The 7 Questions Interview Series: Data and Venture Capital
The 7 Questions Interview Series: Data and Venture Capital “The 7 Questions Series” is an investigative content series where we seek out key leaders in a specific industry and/or subject matter expertise area and ask them 7 key questions that inquiring minds want to know in terms of how they view data as part of their investment process. However, there is a twist to these questions: we provide the interviewee with a hypothesis for each question to help frame and set context for their answer.
Data and Venture Capital Series Objectives
The objective of this series is to establish direct connections with venture capital organizations, angel investors and M&A specialists across the globe and ask them the same set of 7 questions regarding their orientation when looking to invest or investing in companies. We want to derive insights from their direct experiences and expertise that will help companies, both B2B and B2C, at all stages of their evolution. We are also curious to see if their answers are similar or different. These interviews will be featured on their website as part of an ongoing series.
Interview with Janet Bannister, General Partner at Real Ventures
Janet is a General Partner at Real Ventures. Janet is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and their businesses reach their full potential. Her background is a combination of successful start-ups and a business foundation of Proctor & Gamble, McKinsey & Co., and eBay. Janet launched Kijiji.ca and grew it to become one of the most visited websites in Canada. Subsequently, she led the Kijiji Global business, accelerating growth in North America, Europe, and Asia. Janet’s experience at eBay in Silicon Valley included leading multiple product categories and helping to transform eBay from a collectibles to a mainstream marketplace. She also founded and built a successful consulting business and was CEO of The Coveteur, an innovative content/commerce website where she built the team and scaled the business. Janet was a varsity long-distance runner and competed internationally in triathlons. Today she balances her training with being a wife and mother to her son, who brightens her world.
Robin Smith: Tell us a bit about you and your firm.
Janet Bannister: Real Ventures is the largest and most active seed stage investment firm in Canada. Real Ventures was founded in 2007 and has since invested in over 150 companies across three funds. We are laser focused on one thing: Serving entrepreneurs and nurturing the communities in which they thrive.
Robin: What types of companies, industries and areas are you investing in today? In the near future?
Janet: Real Ventures invests in early stage technology companies that are leveraging the power of the internet to redefine markets. We look for strong teams with a powerful vision. We like to invest early, quickly, and for the long term. We also run the FounderFuel accelerator through which we make most of our pre-seed investments.
Robin: How valuable is data collection to today’s venture capitalist?
Janet: We invest at a very early stage so there is typically very little company data available when we invest. But we believe strongly in the need for companies to very quickly establish Key Success Factors (KSFs) and ensure that they are tracking and analyzing data in order to understand their business and take the appropriate actions to grow the business quickly.
“Every company needs to leverage data in order to really understand what is happening in their business and to help identify the best way to grow.”
Robin: Does a company’s technology matter when choosing to invest?
Janet: A company’s exiting – or envisioned – technology is usually fundamental for us in assessing an investment. But sometimes a company will win because they have a unique, market-leading technology and other times a company will win because they have an advantage elsewhere, such as a unique and effective go-to-market approach or different economic model.
Robin: What industries are leveraging technology and data in order to innovate, grow and disrupt? Are there any industries that aren’t leveraging data that should?
Janet: Every company needs to leverage data in order to really understand what is happening in their business and to help identify the best way to grow. Several traditional industries were not built on the basis of using data to make decisions. Some of these industries are adopting to the use of data and others are still struggling. For instance, traditionally newspapers choose which articles to feature on their home page and what topics to write about based on the editor’s judgment. Today these decisions are based largely on online readership and engagement data. Newspaper editors know which articles are being read, shared and commented on and quickly respond by publishing articles which are of the most interest to their readers.
Robin: Why are some SMBs late in adopting technology? Does this hinder your investment decision?
Janet: I think some SMBs are late in adopting technology because it requires a specific skill set that the founder of the business may or may not possess. Also, it requires an up-front investment of time and resources to implement technology and typically in the short term, the investment will not pay off. It is a long term investment. But some SMBs are working very hard just to survive and thrive in the short term.
Robin: Are you seeing more data-centric startups? Might there be more in the future?
Janet: We are seeing a growth in Artificial Intelligence and Big Data and believe that this is a high growth area. And we are seeing almost every company be more diligent about tracking and analyzing their data because tools that enable this are getting cheaper and easier to use.
About Real Ventures:
Real Ventures is Canada’s largest and most active early-stage venture fund. Real invests in entrepreneurs who leverage the internet to create a different future or disrupt existing industries.
Janet’s Social Outposts:
Stay tuned for more expert interviews as part of VL’s ongoing 7 Question Series!
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