Learnings from our first 100 Scouts

OpenScout is a “scout-as-a-service” platform that acts as a two-sided marketplace, allowing scouts to share deals with investors. Typical scout programs permit scouts to do this for one VC, OpenScout opens up an entire marketplace and provides VCs with dealflow they otherwise may not encounter.

Building a new paradigm in venture is both exciting and challenging. At OpenScout/ Landscape, we are experiencing this first hand as we go through the vetting process to select our first batch of scouts to join the OpenScout Beta launch.

It’s safe to say that the demand and interest from the whole startup ecosystem has been incredible and truly humbling. In a matter of <2 months, we received 600+ applications from potential scouts (and more than 80 investors!!). For comparison, we originally thought getting 30 VCs and 100 scouts would already be a big win.

As we work our way through the scout selection process, we thought it’d be fun to share some of our learnings thus far, and shed some light on what’s been going on on the inside.

This Deepdive will cover the following: 1) what the scout profiles look like, 2) what new insights we learned from the scout applicants, and 3) the thinking behind our current selection framework.

1) A snapshot of our scout application pool

As soon as we started getting scout applications in December, we were thoroughly impressed by their quality, and found ourselves incredibly excited to see the amazing deal flow that many scouts would be bringing to OpenScout.

Potential scouts come from a range of backgrounds - from angel investors and exited founders, to academics, journalists, and fund managers - you name it. Some applicants are already scouting for reputable funds in Europe (i.e. Atomico, Ada, etc.), while others are alumni of multiple successful later stage tech companies like Gousto and Carwow. We have spotted rising stars in their respective industries, but also veterans with 30+ years of experience.

As an aim of ours with OpenScout is to empower a diverse pool of scouts to leverage their personal networks, and simultaneously deliver extensive but high quality deal flow that investors are looking for, this level of diversity is very exciting.

Equally excitingly is that potential scouts’ deal flow stem from regions spanning the entire world and that cover a range of sectors. Below you can see a breakdown of what sectors potential scouts’ deal flow will come from, and what stages they tend to be in.

A look into the sectors that the scout applicants are focussed on thus far - but not limited to.
Stage breakdown of the applicants

2) Major learnings from scouts so far

It has been interesting seeing the emerging trends in tech based on the deal flow sectors potential scouts’ have reported they will be scouting in. Amongst others, these include sustainability, web3, future of work, and healthtech. We are eager to see how these trends evolve and develop as the OpenScout platform grows. We imagine the patterns we see coming through now will be vastly different compared to those we see in 6 months.

Having gone through hundreds of scout applications and learning more about everyone’s motivations and aspirations, we also realised we wanted to offer much more than just a platform for scouts where they could earn a success fee. For many, it’s not just about monetising their deal flow. Things like exposure to a wider network, building a personal brand, community building and learning opportunities, are also at the top of people’s minds. Based on these insights, we are working on expanding our community offering beyond the current Anonymous Founders Slack channel (more to come on this soon!).

Crucially, one of the biggest takeaways from the past few months was the need for a scalable and objective framework for selecting quality scouts. In the beginning, we did not have a good grasp of how to approach scout selection. This was partly due to a lack of an insight into what our scout applicant pool would look like, but also due to the fact that we were underprepared for the level of complexity that we are now dealing with in building out a dynamic marketplace in the venture space.

Not only did we have to account for individual differences when it comes to each team member’s judgement on what makes for a good scout, we also had to find a systematic way to interpret the qualitative data we were getting from 500+ potential scouts.

It turns out, using a mix of qualitative and quantitative data, and using examples to operationalise our selection criteria, gave us more clarity in terms of what we are collectively looking for in scouts. As we’ve iterated our thought processes, we’ve gradually increased our confidence in our ability to vet potential scouts and our process is now more refined and continues to improve.

3) How we are selecting scouts

Potential scouts are currently scored on a mix of four key factors: quality of deals, quality of network, uniqueness of deals and overall experience.

We are considering far more than just these four factors, but are using these as a starting point to form our initial opinion of an applicant.

Before scoring a scout, a team member would conduct their own research on them. Each of us would score a pool of scouts, and then come together as a committee to sanity check everyone’s scoring, and fill each other's blindspots. For instance, one person on our team might know a lot more about the Nordic tech scene than others. During our committee meetings, they would then increase the scoring accuracy on an applicant whose deal flow comes from this region.

At the end of the day, an ideal scout is simply someone who sees quality deal flow and wants to leverage that deal flow by putting it in front of the right investors. We likely have a lot of blindspots that have not been uncovered by the current framework we are using, but we are hoping that as OpenScout grows, more data points on the platform’s performance will give us an even better predictive framework in selecting, and grooming, more successful scouts in future.

If you’ve read this far, you can see how eventful the past months have been for the team here at OpenScout/Landscape. We’ve underestimated the sheer quantity and quality of scout applications coming through, and most certainly underestimated the difficulty in achieving what we’re hoping to achieve, namely to build a high quality marketplace of scouts and investors. That said, we are iterating fast and learning so much as we progress. We can’t wait to see more scout applications (apply here if you haven’t already), and most importantly, launch OpenScout in a matter of weeks!

P.S. Do you have feedback on our selection framework? Drop Emily or Bri an email.

P.P.S. Are you an investor who’s interested in learning more about OpenScout? Book a call with Mike here!

Emily is Associate at Landscape. Within Landscape she wears a number of hats, covering everything from supporting founders with their fundraises, managing deal flow and making investor introductions, identifying and onboarding scouts to our venture scouting network, and so on! A large portion of her role also includes facilitating the relationships between our founder and investor community. If you would like to reach out to Emily you can do so here.

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