We’ve all learned a lot this year: about ourselves, the industry we operate in and the resourcefulness and resilience of the founders we are privileged to work alongside everyday. At the start of 2021, we’d like to share some news from 2020, as well as our learnings from working with our incredible founders and portfolio teams.
We were thrilled to welcome six new investments into the portfolio in 2020, including operational risk management fintech Acin, claim management automation insurtech Claimsforce, customer service software provider Dixa, experience creator toolkit Easol, and Securities API fintech Upvest. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there was an increased emphasis on the growing importance of cloud technology, triggering some exceptional growth across the portfolio. As such, we were able to participate in nine up rounds, including for near-Unicorn GoCardless, revenue delivery platform Paddle, and gym management software provider GloFox. Testament to its rapid growth, one of our newest portfolio companies, Upvest, was also supported by Notion in a second round in December.
Whilst our portfolio was growing, our team grew alongside it and we welcomed several new members to the team towards the start of the year including Andy Leaver, who has been a senior executive in five consecutive B2B software Unicorns (Ariba, SuccessFactors, Bazaarvoice, Workday and Hortonworks), as Operating Partner. Other key investment hires included Investor Relations Director, Charlotte Salasky, and Investment Associate, Susie Meier; Itxaso del Palacio, PhD (who launched Microsoft’s M12 in Europe) was also promoted to Partner. More recently, we were able to welcome Jan Irwin as our first dedicated Product Manager. At the start of 2021 Michelle Cheng joined as our new Head of Talent and Abigail England joined to support us with marketing and content.
We were also delighted to announce that we were continuing to support Included VC, as it announced its second annual and first global VC fellowship, along with Creandum, Daphni, Enern, HSBC Ventures, K Fund, Mangrove Capital, M12 – Microsoft’s Venture Fund, Notion Capital, Seedcamp, Mouro Capital (formerly Santander Innoventures) & Wilson Sonsini. The fellowship will immerse 48 diverse fellows in the world of venture capital, with the ambition to prepare them for careers as VCs and tech investors.
Working with our portfolio
As well as making new investments, growing the team and supporting on uprounds, we were also working closely alongside our portfolio, however – as we’re all very much aware – 2020 was not a normal year.
Every year, for the last seven years, we’ve asked founders and CEOs in the Notion portfolio to provide us with feedback on their experiences of working with both Notion Capital and Notion Platform, to help us continually improve on our mission to create the conditions for extraordinary success in European tech. As such, this feedback is always invaluable to us but it has arguably been more critical than ever this year in allowing us to reflect on how we support moving forward.
Along with swathes of the working world, Notion and our portfolio moved to working remotely and online which meant that, at a time in which we hoped to support our portfolio the most, the nature of the way in which we were able to support them changed completely. Alongside this, there was huge uncertainty as to how this pandemic would pan out and every company was impacted differently.
As such, we set out to provide support that would help at an individual and collective level across the portfolio. From our survey, it’s been wonderful to hear that founders did feel that support from both the platform and the wider investment team through this particularly challenging time, especially in the earlier months, with one founder saying Notion had been ‘out of the gate very quickly with founder support’. This was reflected in the fact that we managed to achieve our highest NPS score yet of 97 – an incredibly proud and humbling feeling for us all after such an unprecedented year. But, as ever, there’s still more we can do and ways in which we can improve this support. As Andy Leaver tells us, “A high NPS is pretty unhelpful as it doesn’t give you anything to work with.” But fortunately, while our founders were very generous with their NPS scores, they were also very thorough on their input on what we could do better.
Whilst we love supporting business growth, our founders were forthright in telling us that we needed to do better on founder wellbeing. We might have delivered well on the operational support we offered, but there’s still a lot of work to be done on our support of them and their leaders on a more personal level.
One area in which we’d like to address this is through improved founder-to-founder conversations and peer-to-peer collaboration. Whilst this has always been important across the portfolio, without the in-person events and meetups, this has become trickier to achieve – particularly the natural conversations people strike up in the breaks or at drinks. This of course fits into a wider conversation around tools and facilitation of WFH (working from home) and WFA (working from anywhere), but at Notion we’re exploring how we can make these cross-portfolio connections and collaboration as easy to come by and as valuable as they would be in person. It’s also important that we ensure that our portfolio gets the right kind of support moving in 2021 to address their needs. Whilst we delivered lots of content and events throughout 2020, we didn’t always hit the mark, but finding out what worked and what didn’t has been a huge learning curve and will allow us to adapt the delivery of our content in the coming months, as we all continue to adapt.
Delivery of that content in the form of events and workshops changed completely throughout the course of 2020, with a shift to this being 100% remote (it’s strange to think that at the start of 2020 we were deep in planning for a series of big SaaS events around Europe, with the first event planned for mid-March in Prague with Mews). Alongside this, a lot of discussion was prompted around WFH / WFA, what this might look like and the tools that would be needed, and why this trend is unlikely to go away. We did, however, find that when we do go back to some sense of ‘normality’ our portfolio will still value face-to-face interaction and that not everyone is in favour of being totally remote and online – the future perhaps looks set to be somewhere in the middle. We asked our founders how they’d like to see our events run in the future and 78% said they’d like to see a mix of both online and in-person. Interestingly, 15% said they would prefer to see events predominantly in-person and just 7% chose predominantly online. In addition to this, when we asked our founders if they’d attend an in-person founder retreat towards the end of 2021 (if government guidelines permit of course!) 97% said they would. As such, moving from 2021 into 2022, there’ll be a focus on making these two styles of events and interaction work closely in parallel with each other. As we learned throughout 2020, it doesn’t work to try and replicate an offline event by running it online so, working with the tools available to us, we strive to enhance the experience of both, whilst endeavouring to make our online events better and better throughout 2021.
Of course, there’s still a lot more we can get our teeth stuck into in 2021 and opening up the conversation with our founders is invaluable to nailing down those priorities. We’re excited to be there alongside them as a small part of their journey and to continue to support as needed. Looking back on 2020, it was a transformational year for many reasons and there were highs and lows throughout. But we can certainly be grateful for a lot of things: the things we’ve learned that we may never have otherwise had the opportunity to learn, the growing recognition of SaaS and Cloud, and what we hope will be an exciting future ahead for this industry.
Find out more about what Notion Capital was talking about in 2020: