Led by Canadian co-founders Daniel Eckler and Wisam “Wiz” Abdulla—a pair of marketing-focused entrepreneurs-turned-investors with two exits each under their belts—Spacecadet is positioning itself as ‘the marketing VC.’
According to Eckler, given that early-stage startups are looking at “things around the edge of impossible,” good storytelling can be difficult. Enter Spacecadet, a New York-based venture firm which hopes to help nascent companies tell those stories, “oriented around their next prospective fundraise.”
To date, Spacecadet has raised $12.5 million USD from a long list of prominent venture capitalists, VC firms, and tech leaders that includes a16z general partners (GPs) Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon, Clearco co-founder Andrew D’Souza, Slack co-founder Stewart Butterfield, Boston-based Bain Capital, and San Francisco’s Gradient Ventures.
“We recognized that there were very few VCs that are actually equipped to help startups with marketing.”
Through Spacecadet, Eckler and Abdulla aim to set up pre-seed and seed-stage startups to raise their next rounds by providing them with marketing assistance. On the flip side, the firm also sees a chance to play a role in helping its big name individual and institutional VC limited partners (LPs) spot potential investment opportunities.
“We do get brought in often as sort of the marketing VC by these GPs,” Abdulla told BetaKit in an interview.
As part of a recent round, lead investor Greg Castle of Anorak Ventures brought in Spacecadet as “the marketing VC” to help Nashville’s Very Real Help work on its story. Very Real Help provides therapy in the metaverse.
“He’s like, ‘Okay this guy’s brilliant, knows what he’s up to, but they really need help with the story,’” said Abdulla. “‘You guys should invest as well and let’s all work on the story together.’”
For early-stage startups, Eckler says marketing can be tough. “Companies in their earliest stages, especially the ones we like to invest in, they’re looking at things that are like, at the edge of impossible,” he told BetaKit. “These are big, crazy ideas, moonshots, things that make it really difficult—especially if you’re a founder that doesn’t have a specialty in marketing or story—to tell a really good story around that.”
According to Eckler, sometimes, Spacecadet is able to help firms tell their story over the course of a 30 to 60 minute phone call, while other times it requires a ‘story sprint’ workshopping process, which can take a few days. “There’s really no risk and they can get a ton of value in a short amount of time,” he said.
“I think people look to us and say, ‘Oh, if we bring Spacecadet in, we can then be confident that [they’re] going to really work with that founder to ensure that that subsequent fundraise, and all the stories getting told around it, is going to be incredibly strong’—and we’re going to introduce them to other strong investors as well,” said Eckler.
According to Abdulla, big VCs have also turned to Spacecadet given the strength of its dealflow and the results the firm has managed to generate.
“In our first 37 companies, we had a lot of great success,” said Abdulla. “We had 14 markups and we front-ran [sic] Andreessen, Founders Fund, Lux Capital, GGV, [and] Accel. It was like, ‘Hey, these guys have some interesting dealflow.’”
On the side, Abdulla participates in a secret text group with a bunch of people including Dixon and Andreesen, who has spent the last two plus-weeks trolling Twitter users with a barrage of “I support the current thing” posts. “Marc pre-shares some of the memes before he posts them to Twitter—and also some of the outtakes,” said Abdulla.
Prior to launching Spacecadet, Abdulla co-founded two human resources tech startups in Hazel, which was acquired in 2019, and Rise People.
Eckler previously launched men’s lifestyle blog network EveryGuyed and image-sharing social network Piccsy, which were acquired in 2011 and 2014, respectively, as well as e-commerce app Mylo. He also spent time consulting for companies like Coca Cola, Facebook, Lego, Netflix, Nike, Spotify, and TikTok.
Amid an increasingly competitive investment landscape, Eckler and Abdulla hope to leverage their past experience to fill a perceived gap in the early-stage startup ecosystem, where Eckler told BetaKit there are “barely any” VCs with brand marketing expertise.
“We recognized that there were very few VCs that are actually equipped to help startups with marketing, and especially in the way that we are,” said Eckler.
Eckler and Abdulla quickly realized that if they were going to help startups with marketing, they were going to need to start by marketing themselves.
Spacecadet took a rather unique approach to raising money, drumming up interest with an animated pitch deck and duck hunt game that offered players the chance to win a $10,000 stake in its fund. According to Business Insider, this strategy led Spacecadet to receive 15 LP applications on their first day.
In addition to Andreessen, Dixon, D’Souza, Butterfield, Bain, and Gradient, Spacecadet’s list of LPs includes other a16z partners, GPs at Susa Ventures, Homebrew’s Hunter Walk, executives from Google, Salesforce, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Airbnb, and more.
According to Abdulla, most of the fund’s LPs backed Spacecadet to open up their dealflow coverage as part of their own “scouting strategy,” given that Spacecadet offers a means of building a deeper relationship with a smaller early-stage fund capable of spotting potential deals before larger funds might see or consider them.
Spacecadet primarily writes small $100,000 cheques at the pre-seed and seed stage, participating in larger rounds. The firm hopes to do 120 deals over three years.
“We’ll come in ahead of your next fundraise and help you nail the story for that fundraise.”
Abdulla described Spacecadet’s value-add as “pretty tightly scoped” compared to an accelerator, incubator, or lead investor. “We’ll come in ahead of your next fundraise and help you nail the story for that fundraise,” he said. “So, there’s a clear goal in mind and it’s an important time for both of us. We want to see them go on to do good things, and they want to go on to do good things.”
Spacecadet’s initial goal was to raise $6 million USD. But the firm hit $8.5 million by December, before reaching $12.5 million at time of publication. The firm’s “stretch goal” is to hit $15 million for this fund, and Eckler and Abdulla expressed interest in bringing on more Canadian LPs, and doing more Canadian deals.
“In Canada, especially at the early stage, pre-seed and seed, the VC ecosystem is still ‘pretty early,’” Abdulla said, alluding to the amount of investors and investment dollars in the country This contrasts, he noted, with the more saturated early-stage investment environment that exists south of the border, where there are “3,000 pre-seed funds.”
Amid these conditions, Spacecadet sees an opportunity to help connect early-stage Canadian companies and investors to the “much larger” investor base that exists in the US.
“We can be super helpful with our Canadian portfolio companies as they think about raising those next rounds,” said Abdulla. “Always ready to get Canadian investors on the cap table and participate. It just opens them up to more options, if they have access to a much larger investor base down here.”
With files from Douglas Soltys.
Feature image courtesy Spacecadet.