The First Round Review from early-stage venture capital firm, First Round, may be the best example of content marketing in a relationship-driven business. As students and practitioners of VC marketing, we've spent countless hours reading and commenting on First Round's content. (Just one example: Molly Graham’s Give Away Your Legos).
We've also followed the firm since its founding in 2004 as it built proprietary tools and methods to support its portfolio companies. First Round was a leader in creating the now ubiquitous CEO Summit - bringing limited partners, industry leaders and prospective customers into a private event where portfolio company CEOs could meet and mingle and pitch their wares.
Later, at the PreMoney Conference in 2013, Josh Kopelman revealed to the audience of GPs and LPs that First Round had taken the well-worn VC claim of a "valuable network" and actually codified it - with code. Kopelman described how they had created a proprietary CRM system with the entire firm's contact database and allowed every portfolio company management team to directly reach out to anyone listed. I recall an anecdote Kopelman told of a frustrated technology founder seeking help for configuring the open-source database, MySQL, only to find he could directly contact its CEO, Marten Mickos via First Round’s founder CRM.
Then when The Review launched in 2013 with a handful of blog posts, many thought it was a nifty name for a typical VC blog that happened to have some guest posts. Knowing First Round's penchant for building and innovating, industry insiders expected much more. But even our expectations were exceeded.
By the end of 2018, The Review had hundreds of articles, featuring “incredible operators across the board,” along with 130K email subscribers and up to 500K monthly visitors. Late last year, they launched their first management book based upon the work of The Review. In a few short years, First Round built a brand that everyone in tech knows and respects, one that helps define and differentiate the firm with entrepreneurs, co-investors, limited partners and future team members alike.