When Kate Mitchell, managing general partner of Scale Venture Partners, accepted the chairmanship of the National Venture Capital Association in May 2010, she was handed a plate full of critical legislative and regulatory issues, including defending the venture capital community from a carried interest tax hike and mandatory SEC registration.
Yet amid these challenges and many others, Kate held steadfast to a priority she had set for herself and the NVCA, one that would certainly change the association for years to come. It was time to update the NVCA brand.
It is easy to imagine what the marketing team was thinking back in the 1980s when they developed the NVCA’s prior look and feel. The VC industry was in its infancy and its contribution to the U.S. economy was not yet well understood. The block letters and dark green color conveyed strength, stability and trust. It was a credible look for our work on Capitol Hill.
The brand served us well for many years. As a nonprofit association, we tend not to fix things that don’t seem broken. But one of the first questions Kate asked us was, “Does this look still represent who we are?” The answer was quick and unanimous: “No.”
Over the course of the year, the NVCA staff and members of our Board worked to understand the essence of the association, the venture capital industry and the stakeholders we represent. Our conversations with the people we represent revealed a number of truths for our new brand to convey:
• Venture capital does not stand alone. Without entrepreneurs, there would be no venture capital.
• Venture capitalists are passionate about funding innovation and bringing new technologies to the marketplace.
• Venture capital remains a small and unique asset class. We have indeed professionalized in the last twenty years, but we are far from institutionalized.
When our branding committee gathered to discuss our new direction, the words “entrepreneurs” and “innovation” came up constantly.
• The value of membership in the NVCA is driven largely by the collective voice it has achieved in the market and on Capitol Hill.
When our branding committee gathered to discuss our new direction, the words “entrepreneurs” and “innovation” came up constantly. Clearly, these elements play critical roles in the venture capital industry; we knew they must to do the same in the NVCA brand.
Marketing experts will tell you that any successful brand should be simple, memorable and unique. Yet, a quick scan of the startup ecosystem revealed the generous use of the terms “entrepreneurs” and “innovation” by other groups, coalitions and associations. So we asked ourselves how venture capital is distinctive in interacting with these elements. The answer resulted in our new tagline, “Funding Innovation. Empowering Entrepreneurs.”
This tagline reminds us that the venture community is not alone in its commitment to building companies and advancing innovation. We embraced this message and designed a logo that places “venture capital” at its heart and flanks it with “national” and “association” to create a visual representation of NVCA’s mission: to support and protect venture capital.
The mark to the left not only depicts the “N” for national but also conveys the upward trajectory of the companies in which our members invest. A color scheme of slate blue and cool gray was a logical choice, consistent with the technology we fund and the collective strength we bring to bear on all that we do.
Harold Green, the late CEO of ITT, once said, “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.” This idea applies to Kate Mitchell’s tenure as NVCA chair and to our new brand.
Through her vision, Kate left the association stronger and more relevant—and with a brand that better reflects who we are today. It is now up to us to carry this brand forward in our attitudes and actions, conveying the commitment of the venture industry to the public.
Emily Mendell is vice president of communications for NVCA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.