Playing Long-Term Games: How to Build Relationships with the Right Venture Capital Partners

Partnerships are about finding relationships that equal more than the sum of their parts.


In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide you with a step-by-step process for identifying and building relationships with the right venture capital partners. We’ll show you what types of partnerships you should be thinking about, the people you should be targeting, offers you can create to make the partnership beneficial to both, and how to maintain long-term partnerships with these people.


Whether you’re a seasoned investor or just getting started in the industry, this guide is designed to help you navigate the complex world of venture capital investing. From identifying potential partners to building strong relationships, we’ll provide you with the insights and strategies you need to make informed investment decisions and drive success for your business. So let’s get started and explore how you can build relationships with the right venture capital partners and take your business to the next level.

# Playing Long-Term Games: How to Build Relationships with the Right Venture Capital Partners

Table of Contents

Types of Partners

The first step in identifying potential venture capital partners is to understand the types of partnership options available.


Partners have to be people or companies that have an incentive to work with you. Three good proxy questions you should ask yourself are:


  1. “Is this a business I would recommend to all of my portfolio companies?”
  2. “Can I help this person get more business?”
  3. “How much work will be involved to send business their way?”


Partnership opportunities should be able to easily answer two of those questions positively, but ideally all three.


The most-popular types companies to partner with include:


  • Software companies: Companies selling into startups love working with venture capital funds because it gives them a filtered list of customers (that are less likely to churn). This includes companies like Notion, Airtable, Slack, Loom, ActiveCampaign, and others.
  • Service companies: These companies offer services necessary for startups to grow. This can include companies specialized on outsourced SEO, design, engineering, legal, hiring, lead generation, or other business functions.
  • Venues: Venture is a network-driven game. Like it or not, the best ways to network are in-person. Local venues can lock in favorable rates for repeat customers.
  • Online communities: Communities of likeminded people can act as a marketing channel, but most communities act as tribes. This means they look out for their own, and they don’t play nicely with transactional people. If you come in with the mindset that you’re only using an online community to sell to a hyper-focused audience, you have no chance.
  • Others with a large influence: Influencer marketing is here to stay, but venture funds can be creative with how they leverage these types of relationships to their advantage.


Types of Partnerships

Partnerships can really be split up into three buckets: investment, marketing, and strategic. Each partner mentioned above has a different goal, and those goals influence the types of partnerships possible.


Software companies are interested in recurring revenue. That means they are interested in converting a portion of your portfolio into customers, and they want to trade some sort of deal in exchange for your recommendation and approval. This can be easily done through referral codes or discounts, and this is the most popular way we’ve seen funds work with these types of companies.


Service companies are interested in growing their own book of business. Ideally they are looking for clients with money in the bank so they don’t have to worry about quick churn. Funds can work with these types of companies by negotiating a discounted rate, or they can also organize speaking sessions so that they can pitch their services to portfolio companies.


Venues want more bookings. This is an easy fix since funds love to book in-person events. We’ve found it’s better off to find two or three local events you like, and keep working with those people.


Online communities are interested in offering value to their community members. There are millions of communities out there, and each has different interests and motivations. This is not a one-size-fits-all type of partnership, and you will have to get creative on the best way to work with these people.


Those with a large influence are interested in two things: making money and increasing their reach. We’ve seen funds work with these people either by making them venture partners and exchanging upside in the deals they source for the fund. We’ve also seen funds build an LP base around these types of individuals (M13 and Plus Capital are two funds that have done this well).


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The People You Should Be Targeting

When it comes to identifying potential venture capital partners, it’s essential to target the right people. Before reaching out to anyone, you should take the time to research and understand who you should be talking to and their incentives. Look for people whose role lines up with the types of partnerships outlined in the previous section.


You should be leveraging your existing network to identify potential partners. Reach out to your colleagues, mentors, and other co-investors to see if they have any recommendations or connections that could be helpful.


Ultimately, the key is to approach potential partners with a clear value proposition and a solid understanding of what they are looking for in a partnership. By doing your research and targeting the right people, you can increase your chances of building successful, long-term partnerships that benefit both you and your investors.


Nurturing and Maintaining Long-Term Partnerships

Once you have established a partnership with a venture capital partner, it’s important to nurture and maintain that relationship.


Keep them informed, keep them involved, and keep driving more business for them. Finding partnership opportunities is a HUGE time suck, so everybody wants to find people they can play long-term games with. How you maintain relationships should come natural to you, so figure out what works for your style, and do that.



Building successful partnerships with with other players in the VC ecosystem isn’t a top priority for funds today.


Running a fund comes with a lot of responsibilities. Sourcing, writing memos, updating LPs, and doing admin work take time. It’s easy to write off building an ecosystem presence as a distraction.


However, from our experience, we’ve seen the funds that invest in this step become the funds that outperform over the long run.

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