insights by tech leaders on design in venture capital

1. How does a design perspective help in evaluating an investment decision, in obvious ways?
I have found companies that have some eye toward design can tell their story better. A visually pleasing presentation slide deck even seems to give entrepreneurs more confidence as they tell their story in that initial pitch meeting. Clearly and crisply getting the message across in an initial presentation can kick-start the conversation and provide hooks to doing further work considering the investment.

2. How does a design perspective help in evaluating an investment decision, in non-obvious ways?
I have also found that when I'm listening to entrepreneurs pitch, and considering an investment, a solid design perspective provides clues about what future work with this team may be like. Will they communicate data in effective ways? What will board meetings be like? How do they prioritize? Also, design is so much how the product "feels." If they can convey this to users, there is likelihood for more success.

3. Where have you seen a designer’s perspective possibly harmful in the investment process?
I've seen design is too much of a focus to the point of hindering progress, iteration, and in turn just making the company operationally slow. Some small teams can over-rotate on design focus, and then forget about some of the important engineering or business perspectives too.

4. What are three characteristics in a company’s structure/history that will likely lead to success in leveraging design?
— Having a design-minded founder or a founding team that really appreciates the value of good design is a great sign.
— Having design in the top of the org chart as the company grows can help.
— Having design in place from the beginning is a great indicator that it will continue to be an important part of the company's DNA.

5. How do you best support CEOs with a purely technical and/or business background to leverage design in their startup?
Make a great hire at the beginning. Pay them well, give them a seat and a voice at the table, and empower him/her to act like a founder.

6. What are a few challenges you’ve seen in working with companies that have caught “the design bug” -- especially the CEO?
Some companies with this can over-rotate on emphasis on design. This can create slower decision-making and iteration cadence, excuses on lack of progress, and the potential to ignore some of the other early important factors like business model and engineering roadmap.

7. Which public companies out there do you admire for their approach to design?
— Google -- Even as they've grown, you can tell some focus is spent on design when it could be ignored. Google Photos is my newest favorite service I use. Just plain easy to set up.
— Target -- In the retail space, I think they have been in a leader on converging the in-store and digital experience.
— Virgin Airlines -- You know what to expect.

8. Which startups in the CONSUMER space do you think embody design in their companies particularly well, and why?
— Lyft and Uber -- Exposing the user to data that is helpful, gives context, and designed in a way that anyone can use -- like driver location. Iterating on design with user needs -- like pickup at airports. Seamless credit-card linking/scanning.
— Box and Dropbox -- Easy to set up on all devices. Similar experience on desktop, mobile, cloud, etc. Easy to access files, good search.
— Pocket -- It just works.

9. Which startups in the ENTERPRISE space do you think embody design in their companies particularly well, and why?
— Envoy -- Front-desk check-in, Easy to set up, describe what they do, and focused on being good at one thing first.
— Slack -- Streamlined communication.
— Okta -- Consumer experience is key for signing on to all of the apps and things you access every day at work. Easy set up. Easy to understand and describe.

10. What are a few URLs of your favorite writings on design in the VC space (including your own)?
Cap Watkin's blog

Made in 2016 by John Maeda