Will Bunker | Crain's San Francisco

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Will Bunker

Background:  

 

 

GrowthX Venture Capital provides seed capital for startups in the technology sector. The San Francisco-based company looks for early-stage companies that have customers but need to scale up quickly. So far, they’ve invested in 55 companies. Other divisions within the company include the GrowthX Academy, a 12-week course that helps up and coming business leaders, and a market acceleration program to get companies from prototype to market faster.

Bunker himself has invested $10 million in 170 different companies in the last four years.

 

The Mistake:

In the early days of online dating, I helped found a website called One and Only in Dallas. From 1995 to 1999, our membership grew significantly because we were good at marketing directly to the public.

Larger companies started to take notice. We knew we had a great product so we were ready to sell.

There was just one problem: our website lacked any real brand identity. 

Match.com [one of our competitors at the time] had a more coherent website that was instantly recognizable. Match had focused too many of its resources on branding and not enough on growing its membership. We had made the opposite mistake, focusing on growing rather than branding. 

The same company [IAC] that ended up buying One and Only also bought Match. 

 

Once you create an image in the public eye, it’s hard to change it. 

 

The Lesson:

This taught me a valuable lesson early in my career that has helped me found startups and invest in them.

Once you create an image in the public eye, it’s hard to change it. That’s why you have to think it through early.

If we [at One and Only] had just dedicated more time to branding, we could have gained even more value. Our website wasn’t much to look at even by 1990s standards.

Now as a venture capitalist, I keep a keen eye on who we are and what we represent. Websites for GrowthX and its subsidiaries all have a consistent look and tell the same story.

GrowthX Venture Capital is on Twitter @GrowthX_SF
 
Photo courtesy of GrowthX Venture Capital.
 

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