New Perk for Cash Conscious VCs: Discounted Startup Goods

Phil Sanderson, a managing director at IDG Ventures in San Francisco and a natural marketer, was recently wondering how to give the consumer companies in his portfolio a boost in these gloomy times.

He struck on an idea: offering discounts on their products and services to venture capitalists. Not only could it drive sales, but it would familiarize investors with IDG’s portfolio. “It’s literally a way to sell more products,” says Sanderson. It’s also a “great way to expose the companies, so when they’re raising money next time around, people will say, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember those guys.’”

Sanderson shared his idea with numerous investor friends, it caught on, and roughly 20 minutes ago, he sent out an email to every VC he knows with a discount code for the products of seven startups, including 35 percent off holiday card stationery from the custom shop Minted.com, an IDG-backed company; half-off regularly priced $1,499 to $1,999 Opus Digital Music Servers (IDG); and 33 percent off Raquel Allegra scarves at Shopflick.com (Panorama Capital and Venrock).

“I didn’t go to every VC I know, because I’ve got a real job and all that,” says Sanderson. “But VCs should be adding value to their portfolio companies, and helping them to sell is adding value. I think it could be a platform for future years. It’d be great if other VCs want to get their companies on the list.”

Asked whether he’s taking advantage of the discounts he helped negotiate, Sanderson says that he is already a customer of his portfolio companies, Minted.com and Olive, maker of the Opus music server. “But a 33 percent discount on the Rachel Allegra scarf seems like a good deal,” he shrugged.

“We’re also offering $50 off an acne removal device,” he pointed out — the ThermaClear by Therative, a company backed by Bessemer Venture Partners, Foundation Capital, RWI Ventures, and Band of Angels.

“If someone has a teenage kid, someone could use that.”