Wednesday Wisdom from Claire Fauquier, Principal at Corigin Ventures

We’re halfway through the week, and it’s time for a boost of inspiration to keep us going. Our #MidWeekPivot blog series taps into the minds of industry leaders and disruptive visionaries who are working to build the future of entrepreneurship.

We sat down with Claire Fauquier, Principal at Corigin Ventures, to discuss the 2017/18 Project Entrepreneur Intensive, common traits among the most successful founders and more.

Early on, you mastered the art of the cold email. Talk about the power of cold outreach and the key elements of every cold solicitation and how should startups best leverage this type of communication? 
Indeed, I’m a strong believer in the power of the cold email. I’ve used cold emails successfully in landing my current role, but also in forming relationships and reaching out to startups. It’s fascinating to me, however, that 95% of the cold emails I get are rubbish. Unless it’s a thoughtful cold email, it’s useless.

A cold email has a negative effect when it’s impersonal. I approach my cold outreach in a very targeted way: instead of emailing 25 people, I choose the top 3 or 5 I’d like to speak with and send personal notes. My main two takeaways I highlight are these: (1) know who you’re sending to and send a hyper-targeted email. Mention something about them, and in particular, why they’re so important to connect with. (2) don’t ask for something outright. Instead, suggest how you may be valuable or you may be able to share information.

Beyond these two points, I always recommend proof-reading an email! Make sure font is consistent in style and size, triple-check the spelling of the recipient’s name and refer to them warmly. Otherwise, these are easy ways to annoy a recipient.

Recently, we’ve come to see museums, such as the New Museum, ACMI, and Te Papa, look to the models of accelerators, incubators, and co-working spaces to bring together entrepreneurs, hackers and cultural practitioners in hopes of driving innovation and generating new ideas. Talk about your interest in the art and tech fusion space and what you seek from companies that you fund in this area. 
I’ve been interested in art since I was a kid. Throughout high school I did painting classes on Saturdays with my mum and in university and beyond I was very involved in photography, hosting a private show at a gallery in Vermont. To me, there has always been a disconnect in how millennials appreciate and consume art with how the art world chooses to market art. Further, macro trends are showing us at an increasing rate that the way consumers are choosing art in their lives is changing. For instance, millennials are spending more and more on experiences, are creating ‘aesthetically pleasing’ personas online and in the spaces they showcase and are constantly on the move with less commitment.

I began a deep-dive into the art world on the premise that it is one of the last remaining archaic and ‘untouched’ industries, from a technology perspective. I explored everything from the way consumers purchase art, gallery dynamics, logistics around investing in and moving art, etc. I eventually spoke with the founders at Meural and was completely intrigued by what they were creating. Meural has made a digitally-connected canvas for displaying changing art. It hit on every one of the points I mentioned above and truly is revolutionary to the art world. We ended up leading their Seed round.

I still spend a decent amount of time thinking about art and how technology can play a role, but it’s a slow adapter. I have no doubt that things will begin to shift as we see more movement away from the traditional market (in that the auction world is becoming less relevant) and consumer demands shift.

What are trends you see in the area of Blockchain that excite you?
As we’ve seen lately, there’s been a lot of hype in the Blockchain space, especially as ICOs have taken off. Year-to-date, Bitcoin has risen ~325% and Ethereum has gained over 3000%. ICOs have now raised $1.8 billion dollars, almost all in the last year. We’ve seen a number of savvy investors and tech experts question whether ICO fundraises might replace venture financings.
I’ve spent a decent amount of time looking at the Blockchain technology and thinking about how it might change the world. Although I think we are in an ICO and cryptocurrency bubble right now, the technology is incredibly compelling.

At Corigin, I’ve focused my time on thinking about business models that can be enhanced through the use of the Blockchain. Much like in other areas, there are existing business models that will need enhanced cybersecurity and the Blockchain’s distributed ledger system can provide just that. Since we are consumer-focused investors, we will likely be investing in areas that the Blockchain can enhance a consumer’s daily life. In particular, I think about applications in eCommerce, real estate, insurance and fintech, and digital health. While it will be determined where the market is in the next 5-10 years, I have no doubt that the Blockchain infrastructure will be used in many areas of the tech stack.

You’ve spoken a great deal about lessons learned in your first VC year. What is one thing entrepreneurs should learn more about before launching their startup?
That’s correct, I’ve tried to document my experiences as I navigate the VC/startup world. After now spending almost two-and-a-half years in the industry, I still think about what I’ve learned and what I can improve upon.

To potential first-time founders I would emphasize that starting a startup will consume all aspects of life. Your co-founder selection will be more important than your life partner and you’ll have to make sacrifices for a couple of years. I see the time, energy and emotion that is required of our founders, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Highs can be so incredibly high and lows can be so low. By contrast, however, it can be one of the most rewarding career paths in the world.

Whenever I’m asked why I enjoy this profession as much as I do, I respond with this: it’s the best job in the world because I spend my days talking to people that are smarter than me. It’s absolutely true; the startup world is filled with ambitious, brilliant, creative people that are changing the world, quickly.

Anything else that you’d like our readers to know about?
We are actively investing in promising Seed-stage companies that touch the end consumer. We like to say that these are startups affecting daily living – work, play and living. We view founders as a company’s greatest asset and want to form strong relationships and partnerships. I’m always happy to talk to founders looking to raise!

Still looking to #pivot? Read our interview with Jamie Sears, Executive Director of Community Affairs & Corporate Responsibility at UBS.