The Website as First Impression

OpenView Venture Partners recently completed an update of its website, www.openviewpartners.com. But before we got started, we stepped back and asked ourselves questions to better understand our audience and what content and design style could best represent us to that target group.

We also spent a lot of time looking at other websites and analyzing our traffic to figure out what topics most interested our visitors. Based on this, we developed a few principles for our site that we believe are useful for all VC firms.

VC websites must serve entrepreneurs first and foremost.

The first issue that we needed to address was determining the target audience for our website. Entrepreneurs, board members, bankers, investors, media, influencers and other audiences regularly visiting the websites of VCs, and it’s difficult to optimize the online content for all these groups at once.

Ultimately, we decided that the target audience for venture capitalists is the entrepreneurs who are looking for funding sources. As a result, much of our new site is aimed at explaining how we work with entrepreneurs and showing how we are different and valuable to the types of companies that we target.

We also determined that most of the content themes for entrepreneurs would apply relatively well to others who typically frequent VC websites.

Highlight people, portfolio companies, competitive differentiation and philosophies.

Our research indicated that most visitors are interested in people, portfolio companies, and the “about” section of the site, so we put special effort to include descriptions, photos, videos, and other related content for each section.

We also included several links that allow visitors to investigate blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and LinkedIn accounts for our members and portfolio companies, allowing visitors to get a complete understanding of each.

Easily show visitors who you are, but also allow interested visitors to complete more thorough diligence.

The third issue that we needed to address regarded ease of use. On our old site, we found that most visitors liked to take a quick first pass through the site to get a basic understanding, but that some visitors wanted to go into great detail into the content.

We made the new site really simple for both types of visitors. For example, the main message on our homepage is meant to let entrepreneurs know exactly what we do so that they can determine if we are a good fit:

“OpenView Venture Partners is a venture capital firm focused on helping technology companies turn their vision into reality. We typically invest $5-$15 million in companies that have $2-$20 million in annual sales.”

It is important to recognize that people consume content in a variety of different ways. To that end, we have created a brochure that explains who we are, giving our visitors the opportunity to read or print a complete detailed package.

We also added a couple of independent content sites, a blog (www.blog.openviewpartners.com) and a site run by our value add consulting team (www.openviewlabs.com) to offer entrepreneurs ideas for building companies. These sites are intended to help our target better understand how we think, but are also useful for helping our audience find us through search engines and social media.

The sites will never be “done.”

The Web 2.0 phase of the Internet has brought a lot of innovation to websites. Many firms are starting to experiment with the new content and application widgets that are now available. Our plan is to keep experimenting with new forms of content and applications to continue to polish the site and incorporate the best practices that we can.

All venture capitalists can take note of these key principles we uncovered during the redesign of our website as they consider new approaches for theirs.

Scott Maxwell is the founder and Senior Managing Director of OpenView Venture Partners. He can be reached at smaxwell@openviewpartners.com. For more ideas, visit the firm’s website at www.openviewlabs.com.