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Using the NextView Offices to Support Pre-Seed Startups

The NextView Ventures offices have changed a lot since we switched locations two and a half years ago. The only real physical change between the two, aside from basic layout, is our entrance, where we added a fun showcase of each of our portfolio companies (as seen below) that matches our firm’s focus on being craft-like in our work.

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What has changed, however, is the people working from our office.

Of course, since the beginning of NextView, the firm has included Rob, Lee, and me. We’ve since added Jay Acunzo to our team here in Boston, first as director and now VP of platform, as well as Tim Devane who, while based in NYC on the investment team, spends a few days a month up in our Boston office. Both have made a tremendous impact during their tenure, and their presence around the office is now integral to who we are at NextView.

Standing Shoulder-to-Shoulder with Founders

But in early 2015, something happened organically which affected our office environment perhaps even more dramatically than our team’s growth: We slowly and informally began inviting entrepreneur friends of the firm to work out of our office on a semi-temporary basis.

First, it was one or two additional folks, but over time, that count has continued to grow. And over the course of a year or so, the list of teams working here has included these and more:

  • A two-person team building a SaaS business which ended up becoming a NextView portfolio company after six months
  • A three-person, on-demand economy company comprised of friends of the firm
  • A student entrepreneur and soon thereafter an additional co-founder, working to hatch their new travel company
  • A seven-person, existing portfolio company (consumer focused and location-based business), which needed a temporary office during office transitions
  • A sole, repeat founder exploring his next idea
  • A founding team which worked here before moving to TechStars down the hall
  • An incubated consumer fintech project which started at zero people and has quickly grown to a half-dozen
  • Various portfolio founders & execs from NYC-based startups who camp out while in town
  • Friends of the firm who need a desk for a day or so (including a few founders, one marketing executive on a remote team, and others)

And with all of those people around, something magical has happened.

The theoretical “watercooler effect” has actually become a reality. Sure, the startups hanging out in our space physically have a front-row seat for the oft-mentioned VC “value add” of an extended network, as well as more 1:1 feedback about their business and how to position it more effectively for fundraising (as well as the product and go-to-market expertise of our team).

But it’s certainly been a two way street, as my partners and I have greatly benefited, too. Not only have we had meaningful learning from hallway conversations, but it’s provided us an opportunity to literally stand beside founders both inside our NextView portfolio and not, which embodies many aspects of our firm’s ethos. And given that we’re developing a platform of resources dedicated to startup traction, I can think of nothing more powerful than sitting five feet from the exact problems and hearing the exact questions that we aim to address when it comes to launching and growing a startup.

And for the individuals and companies who work out of our offices, they do so right beside the NextView team. Unlike some other VCs which have their “incubation spaces” in a separate area, a different floor, or even in the basement (literally!) – all of us here at here at NextView share a common area together.

To be honest, all of this just kind of happened, but with these realizations, we’re excited to evolve it into something much more deliberate.

Along those lines:

We at NextView are now extending an open invitation to entrepreneur friends in our network to work out of our offices as capacity allows.

We at NextView are not an incubator, but we do incubate companies.

We don’t offer an accelerator program, but we do help accelerate companies (especially when they’re sitting beside us).

We don’t have EIRs, but we do have entrepreneurs who are in this residence.

We don’t label ourselves a “pre-seed” firm, though we do often make smaller pre-product, pre-launch investments … including into those who work out of our offices.

Again, what we at NextView do have in a more crystallized way than ever is a commitment to using our space (and, along with it, our team) for the earliest possible stages of innovation in our ecosystem.

The space itself is relatively small, but we now strive to have it always full. We have been and will continue to treat all of the teams here the same way, whether they are now or become NextView companies or not.

Our whole team realizes that innovation doesn’t happen in programmatic fashion, and so we aren’t building a programmatic effort around the initiative. Yet we also realize that there are mutual benefits in physically working together with startups in a shared space side by side, especially when a company is first launching.

In the past, I’ve blogged about how “your office space is the face of your startup.”

We want our face to the world to be the founding teams with whom we chose to work shoulder to shoulder — quite literally.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.