blog to address just those kinds of people — CEOs and people who want to be CEOs. His blog, called ben’s blog, is a stand-alone entity. It was created on its own, not as part of the Andreessen Horowitz web site — but it is linked to from the firm’s site.
Horowitz is a good writer, and he writes the blog himself — and it shows. The blog feels authentic, and those who know Horowitz know it’s how he thinks and talks. The blog is a lot like a good magazine column — philosophical and helpful. The blog has been a huge boost to Horowitz’s image, and helps convince entrepreneurs to seek investments from Andreessen Horowitz.
On the other coast, Fred Wilson has been writing his blog, A VC, for a long, long time. His was the first VC blog I knew about or read, and I’d say that his blogging reputation preceded both his investing reputation and any kind of brand recognition for Union Square Ventures.
His blog is a mix of his views on all things tech and tech news that he puts in context, with occasional guest posts and other items. As with Horowitz, Wilson writes his blog and it’s very much his personality. The blog stands on its own, but the Union Square site links to it and features it. In fact, the Union Square home page has become a front page for blog posts by the various partners.
The Horowitz and Wilson blogs work because they are authentic, well-written, thoughtful and, above all, useful. And they’ve created brands for the authors and their firms in ways PR never could.