Platform services: public relations


A North East based venture capitalist adds value to investments with services such as public relations. Laura Richards, Marketing & PR Manager, Northstar Ventures, explains how.

Profile: venture capitalist offering agency services to portfolio companies

Insight: portfolio companies in a group benefit from centralised support services

Northstar Ventures is a venture capital firm dedicated to supporting high growth SMEs and high impact social enterprises. We employ a full time Marketing & PR Manager to look after all in-house public relations activity. In addition to traditional in-house public relations,we also offer public relations support to our portfolio companies, as part of our developing venture capitalist platform services.

The platform services model

The platform services model is already comfortably established within leading venture capital firms. International venture capitalists such as Andreessen Horowitz and Index Ventures make in-house specialists available to their portfolio companies to support with functions such as HR, recruitment, marketing and public relations, and business development.

These specialists are employed by, or on retainer for, the venture capitalist firm with services available to all investees for free or at a reduced cost.

At Northstar Ventures we are beginning to develop similar resources, initially offering the support of our Marketing & PR Manager to the companies we have invested in. In time we plan on developing this service to include not only committed support for public relations activities, but also functions such as finance and HR.

A resource for portfolio companies

Since beginning to offer support with marketing and public relations, we’ve seen interest predominantly from early stage companies who are either focusing on scaling their businesses, or launching a specific product or service.

Companies are typically only beginning to think about public relations strategies; some do not have the resources to hire someone in-house or pay for agency support while others are uncertain about what support they need.

In the last six months Northstar has provided support by way of: training on specific skills (e.g. writing and distributing press releases); advice on developing annual public relations strategies; hands-on support planning and implementing media and content strategies; signposting relevant training and agencies; and recruitment advice.

The dynamics of deal flow

The market for deal flow is very competitive: venture capitalist firms compete to attract the best companies looking for equity investment. One of the reasons we are developing a full range of platform services at Northstar is to establish us as the venture capitalist firm of choice to start-ups.

The most significant challenge with developing platform services is the time and resources required to implement them properly. As we are in the early stages of testing the demand for this additional support, the responsibility for all activities lies with our in-house Marketing & PR Manager.

Thus the challenge is to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest and that Northstar’s own public relations activities are not neglected.

On the flip side, the main benefit of offering platform services is in helping early stage businesses access skills and knowledge they may not otherwise be able to access; in demonstrating the value of public relations to early stage start-ups, we can encourage them to build it into their business development strategies.

Additionally there are opportunities for us to increase awareness of Northstar Ventures itself, either through direct mentions of Northstar in portfolio public relations activity, or via word of mouth recommendations.

Adding value to investments

Northstar Ventures currently pays for our in-house Marketing & PR Manager, covering the cost for time spent with portfolio companies.

The value to Northstar is two-fold: firstly as we have invested in all the companies we offer public relations support to, their success has a direct impact on us. By providing additional services that can help investees better run their companies, we increase the likelihood that we will see a return on our investment.

Secondly platform services help Northstar establish ourself as a ‘value added partner’ to the firms we invest in, helping to differentiate us from other investors in the region. This can increase the value of our portfolio by positioning Northstar as the first choice for companies seeking investment.