Building a brand identity for your startup Hedge Fund

November 19th, 2009
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Contributed by: Quoin Partners
Throughout my writing I often use the terms “startup hedge fund manager” and “entrepreneur” interchangeably because it requires a subtle shift in mental imagery from a swashbuckling master of the universe to that of a business builder. As a manager, when you decided to launch your fund you also decided to take on all of the responsibilities associated with running a business: fund raising, sales, human resources, IT, compliance, risk, finance, facilities, and so forth. Beyond the tangible operational/infrastructure components, you must also create the philosophical, moral, and cultural foundation of your business.

I use the term “create” instead of “build,” because the definition of “who” you are as a company is a creative and introspective process…a highly individualistic and personal exercise. There are a million books, articles, blogs, and speeches out there about creating a corporate vision or brand identity, but to be honest, how is learning about others going to help you define yourself and your fund? Learning about Nike, Goldman, or Google is certainly entertaining and educational, however, what worked for these firms will not necessarily work for you…your variables, the variables of your team, the variables of your strategy are drastically different than any case study you will ever read about. You must look inward…Who are you as a firm? What distinguishes it from other hedge funds? How do you want to be perceived? By investors? By employees? What imagery evokes what you are trying to portray?

Introspection is a necessary part of being an entrepreneur…it means having a self-awareness not only to come to the initial decision to strike out on your own but also in defining the firm that you want to run. Each hedge fund needs a sense of self-identity…a sense of purpose not only feeds its internal soul (e.g. culture, employees) but exudes a unique appeal to investors, potential recruits, and the general marketplace alike.

As a reformed venture capitalist, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat across a conference table from brilliant tacticians or academics and have been bored to tears while being verbally dragged through the intellectual equivalent of the Gobi Dessert. It is a sad fact that the majority of technical startups are like this…heavy on the content light on the identity. I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing it was to walk into the rare meeting where the entire founding team excitedly basked in the sunlight of their unique company identity…they knew exactly who they were and how they brought value to the world. These were the meetings where the Head of Sales would give the IT presentation and the Chief Technology Officer would walk you through the market opportunity and the Chief Executive would rattle off financial projections…where bar none every member of the team knew the company flat and could communicate a clear, concise, and motivating message to all who were listening. There were some presentations that were so good that I wanted to chase after departing management group in the lobby and ask if I could join their firm!

Needless to say that as an investor, this type of gravitas was a huge selling point to my firm and our partners…The applicability to pre-launch emerging hedge fund managers is very relevant in that the first and arguably most important step in marketing your firm and raising capital is to establish a solid corporate brand identity. Many startup fund managers we come across are armed with superior investment strategies and sport a world-class pedigree, but have put very little thought into the identity of their fund. They feel that the numbers will simply speak for themselves…the fund will raise itself both of which are entirely false assumptions.

While returns are absolutely one of the most important elements to raising capital, a manager with an incoherent story or branding approach will be passed up by increasingly scrupulous investors. A large portion of your success will lie in how you not only present your strategy but also yourself, your team, and your fund. Much of this presentation has to do with how you and your team act, speak, and interact with investors...but much of it also has to do with the non-verbal items that communicate your identity as a firm such as company name, logo, website, investor presentations, stationary, and so on. As basic as these things may sound, believe me, they do make a difference when you are trying to set your firm aside from the rest. In our brand identity series, we will explore best practices for startup hedge funds in creating an internet identity, investor presentations, and establishing a corporate name and logo.

Spencer Knibbe is the Managing Partner and founding member of Quoin Partners, an innovative startup advisory services firm dedicated to helping emerging fund managers build, scale, and grow their businesses. For more information on Quoin Partners please click here.
Related Article Tags: Multi-Strategy, Long Short, Equity, Debt and Global Macro Hedge Fund News; Featured Reports; Hedge Fund Resources and Featured Partner News

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