VCs to Twitter: We're Just Not That into You, But Major Media Brands and LinkedIn Do Matter

Zeno Group Study Reveals the Influencers within the VC Ecosystem

Jul 31, 2013, 03:00 ET from Zeno

REDWOOD CITY, Calif., July 31, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The billion-plus dollars venture capitalists have poured into Twitter have pushed the company's valuation north of $10 billion, but when it comes to discovering what the next big thing might be, VCs tend to look to LinkedIn instead.

That was just one of the key findings of a new study by Zeno Group, the award-winning, mid-size global public relations firm, which also revealed that top-tier media brands and journalists can be exceptionally influential with venture capitalists. The amount of news coverage a start-up receives can have a direct effect on funding. For venture capitalists, when it comes to funds, size matters; for startups, coverage matters.

"One of the top requests we get from startups is for help in generating visibility in the media that venture capitalists consume in order to help raise the next round of investment," said Todd Irwin, managing director of Zeno's technology practice. "Rapid changes in social networking, the tech media and even the venture industry itself prompted us to take a closer look at the influencers and media who reach venture capitalists."

Zeno's study offers a roadmap for how startups can reach this exclusive group of venture investors, but there aren't any shortcuts. The findings reinforce the importance of investing time and resources into developing a brand's story and in building relationships. And efforts can be bolstered by senior executives who foster direct relationships with venture capitalists on social networks and at live events. A white paper with survey results can be downloaded here:

LinkedIn Trumps Twitter Online; In-Person Networking Remains Key
Respondents to the Zeno survey rank industry conferences as the most important channel to staying connected to the VC ecosystem, followed by LinkedIn and then Twitter. Facebook, AngelList and Quora ranked significantly lower.

  • 95 percent of the Forbes Midas List – the magazine's annual ranking of its Top 100 VCs – have a presence on LinkedIn, where they are well-engaged
  • But only 64 of the Forbes Midas List are on Twitter, and three of those users have never Tweeted
  • On LinkedIn, the Forbes Midas List follow a median of three companies, two influencers and two newsfeeds and participate in three groups

Twitter Following Habits Reveal Venture Ecosystem
Forbes Midas List VCs follow 375 other Twitter users on average. The median, or mid-point, is 180 handles they are following. An outlier like Jim Breyer of Accel Partners follows 3,363 other users and happens to top the 2013 Midas List.

"Hyper-connected" Twitter users – those followed by 10 or more of the Forbes Midas List – offer a window into the exclusive venture capital network:

  • 34% are other venture partners, reflecting the collaborative nature of venture capital where investing alongside other firms is the norm
  • 29% are entrepreneurs, CEOs and other technology executives, but portfolio companies themselves are not prominent, with just two companies making the most-followed list
  • Nearly 20% are media: 11% of the most-followed users are journalists and another 8% are media outlets
  • Just 9% of this group are women; what's more, most of these women are Silicon Valley household names, such as Kara Swisher, Sarah Lacy and Sheryl Sandberg

Media Coverage Influences Funding
Zeno's survey confirms that media coverage does influence venture capitalists' investment decisions.

  • More than three quarters of VCs have contacted a startup after reading about it in the news
  • 30% of surveyed VCs have invested in a startup that they discovered through a news story

Big Media Brands Matter
Top-tier traditional and tech media outlets in Silicon Valley are the top news sources for venture capitalists. Nineteen percent of Twitter handles followed by top VCs are journalists and media. The most-followed media names by the Forbes Midas List VCs on Twitter are:

  • Kara Swisher, AllThingsD – 69%
  • Walt Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal/AllThingsD – 61%
  • Dan Primack, Fortune Term Sheet – 50%
  • Sarah Lacy, PandoDaily – 39%
  • Adam Lashinsky, Fortune – 38%

The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones), The New York Times and TechCrunch command nearly 50 percent of the media presence on Twitter among the Forbes Midas List, when grouping the outlet and journalist handles by publisher.

About the Study
Zeno Group examined the social media presence and engagement of the 2013 Forbes Midas List of 100 top venture capitalists on Twitter and LinkedIn. Zeno Group created a proprietary tool to collect and analyze the Twitter users that are followed by the Forbes Midas List VCs. Data was collected from June 24July 1, 2013; one Midas List member has a private Twitter account, so was excluded from this analysis. LinkedIn connections and engagement statistics were collected from July 10 – 11, 2013. Zeno Group also enlisted third-party research firm Edelman Berland, a global research firm, to conduct an online survey of U.S. venture capitalists identified by Dow Jones VentureSource. The survey was fielded from June 19July 12, 2013; the margin of error is plus or minus 15.8% in 95 out of 100 cases. The survey provides directional insights into venture capitalists' networking and media behavior.

About Zeno Group
Believers in the fearless pursuit of the unexpected, the award-winning Zeno Group operates as one firm across fourteen offices in New York, Chicago, Santa Monica, Dallas, Silicon Valley, Toronto, London, Beijing, Delhi, Jakarta, Singapore, and three satellite offices in Amsterdam, Sao Paolo and Ho Chi Minh.  Zeno is the unprecedented 2011, 2012 and 2013 winner of the PR Week US Mid-Size Agency of the Year, 2011 Holmes Report US Creative Agency of the Year and 2013 Holmes Report Consumer Agency of the Year. The firm's practice areas include consumer, health, technology and corporate, all supported by planning, digital engagement and media. Clients include: AstraZeneca, Bacardi, Bausch & Lomb, Brocade, Emirates, Facebook, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Kia Motors America, McAfee, Micron Technology, Inc., Office Depot, Oak Investment Partners, Pizza Hut, Sears and Seattle's Best Coffee. Zeno Group is a member of the Daniel J Edelman Company. Please visit us at, like us on Facebook or follow us @zenogroup.

Katie Wood Znameroski

Danny Cohn