Sector and stage focused investors can add more value

It’s obvious when you think about it, but Forward Partners’ focus on early stage ecommerce is critical to us being able to help our partners the way we do. We invest in companies in the first couple of years of their life, with more at day zero than any other point and because they are in the same sector and at the same stage they face the same problems. We’re still learning, but we’ve invested in 28 companies now and some patterns are emerging. It seems that we make the most difference by helping founders:

  • Create a product customers love
  • Build a strong founding team
  • Find the path to scalable growth

And it’s not high level and general advice that we offer, rather it’s specific actionable advice coupled with the manpower to help by doing (if that’s what the founder wants).

All of which only works because we are so focused. Because all our partners started work with us when they were early stage ecommerce businesses we have gathered a roster of tools, tricks and best practices which have been tried and tested many times over. Even within early stage ecommerce every company is different, but there are large areas of overlap, and we are constantly learning and tailoring our knowledge.

Without those areas of overlap we wouldn’t be able to help in the same way.

As it is we are able to double down on the areas that make the most difference.

  • Timothy Barnes

    Nick – really agree with the idea, but there are limits. In London, Forward and True are both doing things that highlight the value of what you are saying: domain expertise allows for better informed, faster and more valuable help.

    However, there are examples where over-speciailisation leads to damage. This is perhaps easier to see in accelerator and incubator set ups where companies bump into each other, but I suspect it happens in more traditional investor models, too. The issues arise where companies sharing networks and in close proximity start competing for customers, investors and talent. They also begin to poach ideas from each other and that leads to increased levels of overlap and convergence of development paths that makes it even worse and, arguable, would not have happened if they had not shared the specialist support in the first place.

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  • Hi Timothy – it’s a good point. So far there has been more than enough space in the ecommerce vertical for us not to back businesses that might compete (and where we think there’s a risk we ask permission the entrepreneurs in question). In the long run we will have to make sure we move to our next sector before we saturate the current focus area. That shift will require us to acquire some new skills.

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