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How Storm Ventures Transformed Its Workday with a CRM

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Author photo: Grace Lau

Grace Lau

Silicon Valley is rife with venture capital (VC) firms. For many, their day involves conversations and interactions with hundreds of entrepreneurs, founders, portfolio companies, and limited partners of companies they want to invest in.

Nurturing relationships, managing timing, and tracking their contacts are what form the heart of the business. Because of this, everyone in a VC firm (regardless of title or role) is, in essence, a relationship maker.

Among these venture capital firms is Storm Ventures, a top firm that focuses on early-stage B2B software-as-a-service companies:

Having invested across five funds, over 18 years, with over $800 million in assets under management, let’s just say Storm is doing pretty well. To manage the communications of hundreds of intricate relationships and foster growth in numerous investments, they’ve been relying on a CRM: Copper.

“I receive hundreds of emails a day. It's humanly impossible to know who's who,” says Olga Avramescu, one of Storm’s two Executive Assistants.

“Copper makes it possible for me to see who belongs where and their relationship with Storm. When I receive an email, I can actually see the activity that we had with that person through the years and who interacted with them, so I know who to go to if I have a question about that person.”

No longer spending evenings manually entering business card information and searching for existing contacts, Olga has completely rebuilt her role. Now, she focuses on more high-value tasks like managing key events for the company, which has been critical to Storm’s success. Essentially, Copper has become an additional employee.

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How a venture company works:

Storm’s goal is to help promising enterprise-focused startups become enterprise leaders. They provide not only capital, but also advice gleaned from almost 20 years of experience in guiding other companies to success*.

Storm’s process for working with startups:

  1. After a young company has seen some success with its product and a good market fit, it enters a go-to-market phase in which it has to scale sales by hiring a sales team and expanding beyond the founding team.
  2. It’s in this phase (which every budding enterprise company goes through) that Storm typically gets involved by making an investment.
  3. Post-investment, Storm’s relationship with its portfolio company can take on a few forms, from centering around basic governance and going over financials to strategizing collaboratively on new products.

VC firms enter the Relationship Era.

Eighteen years may not be a long time in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a lifetime in the tech world. Ryan, who started Storm Ventures, has seen first-hand how relationships have evolved—which has shaped the way that his team approaches investing.

“Years ago, when there were only a few firms in town, they could just show up and write a check. Today, you have to sing for your supper. You have to convince founders why they ought to work with you and that requires building a relationship… nurturing that community, spending time, and making sure that people know what you want to invest in and why you can help them be successful.”
Ryan, Founder and Managing Director

Frederik, an Associate on the investment team, explains why relationships are the key to a VC firm’s success, “For us, being able to manage relationships at scale is everything. It's one of the core competencies of any venture firm. We can't invest in great deals if we can't find them, and we can’t find them if we don't have good relationships with people who can point us to them and make introductions.”

In the VC world, not only are there countless relationships to keep track of, it may also take a long time—years—to nurture these relationships until they can pay off. What better tool to track these long-term projects than a CRM?

“Building and managing relationships has never been more important," says Ryan. "I can't imagine running Storm and not having a CRM like Copper to help us compete and win opportunities in the Valley.”

Investor, customer, fan.

Fun fact: Storm Ventures became a Copper customer after investing in the company in 2016 and meeting the team. It was a decision that Ryan, Co-founder and Managing Director, made after realizing the amount of pain that their previous enterprise CRM was causing the team. “Even the simplest tasks that we wanted to accomplish in our old CRM sometimes required like 15 clicks in and out of different interfaces. It just wasn’t a great experience for us.”

As a a matter of fact, here's how it looks:

As investors, he and his team also had a hunch that the combination of an email integration, a Chrome extension, and an intuitive user interface was the key to building a next-generation CRM.

They found all three, and more, in Copper. "It was very, very easy to update the contacts, the stages, opportunities, and any other information because it's right there in your inbox,” says Olga. “You don't have to log into another browser or page, so it saves a lot of time.”

Today, Storm’s team spends fewer hours in their CRM and more time building valuable relationships with thousands of new CEOs and partners every year. “It just works in the background, you don't have to think about it,” says Frederik. “I don't think there are many products on the market that do what Copper does. Obviously that's why we invested in it in the first place.”

*Companies under Storm’s management have gone on to go public via an IPO, or be acquired by the likes of Nokia, IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, and Cisco.

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