I was Managing Director of two startup accelerator programs run by R/GA Ventures in 2017 and 2018. We invested in 18 startups related to real-world applications of hardware and the Internet of Things.
R/GA Ventures is the investment and innovation arm of global digital agency R/GA. Since 2013, R/GA Ventures has been investing in startups and supporting them in three month accelerator programs—there are now 100 startups in the portfolio. Unlike other programs, R/GA Ventures combines financial investment with hands-on strategically-led creative from the same services teams who work with R/GA clients like Nike, and a busy program curriculum.
I ran the two London programs,
- leading dealflow
- building the investment case during selection
- coordinating the deal team
- and being the main point of contact in negotiation.
During the program,
- I led strategy and startup coaching
- drew on my network to bring in a wide group of mentors and Q&A sessions with established founders
- defined the curriculum together with the NYC and London operational teams
- and worked closely with the creative services team.
I also worked with our program partners, including the strategic partner Innovate UK.
We looked at several hundred startups for each program, and met personally with many dozen, before negotiating cash and in-kind investments with nine companies per program. Startups that participated are tackling future-facing opportunities such as
- on-demand drone insurance
- waste in commercial kitchens
- fleet management of public screens
- smart food packaging.
A particularly enjoyable challenge for the duration of each program was Office Hours, in which I would meet each week with the founders of each startup for a coaching session. A session could involve developing the pitch, outlining a new employee handbook, talking through a management issue, going through fundraising strategy—or whatever is top-of-mind for the founders that week.
I’ve written more about Office Hours on my personal blog.
On the R/GA Ventures blog, I wrote about a simple yet effective method of engaging with journalists for pre-funding startups: The “Tick Tock List”: Getting Press for Your Startup.