Why I believe in Landscape.

tl;dr — I’m really excited to join Joe on the Landscape journey, building what we’re calling ‘Glassdoor for VC’. If you want to find out more or see our deck, drop me an email. Founders, please leave reviews and investors, please become a Verified Partner!

In the spring of 2017, 3(ish) years into my entrepreneurial journey with Chew I was probably at the lowest I’ve ever been*. At the start of the year, after things got seriously fubar, I’d made the rest of the team redundant and was working on saving what I could of the business on my own — in a pretty miserable state that was worsening day by day.

How my last few months of entrepreneurship felt (📸: Torsten Dederichs)

Things eventually turned around, the business was acquired and I thankfully got some stability back with a job at Ignite. There are a few people that got me through the darkest of the dark days (s/o each and every one of you), but a significant percentage were Chew’s angel investors.

Four or five of my investors went above and beyond, even as it looked like their investment was about to fall to pieces, and did what they could to help me figure out how to survive the mess. On a near daily basis, on top of everything else they had going on in their lives. I will be forever thankful — and will continue to sing their praises should any future entrepreneur ask for my feedback on them.

That brings me to Landscape.

A few months ago, during peak lockdown boredom, I started talking to Joe about an idea he’d been sitting on. Joe, like me, has had his entrepreneurial ups and downs over the last few years with Coursematch — an Ignite company that Joe co-founded with Chris a few years ago.

However, unlike me, Joe and Chris have had a few less than stellar investor interactions during their fundraising efforts. You can read about a few of these experiences in Joe’s blog introducing Landscape here.

As the conversation progressed, Joe created a Twitter account and started talking about the concept online. From there, things have sort of snowballed and — just eight or so weeks later — we’re sat with hundreds of reviews from founders who’ve (anonymously) documented interactions with investors and, by our back-of-napkin-maths, roughly 25% of the UK seed-stage VC market apply to be (or who already are) Verified Partners.

So what is Landscape? Put simply: it’s a platform where founders can review investors. From there, other founders can engage with the reviews to find the right investors for their own business. As we say on the site:

“Landscape Reviews bring transparency to the opaque world of startup fundraising; helping you raise smart money.”

This is about celebrating brilliance from investors — like my angel investors who went above and beyond when my world was disintegrating — as much as it is trying to document bad behaviour, or balancing the power between an investor and founder during fundraising and due diligence processes.

We’re currently accepting reviews for VCs and accelerator programmes, because we try to verify each review to limit abuse of the review system. We’re also focusing — for now — on UK based investors, but you can expect that to broaden out further afield in the not too distant future.

So that’s what Landscape is today, but there’s so much more it’ll be tomorrow. If you’re interested in learning more, get in touch.

Such a nice landscape (📸: Simon Berger)

Now, a review platform for founders/ investors isn’t a new idea — but Landscape seems to have a touched a nerve with both sides of the startup market.

It’s obviously early days, but I’m really excited at what we’re going to be able to do to help early-stage founders navigate the somewhat opaque investment market and — on the flipside — working with investors to help them optimise (or create) best practise based on the rich datasets our reviews are already generating.

Landscape sits nicely alongside the work I do with the ATI Boeing Accelerator, and the various investment initiatives I’m involved in. Personally, I’m most intrigued about how we can work with both sides of the startup/ investment community to improve the ecosystem’s diversity (of founders funded, and investors writing the cheques). Secondly; what we can do to help early-stage founders find the right investors — and improve the fundraising process for startups itself — and how that integrates with an investors’ investment process and what we can do to improve that workflow.

Are you interested in learning more, or want to get involved? I’m working with the startup side of the community — so drop me an email if that’s you. If you’re an investor, give Joe a shout (or email me and I can connect you).

It’s been a really exciting few months, dipping my toes back into the entrepreneurial waters again**, and working with Joe has been a rollercoaster ride of fun. He’s built an incredible network of advisors and the beginnings of an awesome team (the last of whom you’ll meet very soon).

If you’re a founder, please have a look at the review process and review as many investors as you want to. The more reviews the better!
If you’re an investor, check out the Verified Partner scheme and give Joe a shout if you’d like to learn more.

Landscape’s a community initiative to help increase fairness, accessibility and transparency in fundraising. And we’d love your help to do it.

*If you’re having a tough time, drop me an email, tweet me or try talk to someone, anyone. It really helps. Thanks Sanctus(in a big way) for getting me through the dark days.
**Landscape sits alongside all of my other commitments — including the ATI Boeing Accelerator — so this is very much dipping of the toe rather than jumping in the deep end again!