If there’s one word to describe Emily Kramer, it would be: POWERHOUSE.
And if there are two words, they would be: powerhouse marketer!
Dear founders reading this, if you’re dreaming of having that rockstar marketer on your cap table, you’re lucky to be reading this. Emily is known as the marketing angel in the space, which is no surprise considering she previously worked as Head of Marketing at both Asana and Carta.
Emily worked in-house at a number of startups before diving into angel investing and starting her own advisory firm and fund called MKT1 Capital. At the beginning of 2022, she and her business partner, Kathleen Estreich, raised a VC fund. Their specialty is investing in Pre-Seed-Series A B2B startups who want help building their marketing function.
Now, that’s quite the intro!
For my first angel investment where I directly wired a to the founders, it was a consumer company in the healthcare space called ‘Hey Jane’. They’re a virtual clinic offering safe and private abortion care from home. It was a cause that I cared about and I got connected to them through someone I knew from business school. I really liked the founders, what they stood for, and how they were thinking about building their business.
I wrote a check and have continued to help their marketer, who is a co-founder. They recently did a crowdsourced fundraise around the time Roe v. Wade was overturned.
When I was figuring out what I was going to do next after I left Carta, I did Angel Track through First Round. It's a bootcamp for angels and most of the people in my group had already done quite a lot of investing. I had done a couple of syndicate investments at that point, but I hadn't done many direct angel investments.
After Angel Track, I started advising and consulting as my full time job with my business partner Kathleen. I was meeting so many companies already, so it was easier for me to dive into angel investing than someone who was working full time or wasn't meeting with companies all the time.
For personal angel investments, I don’t have a strict process. I can just have a good feeling about the founder and care about the space. But with fund investments, it's a much different story since we are responsible for other people’s money.
We go through a diligence process where I meet with the founder and then Kathleen meets with the founder separately, or vice versa.
There are several things that we're always looking for, including a founding team with founder/market fit, a great product, a market they can win, and the ability to grow and do marketing well. The marketing piece is overlooked by a lot of investors since they're usually focusing on product and engineering (something we do check as well). So, we look closely at a startup’s ability to go-to-market. That’s really our superpower.
On the product side, we look at what problem they are solving and what they've built so far. Are they prioritizing the right things in our opinion? Are they solving something in a unique way? What is their vision and why now? Is there something about the way they're building their product that is opinionated and different from other products in the space?
Not only are these questions important for building an interesting product, but they are especially important for marketing as well. If you don't have strong opinions and strong differentiators, it's hard to market your product, write about your product, and talk about your product.
The next thing is the market. How crowded is the market? Can they win? Do they have the ability to win this entire market? Is there something that's changed in the market that makes now the best time to build this startup?
Market sizing is not usually accurate, so I think we care a little bit less about that. What we do care about is that they have a vision and a path that's big enough to get to a billion dollar plus valuation and in the case of the fund, return the fund.
When I'm angel investing, I'm thinking about whether a startup has the ability to be a breakout startup, and I need roughly one of every ten startups to do that. It's much different than with the fund, where we actually do portfolio math. We go model out each investment and how it fits into our overall portfolio and potential exit scenarios.
The way that founders pitch is so wildly different. You can definitely tell the difference between a repeat founder who's raised before and a founder that’s raising for the first time.
The thing that drives me nuts is when people pull up the deck at the beginning of the call and just start going through it. If you want me to go through the deck, send me the deck in advance and I will go through it.
I would much rather have a dialogue back and forth with the founder and get a product demo than walk through the deck. I want to get the deck in advance and then ask specific questions about it, and maybe reference a specific slide.
Dialogue is important to me because I want to build rapport with the founder and I want to make sure I can actually be helpful to them on the marketing side. If you spend the whole 30-45 mins on a deck, there’s just not enough time for that dialogue.
My most recent personal angel investment is in a consumer company called Humans Anonymous, which is a live audio platform that facilitates safe spaces for communities to discuss issues they are dealing with. The idea came from the founder’s experience in Alcoholic’s Anonymous.
Our last fund investment was in a company called Plain. They are a customer support platform. What we love about Plain is that they're taking an API and design-first approach to customer support. Support teams can get a complete view of history and product activity with a customer rather than just a ticket.
Oh, there's probably a million.
Having said that, one of the biggest things for me is to avoid the hype cycle a little bit and remember that just because the company got a huge markup doesn't mean they're actually going to exit at that amount. We've seen a lot of that lately and I try not to look back and say, “oh, I missed these” prematurely.
I try to have conviction in my decision and oftentimes I won't invest in a company because I don't think we share the same values or they choose investors that I don’t think are particularly amazing influences on Silicon Valley. I will skip on those companies because of personal values and always feel confident in those decisions, regardless of the startup’s future exit.
One of the most inspiring VCs is Aileen Lee, founder of Cowboy Ventures and co-founder of All Raise. She’s been extremely helpful to me over the past several years in multiple ways. I met her when I worked at an early stage startup that she was considering investing in and have stayed in touch with her since. I'm an LP in their fund and she's helped with my fund. She is authentic, is actually helping women succeed in tech (not just talking about it but doing something about it), and is also a really amazing investor.
There's another partner at Cowboy Ventures that I also love - Amanda Robson. I'm just really impressed by what she's done for the angel community, especially for women and non-binary angels.
I think everyone, especially marketers, are thinking about the impacts of GPT and generative AI, and it’s potential to change both products and how people do their jobs. I mean, the content marketing game is going to be changed quite a bit because of it.
I'm thinking about that from both a marketing perspective and an investing perspective. I think that a lot of the generative AI will end up being built into other platforms.
An example of this is Mutiny, one of my favorite angel investments. Mutiny is now at Series B, and I invested after being one of their first customers when I was at Carta. Mutiny allows you to personalize your website for every visitor so you don't have to build a bunch of landing pages. They also enable users to write website copy using generative AI inside the product.
I am excited and scared about its impact on marketing, but I think scared in a good way. It feels transformative.
It's okay to have a very narrow niche you can help with. When you have a thing that you're known for, it is so much easier to get into deals.
So with me, people know me as a B2B investor who helps with marketing. My MKT1 co-founder, Kathleen Estreich, and I have branded ourselves in a clear way so we get brought into deals as “the marketers who help startups”. Investors and founders immediately think of us when other founders ask for investors who can help with marketing.
Having a clear focus works really well for getting deal flow and getting into deals. Find your niche, and double down.