Laconia’s Story: Who We Are & Why We Do This

Holding true to our core values of transparency, collaboration, and community, one of the things we’ve decided to do this year is publicly share our story, thesis, and process. We hope to demystify venture capital’s insularity and enable founders to more easily access and navigate the venture world. We are therefore publishing the following posts over the next few weeks:

  1. Laconia’s Story: Who We Are & Why We Do This (this blog)
  2. Checking Boxes: Our Investment Thesis & Parameters
  3. Who You Are: The Entrepreneurs We Seek
  4. Diving In: What to Expect in the Investment Process
  5. Welcome to the Family: Managing Laconia’s Portfolio

So, how did we get here?

My co-founder David Arcara  and I met after living parallel lives for decades. Both of us came up through the ranks in sales, marketing, and management roles, eventually founding, running, and selling multiple media & tech companies. Much of this involved raising money.

Intrigued by the other side of the venture capital table, we had both begun to angel invest, eventually crossing paths in 2010 as members of the New York Angels. During the next 18 months as our friendship grew, we spent more and more time co-investing together and with others, until we reached the point of “What’s next? Where can we go with this?”

We knew we loved working with founders and supporting the next generation of tech companies, and our operational skill set matched the seed/ Series A stage. However, the last thing we wanted to do was start another typical venture firm. We wanted to create a fund that brought together the best practices of angel investing with the best practices of institutional venture capital; a fund we would want to invest in!

In our eyes, that meant leveraging not only our LPs’ capital but their knowledge and network, while also providing operational experience to our portfolio companies during their critical early development stage. David and I summed this up into our stated core values of transparency, collaboration, and community. Thus emerged Laconia.  The Laconia vision was, and is, to combine our core values with institutional-level infrastructure, due diligence, and governance to drive better returns and build better businesses.

We are now three years into this journey, and Laconia has been excitedly growing.  A year ago, we brought on our first full-time team hire, Geri Kirilova, and institutionalized a rotating intensive internship program, leveraging many complementary skills and allowing Laconia to stay lean while quickly executing on our vision. And, of course, we have just launched Fund II.

David, Geri, and I consider ourselves entrepreneurs, and Laconia is our startup. We are small and scrappy, constantly iterating as we fine-tune our strategy. Our first fund was a beta test of our thesis and process (see next blogs), and our second fund builds upon the first.

Our entrepreneurial eyes are always open for future opportunities, as reflected by our 2017 launch of Laconia Venture Asset Management with our newest partner, David Lee (a story for another day).

Here are a handful of examples & outcomes of our core values in our day-to-day work.

Transparency

  • We provide straightforward & honest feedback to founders, whether in mentor meetings or during our investment process. No founder should ever leave a meeting with us wondering what we thought.
  • We give our LPs access to our investment deal room including appropriate due diligence materials and our workday calendars. In turn, our LPs bring us tremendous industry expertise and network contacts to strengthen our portfolio and due diligence. In one instance, LP feedback was so instrumental to our process that we decided to triple our investment allocation into one of our portfolio companies.
  • When co-investing with other VCs, we fully share our due diligence materials, helping all involved parties make the most informed decision.

Collaboration

  • Internally within Laconia, David, Geri & I operate by consensus. We do not have separate books of business.
  • Externally, our entrepreneur and board meetings are working sessions where we hold CEOs accountable without playing “gotcha”. We always work side by side with our founders and co-investors as partners.

Community

  • We host bi-annual dinners that unite our LPs and founders. On more than one occasion,  these dinners have resulted in LPs making additional intros for founders that have resulted in long-term clients.
  • We host tight-knit unique VC events that strengthen connections among fellow investors. One of these dinners sparked a working relationship with an attending VC that we later introduced to one of our LVAM clients, who ended up investing in their new fund.
  • We organize functional roundtables, workshops, and offsites for our portfolio executives, building the Laconia family.

Next week, we’ll dive into our investment thesis & parameters. In the meantime, let us know if you have any feedback here or on Twitter - @jsilverman22, @djarcara, @geri_kirilova, @dleect.