One year ago, when we got our $25 million in Series A funding from Insight Partners, I didn’t know what to expect.
Never having worked with any kind of investor before, I was nervous. I had heard horror stories about investors in general – CEOs getting fired or being micromanaged, corporate culture getting blown up, that kind of thing – but it was all very vague. (I also recall never hearing anyone say, of any investor, ‘They are great to work with!”)
I am happy to report that my fears were groundless.
In this post, I want to talk about what it’s been like to work with Insight Partners. While my experience will not translate exactly for every company or every investment situation, I think that what I have gone through will answer a lot of questions for anyone looking to work with an investor.
Insight Partners’ broad portfolio of gives me confidence
When we were looking for Series A funding, we talked to a lot of people. Some companies were smaller, some were bigger, and each one seemed to have its own approach.
One of the initial things that attracted me to Insight Partners was that it was clear, right from their website, that they had invested in an incredible portfolio of companies. They were working with dozens of firms, almost all of them in the SaaS sector like us, and many of them recognizable.
That very fact gave me confidence.
They did their due diligence before taking us on
As I have already noted, each potential investor has their own approach.
One potential investor we talked to, for example, was ready to write us a term sheet after only 20 minutes of questioning us about financial issues and nothing else.
Insight Partners was very different. Once they had determined we were worthy of interest, they spent a lot of time doing due diligence. This was something I appreciated, and it reinforced my growing feeling of confidence about the way they work.
They dug deep. For example, before taking us on they spoke to a number of our customers. And they did all sorts of market research.
As frustrating as that seemed at the time, it spoke to Insight Partners’ deliberate and considered approach. I felt we were dealing with a good firm doing things in the right way.
They shared due diligence information with us
One of the things that blew us away about Insight Partners is that they shared the results of their due diligence research with us.
It was absolutely amazing to get this amount of third-party insight into our business! We’re so close to everything sometimes it can be hard for us to take a step back and view things with a detached eye. Having all that information was super valuable!
They regularly provide us with useful expertise
Another great thing about working with Insight Partners is that they have wonderful resources for us to work with.
First, we have one investor – Philine Huizing – who is our point of contact at Insight Partners. Philine is awesome, and she and I text all the time. She’s someone I can brag to when things go well, someone who will support me when I need a boost, someone who will calm me when I get nervous.
She is really aligned with helping us grow as big and as fast as we can, and brings helpful market knowledge to the table.
Philine is always available, and it’s been very helpful to have an advisor like her.
The second thing they offer is guidance in SaaS operations best practices through what they call Insight Onsite. These centres of excellence cover seven specific areas: customer success, sales, marketing, strategy, talent, business development and product development.
When we need help, we can just call.
For example, when we were looking to hire a vice-president of product, Insight Partners helped us vet candidates and come up with questions to ask.
They also introduced us to a great recruiting firm that helped us hire our new VP of sales.
Nothing is perfect. For example, Insight Partners doesn’t have a centre of excellence for finance, which would be very useful for us.
However, they do have a pricing expert. It’s been absolutely amazing to be able to go to him as we review our pricing and get expert advice about how to correctly match our price structure to the value of the services we provide.
We can connect with other businesses
A significant part of Insight Partners’ value to us is their ability to connect us with other businesses both inside and outside their portfolio.
For example, if we need a consultant or an agency, they have a lot of top-notch connections they can match us up with. And if we reach out to another company in their portfolio, it doesn’t hurt to be able to say we both have the same VC investor. It’s kind of like having a door open into that company.
Insight Partners has an online community we can use, and everyone in the portfolio is in that community. So not only can we reach out to Insight Partners’ experts though Insight Onsite, we can also tap into the knowledge of the wider portfolio community. And portfolio members can offer software discounts and special benefits to each other.
One thing that has been particularly valuable for me as CEO has been my ability to network with other people in my position. For example, Insight Partners recently organized a summit to which about 50 CEOs from their portfolio of companies were invited. That kind of networking opportunity is something I could never break into on my own, so for me it was all really cool!
Again, nothing is perfect. While we were told at the start that Insight Partners could easily arrange meetings for us with just about any company we wanted, the reality is that those meetings don’t always happen.
So yes, Insight Partners has helped us network and connect. But no one should expect that a VC will introduce them to everyone they need to know.
We can see how we compare to other companies they invest in
Insight Partners collects data from each one of their portfolio companies. That data is then aggregated and made available to all so that each company can see how it compares to others.
Having access to that kind of data is very useful, and I don’t know where else I could get information like that!
They have raised our business maturity level
Now that we have investors, corporate governance has become even more important. We discovered how much so as we prepared for our first board of directors meeting after Insight Partners’ investment in us.
Getting ready for that board meeting raised the maturity level of our business. That’s because in order to prepare material for the board, we had to report on certain KPIs. And we could only do that if we had proper systems in place to gather the information. We now know a lot more about just about every aspect of the business, and we can back up our statements with facts and figures.
They aren’t putting undue pressure on us
One of my big fears about working with a VC investor was that I would be getting pressured 24/7 to produce results.
While it’s clear that Insight Partners wants results – so do I – we don’t feel unduly pressured to produce results at an unreasonable pace.
In hindsight, that’s because we picked the right investor.
Some investors will provide money and then step back and wish you good luck. These investors provide little or no support. While that can be attractive to people who don’t want outsiders getting too involved in their business, it was not for us. We wanted both money and assistance.
But we didn’t want to feel pressured.
We realized that if we went with a small investor – someone, for example, with a portfolio of only a half-dozen companies – Knak would count for quite a large proportion of their investment basket. Consequently, they were likely to pressure us to get quick results. And because the stakes are so high for them, they are also likely to be very, very involved in day-to-day affairs.
We didn’t want that, either.
Insight Partners offers what is, for us, the right balance. They have a large portfolio of companies, so they aren’t dependent on one single company for their results. Which means they aren’t going to apply undue pressure on us. They are able to provide assistance, but don’t feel compelled to tell us what to do on a daily basis.
One year in, I am both relieved and happy with how things are working out.
Their brand creates value for us
We have discovered that being involved with Insight Partners creates value for us.
For example, knowing that Insight Partners has invested in us makes us attractive to top-tier talent; it’s like a stamp of approval.
And because they are an established firm with a record of success, we will eventually be in a better position to go for Series B financing than if we had obtained our Series A from a smaller or less well-known firm.
One more thing of value is that Insight Partners helps us promote ourselves. Their own people are able to talk about us to prospective customers.
I recently experienced an amusing downside to being associated with such a well-known company.
Recently, I got on a plane in San Francisco with Brendan Farnand, co-founder of COO at Knak. He was wearing a jacket that had been given to him by Insight Partners and which displayed the company’s name.
Before we took off, I happened to see a Tweet by someone I didn’t know but who, obviously, was on the same plane as us. He’d noticed the Insight Partners jacket, and had Tweeted:
Brendan and I both Tweeted back that we were running a capital efficient startup funded by Insight Partners.
At the end of the day, every investor cares about growing their investment. And the reality is that they also want that investment to grow quickly. I’m not sure, from that angle, that we can ever grow quickly enough to make Insight Partners truly happy.
But overall, I am very pleased with the way things are working out.
I believe in the power of investing in your business early to accelerate growth. Working with Insight Partners has allowed us to do that.
Pierce Ujjainwalla (@marketing_101 on Twitter) is an entrepreneur, career marketer and founder of @revenuepulse and @knak. Marketing is his jam; doing it better with technology is his passion.