Propulsion, Not Just Platform: M13’s System to Help Founders Build Better Businesses

Our Propulsion model helps founders execute faster and with less capital towards better outcomes.

By M13 Team

August 14, 2023


At M13, support for our founders goes much deeper than writing that initial check. Virtually every VC with a platform team helps portfolio companies with basic recruiting and network introductions, but we’ve built something deeper: a proactive, operator-powered system with expert partners that help our early-stage founding teams drive success. We call this system Propulsion.

“Propulsion is a fundamentally different model from virtually every other venture platform I’ve seen,” says M13 Partner Rob Smith, a former founder himself. “It’s a new model for holistic startup support.”

Our research (as cited in TechCrunch) has found companies with more executive experience require 33% fewer years and 34% less capital to exit—resulting in an 81% greater IRR for investors. But even the most seasoned founders have expertise gaps, and stretched resources at the early stage means they don’t always have the time or money to fill these gaps on their own. M13 helps provide an expertise advantage, filling in executive experience gaps for early-stage companies as they scale.

M13 Partner Karl Alomar sits at a table with the Flexspace founding team at the M13 Office
Flexspace founders with M13 Partner Karl Alomar
Pietra founding team standing in front of the M13 sign at the M13 office with M13 Partner & Co-founder Carter Reum, Partner Brent Murri, and investor Morgan Blumberg
Pietra founding team with M13 investor Morgan Blumberg, M13 Partner & Co-founder Carter Reum, and M13 Partner Brent Murri

Propulsion offerings start with productized resources with demonstrated success that we refine and improve with each use. They also include longer deep-dive projects. By applying what we learn from helping one company to how we help others, we can punch above our weight in terms of the impactful support we can offer our founding teams.

“Platform doesn't work if it isn’t structured or delivered correctly,” says M13 Partner Karl Alomar. “That’s why we’ve honed in on building repeatable processes and resources—like M13 Labs and M13 Portfolio Portal—to make Propulsion truly effective at scale. By being process-oriented and proactive about helping our portfolio companies, we can offer much more impactful support.”
We are winning deals because of our Propulsion resources.

–M13 portfolio company founding team on the Propulsion impact on sales

Where Propulsion can fill in the gaps

All of our M13 partners have deep operating backgrounds, and many have been founders themselves. We also have experience helping startups navigate myriad crises (e.g., financial corrections, PR crises, the Covid-19 pandemic) to help them reach successful outcomes and exits in any environment.

In a traditional partner-centric venture model, an investing partner works individually with multiple founders in the portfolio. In our founder-centric model, our founders have access to multiple M13 partners, depending on their operational expertise needs at a given time.

Traditional partner-centric model
Founder-centric model
We help founders identify where they need this expertise as early as the due diligence process, where we highlight gaps in the business that may keep them from reaching their next milestone. Some areas where Propulsion assists our founders include:

Product — Helping founding teams strategically plan, build, and deploy their product offerings to ensure they find product-market fit as quickly as possible and build sustainable best practices as they grow.

Fundraising — Helping teams prepare for successful fundraising by identifying what milestones they need to hit prior to their next raise; advising on successful storytelling for an investor audience.

Growth & business development — Helping teams craft a strong go-to-market strategy; tactically leveraging the M13 network of BD and sales leaders to make strategic introductions and fill the top of the funnel with qualified leads.

Talent — Helping teams with hiring, managing, and org planning; pairing teams with resources for executive recruiting, applicant tracking, and external search firms; offering training modules to strengthen team leadership and communication.

Brand, content, and PR — Helping teams develop their brands and strengthen their brand storytelling, visual design, and content strategy; preparing companies to create newsworthy thought leadership and build media relationships.

Data — Helping founders identify where their most useful data is located, build out quality data stacks, and conduct data analyses that help them improve their metrics (e.g., raising customer lifetime value, lowering customer acquisition costs, building a more targeted UX geared toward their most valuable users).

Operations — Helping founding teams identify and work toward their most impactful milestones (e.g., fundraising, product launches, key hires) and make decisions across legal, finance, and org management.

M13 Propulsion team standing in front of a branded backdrop at the M13 x Mantis closeout event at LA Tech Week
M13 Partners Lizzie Francis, Rob Smith, and Win Chevapravatdumrong with the Propulsion team at an M13 x Mantis LA Tech Week event
Visor founding team with M13 Partner & Head of Data Rob Olson at the M13 office
Visor founding team with M13 Partner & Head of Data Rob Olson

Repeatable, scalable, powerful: Portfolio Portal & M13 Labs

Having a repeatable high-growth tech playbook is vital for M13 to scale our support of a growing portfolio. Propulsion drives value across the entire portfolio, from lighter touch products (e.g., templates, best practices resources) to more bespoke support (specific deep-dive projects).

One resource available to all of our portfolio companies is our new M13 Portfolio Portal, launched just last month. In our first month we've fielded over a dozen portfolio company pipeline requests, making targeted and personal introduction requests for our portfolio.

The Portfolio Portal allows our portfolio members to:

Search across the M13 collective network and request introductions

Share their target customer pipeline, which M13’s BD/Sales function can run against our network in order to strategically facilitate introductions

View vetted Preferred Partners across key areas like talent, product, brand, and growth and take advantage of 150+ exclusive vendor deals

Connect with other portfolio companies

Access in-depth founder resource content

This is amazing—exactly what we have needed. To be able to scan the M13 network against our key target accounts is so useful.

—M13 Portfolio Portal user

This year, we also launched M13 Labs, which allow our team to efficiently identify a company’s strengths and opportunity areas across product, brand, data, and more. Through Labs projects, we dive into a company’s products and processes to highlight the most impactful areas for improvement.

Labs is a quick, repeatable, and productized process where learnings from one company can be applied to others. It’s also a benchmarking tool that allows founding teams to see how they compare against their top competitors (and over time, against their former selves as they grow). And Labs aren’t only for our current portfolio companies; we also use them in our Phase One due diligence process to help us make better decisions as investors.

Screenshot of a Zoom coaching session with M13 founders
M13 founders chat with certified professional coach Jerry Colonna during our virtual coaching series (2020)

The 'Phase Two' thesis

We believe good investing happens across three phases:

    1. Creating the portfolio — Selecting the right businesses and the right founding teams to support.

    2. Managing the portfolio — Driving growth, strategy, performance, and outcomes at portfolio companies.

    3. Monetizing the portfolio — Realizing the value of portfolio companies to return money to investors.

At M13, we recognize that this second stage is incredibly important. Rather than making an investment and then sitting and waiting, we seek to truly shift outcomes for our portfolio and drive maximal value by meaningfully engaging at the second stage.

We see the core drivers that help companies become successful—product, data, talent, finance, brand, go-to-market strategy—as levers that founding teams can pull to create stronger companies. Our goal is to help companies operate more efficiently, grow faster, and exit more successfully. M13’s Propulsion engine and team helps founding teams achieve the critical milestones, gain the actionable insights, and make the invaluable connections necessary to accomplish this.

M13 Partner & Head of Brand Christine Choi with FORM Founder & CEO Evan Richardson at the M13 office
M13 Partner & Head of Brand Christine Choi with FORM Founder & CEO Evan Richardson
WeeCare CEO Jessica Chang with M13 Partner Anna Barber sitting on a couch at the M13 LA office
WeeCare CEO Jessica Chang with M13 Partner Anna Barber

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