Today we’re sharing an exciting interview with Elisheva Marcus, VP of Communications at Earlybird Venture Capital. Having vast experience in the tech market, Elisheva shared with A-Players her thoughts on communication in different markets (both geographically and by area), activity during the economic downturn, female leadership, community engagement, and more. Find out the entire conversation below.
Please describe your career path and Earlybird Venture Capital’s current activity in a few words.
I’ve been translating complex topics into understandable and engaging content for over 10 years. Formerly a scientific and medical illustrator, my path has since morphed into writing and editing, content creation and distribution, PR, and network building.
After earning my Master’s of Science in Biomedical Communication from the University of Toronto, I evolved my career across biomedicine, newspaper & museum graphics, educational publishing, tech startup content, and now venture capital communications.
Earlybird is a pan-European VC investing in tech champions shaping and impacting industries. I drive our communications and brand to support our portfolio companies, investment teammates, and engage with a growing community.
What qualities do you value in founders?
Curiosity, respect, ambition. I love when founders enthusiastically express their vision and technology relatable and compellingly. As a VC-startup communication generalist myself, I appreciate and learn from their often very niche-focus topic expertise.
I enjoy documenting their trajectory as they build up a team and customers who believe in their mission. To do this, internal and external communication are both essential, so we have much to discuss. I’ve been lucky to witness many founders and companies flourish.
In supporting especially early-stage founders with their PR and fundraising milestone communications, I get into the messaging weeds with them, hacking our way out and helping them pitch stories to top journalists. I try to be a coach, and support as they navigate ups and downs. I know how to cope with no’s and work towards a yes!
Why did you switch from creative industries to the tech market and venture capital in particular (though it seems you were always related to technologies & science while working on art projects :) )?
It was a natural progression, but oddly enough, it has to do with good old Craigslist.com. Back in the San Francisco Bay Area, that was my go-to source for creative jobs across pharmaceutical, legal & journalistic graphics as well as science publishing. Not to mention housing, etc.
Moving to Berlin, where I had no network yet, I revisited Craigslist only to find strange stuff. Luckily, I persisted. That led me to first work for the medical content team of a health sector startup. Later, the content I wrote guided me to a health startup accelerator, and then to an IoT & blockchain company builder. Along the way, I attended weekly meetups and conferences and grew my network of founders, builders, and investors, eventually leading to my current role.
Now I leverage this cultivated network to help others gain new opportunities (career moves, business development connections, funding opps) and raise awareness about key topics in our VC-startup ecosystem.
Why did you switch from the US to the German market? Do the specifics of work in these markets differ from each other?
In 2014, I moved to Germany for family reasons; now, I navigate Europe with a very international mindset from living in Canada, Argentina, Israel, and both US coasts.
The biggest distinction regarding Europe vs. America that I have heard is the fragmentation here of languages/cultures/ markets, in contrast to a more homogenous POV in the US. However, that could undoubtedly be dissected in various ways as well. At a recent VC Platform meeting, Ines from Headine mentioned that big tech channels are often similarly used on both sides of the pond, though the message must be uniquely tailored.
In my daily work, when pitching startup news, I pay attention to where journalists are located and what regions they cover for their readers. In that sense, I am highly tuned into the differences between the US and Europe.
How do you like Berlin? What opportunities do you value here?
I’m a big fan of Berlin. It’s transformative here. I meet people from around the world daily. This city is a good nexus in Europe for interactions.
Working in VC, every day is different. I interact with various people: journalists, photographers, founders, operators, investors, politicians, and other communicators. This city offers nature nearby (rivers, lakes, and parks), world-class museums, and relatively easy routes to other cool European locations.
How has your experience in both fields and markets influenced your approach to communication and branding?
My approach to comms and branding is a continual work in progress. I am easily inspired and never bored. I constantly listen, curate, and connect – collaborating with others and tagging people to get content under the right eyes.
Focusing on authenticity, word choice, and compelling imagery, I prefer a written, audio, and visual blend of content. I ask many questions and don’t believe in only one correct answer unless it’s math.
I do recommend optimizing for specific channels. At Earlybird, I so far focused on growing our LinkedIn & Medium following organically – by showcasing portfolio company wins and teammate activities, using an inclusive tone of voice, and providing educational value.
In creating new content series (insights from C-Level Insights and the ecosystem), I also encouraged other teammates to share unique perspectives. I advocated for the reader in all cases and aimed to be truly helpful to founders. It is working, as we have seen 175% growth to now over 72k LinkedIn followers since I joined in 2020. This matters because it offers portfolio leaders a larger platform for news and milestones – reaching the right mix of founders, talent, investors, etc.
How did your approach and communication strategy change during the economic downturn? Do you feel the difference in the market, or as a VC, it hasn’t affected your team that much?
It comes back to having an empathetic core. I try not to take things for granted. Pre-downturn/pandemic, I already thought it best to produce helpful material that places the audience first. Now that attention is stretched, and people are fighting for their company and career survival, it’s even more vital.
So I offer resources where I can be most useful: PR tips, career advice 1:1 when asked, job links, personal introductions, and highlights of other people’s work.
This situation absolutely affects VC. We ramped up sharing insights across ecosystem operators to learn from other people’s experiences and then spread that out to the broader community. Showing sensitivity is not something VCs are necessarily known for (cue the ‘VCs congratulating themselves’ meme), but that is precisely my aim to change that through communications. Adding people to my small team has also been a game-changer, so we achieve more together.
How do you stay updated on the rapidly evolving technology and startup landscape regarding communication trends and the needs of the companies/projects you work for?
I sign up for far too many newsletters and consume a ton of podcasts about tech, business history, startup news, and more. Check out Acquired FM, Pivot, Business Breakdowns, Speak Like a CEO, and Lenny’s Podcast: Product Growth Career.
I do a bit of social listening on Twitter and LinkedIn, especially to founders (sharing what they are building or pain points), journalists (sharing what they are curious about), and other communicators in my network (sharing best practices). Combined, this sparks new ideas and awareness.
When I meet with startups, I give them undivided attention to deeply understand their communications challenges and then relate it to what I have done before, or connect them to targeted experts, or the right journalists for their topics, etc.
What are the key attributes of a strong and effective communication strategy now?
Your internal and external messages need to align at a high level. How to do that? Sort key messages for yourself and your company; identify the top 3 things. Know your competition and be able to explain why you differ. Write down the values for your company and try to live them daily.
Then prioritize owned and earned media over paid media. You can do a lot with your own channels: have a recognizable brand and show up on limited social channels that matter to you (i.e., where your target audience lives.) Give some attention to your employer branding to attract the right talent. Put some mild effort into your personal brand by reflecting on your genuine interests; then post 1-2 times per week on those and include good visuals. Try to be a guest on podcasts to gain practice spreading the word about your solution.
On your way to having a decent digital footprint, build long-term relationships with journalists, meaning research their beats and be clear about your story, team, etc. Treat this as a respectful 2-way street where you provide interesting news & earn their trust over time.
What are the biggest challenges facing female founders and leaders in the technology industry today / what can be done to overcome them?
Attending events with groups like Founderland, I immediately would wish to expand that pool to intersectional founders, which includes people of color and takes a broader lens.
Having the right networks is vital to be considered for investment opportunities. So I try to do intros whenever I can. For example, I see the needle moving through Auxxo Female Catalyst and Fund F from Female Founders.
Speaking of leadership, having professional role models is helpful, as I just read in an article about more women in data science. People like Georgie Smallwood are doing an excellent service with her LinkedIn group called Auxilia, as well as Ana Alvarez’s organization Migrapreneur.
Podcasts effectively spread investment and business knowledge, like Venturing Women, Women Authors of Achievement, and Female Business Angels Podcast. They all feature successful female leaders, entrepreneurs, board members, etc. Learning from each other is the way, as is finding male allies in the workplace.
Your favorite article on FemGems blog you recommend reading.
If we’re digging into the archives from when I was writing more for FemGems, I would encourage people to read about the one & only Katy Campell.
Please share some links that will help people get to know you better and stay in touch in the future.
Finally, I’d love to offer a quick shout-out to Earlybird’s Vision Lab, where, together with many partnerships, we bring network, funding, and mentorship to founders of migration origins here in Germany. We are now in the 3rd Cohort of the Program, and I am super proud of the teams who you can meet at Demo Day on March 30! They come from 11 countries and represent 50% female participation.