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Can you find founders before they know they are founders?
by Erin Griffith
Bloomberg Beta and Mattermark partner to go earlier than early-stage.
If Target can figure out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did, venture firms should be able to identify founders before they start companies. All it takes is the right data.
That’s where venture capital—ever evolving—is headed. As Mark Suster pointed out last week, the venture capital landscape has become increasingly bifurcated. Seed funds are springing up everywhere, representing 67% of all new funds created, and large funds have gotten even larger. For the early stage investors, this means increased competition and frothy valuations. By the time a founder sets out to raise a seed round, the startup’s valuation might be $10 million.
One way to get around that is to invest even earlier. Invest before the company is a company. Before the founder even knows they’re a founder. Bloomberg Beta, the venture investment arm of Bloomberg LP, has been doing this for a year now.
After an unsuccessful attempt to build a database of “future founders” on its own, the firm teamed up with Mattermark, the deal intelligence company founded by Danielle Morrill. The results could have ramifications for the way investment decisions, typically driven by gut instinct and intuition, are made.
Mattermark identified the most likely career paths of successful founders, creating a pool of 1.5 million people who were connected by one to two degrees of separation to tech startups, but were not founders yet. By analyzing the people that started companies over nine months, Mattermark mapped out the strongest predictors of starting a company: a person’s education, which previous companies they’ve worked for and how senior they were, their geography, and their age. The goal was to find things that didn’t fit the standard path to entrepreneurship. As Morrill points out: “Anything that looks like a pattern, people will already find it.”