You’ve probably heard of Glassdoor, which exists to allow employees to rate companies anonymously. Now a UK entrepreneur has decided to address the thorny issue of rating venture capitalists.
Landscape, a new review platform for tech startup founders to discover and find investment opportunities, officially launches today. Started by CompSci graduate Joe Perkins, the site purports to provide transparent feedback from entrepreneurs on their experiences with European VCs and accelerators. During its recent beta phase, Landscape clocked-up 700 over reviews and has garnered 83 ‘Verified Partners’ on the platform. The intention is to start with the UK and Europe and later expand to the US market.
But Perkins has not started the site without industry involvement. Landscape has built an advisory group which includes Alex Depledge MBE (founder and CEO of Resi), Eammon Carey (MD of Techstars London and partner at The Fund), Emma Sinclair MBE (co-Founder of Enterprise Alumni), Hussein Kanji (partner at Hoxton Ventures), and Jon Bradford (partner at Dynamo Ventures).
Another institutional VC giving its backing to the platform is Ada Ventures. Partner ‘Check’ Warner said in a statement: “The VC and accelerator landscape is regularly called out due to bad actors or for not doing enough to be more inclusive. There are some great organizations already working with firms to make things better, but data is incredibly important and founders often feel powerless when raising money in the beginning. Landscape’s platform not only provides much-needed transparency for everyone, levels the field, and means investors will have to take consistent and sustained action rather than provide lip service, or a one-off. Even better – investors will have more insight into how founders perceive them and have the insights they need to improve.”
Perkins came up with the idea this year, during the last peak of Covid19 in the UK, after his own experiences raising capital for his educational technology company Coursematch in 2019. “We had been pitching a bunch of investors and I’d been really interested to see how the quality of interaction varied so greatly from each fund. We had one interaction in particular with a London-based fund that ended up being a real time-waster, and I remember thinking “I wish I had a mechanism to warn future founders!”, he commented. Coursematch ended up raising funds from the Ignite Accelerator and the Development Bank of Wales.
The platform reviews are provided by anonymous founders, who score VCs and accelerators they have interacted with on 12 different factors such as Approachability, Diversity, and Response Time. Founders have to provide more information about themselves, the business, and whether the firm they are reviewing invested in their startup, in order to provide context. Landscape is free for founders to use, but offers a paid subscription for VCs enabling them to unlock premium services allowing them a right of reply. Obviously, some might consider that a form of blackmail, but given they can reply to reviews, and see the reasons they might be losing marks, it might concentrate a few minds on how they can improve their offering to founders.
The launch of the site possibly also reflects the fact that UK VC has reached the point where there is now more competition for deals.
The idea itself is not new. Started in 2007, Glassdoor set out to do this for any company. It was acquired by the Japanese firm, Recruit Holdings, for US$1.2 billion in 2018. Better known as a platform for employees to air their grievances about larger corporates, you will of course sometimes see tech startups appear on the platform, in a positive or negative light.
In the VC space, Adeo Ressi, founder of The Founder Institute, launched TheFunded in 2007. The website is designed to allow entrepreneurs to write anonymous reviews about venture capital groups and their processes. It was largely met with derision from VCs and Ressi intended to keep the site anonymous but was eventually outed. TheFunded never really took off (as the dated design and old updates attest), as the VC world is notoriously gossipy and it would not usually be that hard to figure out who was doing the dissing.
This is the challenge faced by Landscape. TheFunded started in a very large VC sector, the US. By contrast, Landscape is launching into the UK initially, which is many times smaller.
Perkins told TechCrunch it’s been many years since TheFunded launched and “the ecosystem has matured to a point where something like Landscape can exist”. He also said Landscape will go global very soon: “Success for Landscape is creating a platform that not only allows founders to complete due diligence on investors before taking their capital, but also provides investors with the insights they need to iterate and improve on their own product, something more and more VCs are becoming open to. While a specific VC may be able to infer who they think has left a review, Landscape will never explicitly reveal this.”
“Most of the responses that the founders leave in their review are included on the platform, but some are left out to protect the founders’ anonymity. Of the 600 founders that have left a review thus far, none have raised issues with this – with that being said, Landscape will always allow for a founder to remove or edit their review at a later date. A lot of reviews are being generated from founders within a portfolio, which may be more complementary to the fund. With more reviews from anyone who has been in discussion with the firm, we’ll be able to give founders more information for their due diligence,” he added.
According to Landscape, the 10 Best Performing European VC Firms rated by its community (these are un-ranked listings), with over five reviews are:
Episode 1 Ventures
Additional insights based on almost 700 reviews so far include:
• VCs score worst on “Diversity”, and “Beyond Money”.
• Accelerators score worst for Post Programme Support.
• Female founders typically feel less supported by their investors than male founders.
• Founders who didn’t successfully raise capital rate VC “Response Time” lower than those who did.