Dan Graham (Springdale Ventures) – How He Scaled buildasign.com to over $100 million, The Opportunity He Saw Investing in CPG in Austin, and the Differences Analyzing DTC and Retail Brands

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I’d like to thank Adelle Archer for introducing me to today’s guest Dan Graham, one of the co-founders and General partners of Springdale Ventures. Some of their investments include Eterneva, Literati, and Beatbox beverages. Previously, Dan co-founded BuildASign.com in 2005 and grew it to an over $100 million dollar CPG, Ecommerce business that was purchased by Cimpress (VistaPrint) in 2018 for $280M. This episode we talk all things Austin and CPG – the opportunity he saw to form Spingdale, why he didn’t need to fundraise when building Buildasign.com and how he thinks about brand in relation to ecommerce and retail.

If you’re enjoying the show, if you could leave a review on the apple podcast app as that helps other folks find it, that would be really helpful. If you are a founder and working on something innovative, have a question you’d like to hear VCs or founders answer on the show you can DM me and follow me on Twitter @mikegelb. You can also follow for episode announcements @consumervc. For all episodes, please visit theconsumervc.com. Thanks again for listening.

A couple of books Dan recommends are Give and Take by Adam Grant and Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss.

Some of the questions I asked Dan –

  1. What attracted you to entrepreneurship and what was the opportunity that you saw when founding BuildaSign?
  2. Why did you choose not to fundraise for BuildaSign and bootstrap?
  3. Talk to me about what attracted you to investing?
  4. Why did you switch from being an angel investor to actually raising your own fund and building Springdale Ventures?
  5. Naturely
  6. What was the opportunity that you saw in Austin?
  7. What makes Austin so compelling as a startup hub? How is it different from New York and the bay area?
  8. Talk to me about your due diligence and decision making process and how do you establish conviction that the brands you invest in will break through the noise?
    1. Are there specific metrics that you pay most attention to?
    2. How do you judge brand authenticity?
    3. Growth marketing – organic vs. paid
    4. What are some qualities you like to see in founders?
  9. How do you think about first mover advantage when it comes to consumer brands?
  10. Has COVID changed how you invest?
    1. Have you shifted your focus from/to any particular verticals?
    2. What categories have been disrupted most?
    3. Are you spending more time with portfolio companies as opposed to making new investments?
  11. What are some consumer trends that you are paying attention to?
  12. What’s one thing that you would change when it came to venture capital?
  13. What’s one piece of advice for founders of B2C companies?

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