Donna Sokolsky Burke has enjoyed a storied career in Silicon Valley. Having spun out of Netscape 20 years ago to form her own public relations firm, Sparkpr, Burke is probably as familiar with the inner workings of startups as venture capitalists (many of whom have also been Burke’s clients over the years).
Yesterday, as we chatted about how venture investors promote their portfolio companies, as well as their own firms, I asked Burke who in the startup ecosystem needed help in burnishing their brand. Her immediate answer: “The private equity sector.”
You say you wonder why PE pros aren’t more open about promoting their portfolio companies as well as themselves, but PE firms have always operated under the radar. Why you think this situation is rife for change?
PE firms aren’t communicating their value proposition or helping their portfolio companies to reinvent their own brands. If I were an institutional investor pouring billions into that asset class, I might wonder why.
What are their most obvious, missed opportunities?
You read the wrap-ups; you learn who did the big deal and spent billions of dollars [to acquire a stake in a company], then you don’t hear anything more about it. That’s very different from venture, where the deal is announced, and then there’s an onslaught of coverage about how a company is innovating within its industry, what incumbents it’s going after, [etc.]. With many of these PE deals, you have this huge inflection point and sometimes a new corporate structure, and it’s a great time to have a [public] discussion about how a portfolio company is reengaging customers and reinvigorating its brand, but it isn’t happening.
What’s the solution?
VCs blog and tweet and use LinkedIn and Quora. A lot people would benefit from authentic observations coming out of the PE industry, too.
As the tech industry has matured, it has produced a large number of mature, growth companies that aren’t necessarily on the verge of going public. And while entrepreneurs are very well-versed on what venture does, it gets more ambiguous what happens after that. Entrepreneurs are very clear on Series B and C and D rounds, but I think a lot of them struggle to understand their options beyond that point.
I’d love to see more PE firms take a stand on areas that they’re passionate about. Why they don’t baffles me.
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