When Charles River Ventures (CRV) came to PepperCom, they faced three major public relations issues.  First, CRV, an early stage venture capital firm, was perceived largely as a “B” player in the venture capital industry, typically taking a back seat to the larger and more well-known players in the space, like Kleiner Perkins and CMGI.  Secondly, CRV had received very little recognition for its unique style of investing.  The partners prided themselves in being “venture capitalists with a conscience” – ones who would always take the extra step or do whatever was necessary for their portfolio companies. By way of example, a new division within the firm called CRVelocity, was providing first-of-a-kind acceleration services to entrepreneurs needing the expertise and assistance to build their businesses as fast as possible.

Finally, while major national media typically tapped into the partners’ deep domain expertise in the data and e-commerce sectors for comment on topics and trends throughout the year, they rarely wrote about the firm itself, its key differentiators and most importantly, its industry-leading investment returns over its 30-year history.            

Overall, CRV desperately needed the media to start paying attention to the firm’s multiple success stories and for its targets audiences, entrepreneurs and potential fund investors, to realize that Charles River Ventures was backed by some of the world’s leading venture capitalists that had generated some of the most successful returns on its investments over the past 30 years.   

How did CRV solve these branding issues?  They turned to PepperCom to create a unique and sustainable positioning and leverage existing case studies to highlight its industry leading investment track record and to ultimately gain coverage in top-tier business publications that would highlight the “venture capitalist with a conscience” positioning.


Charles River Ventures was still not publicly perceived as a major venture capital player with the expertise and resources to compete with the larger, publicly traded companies in its space.  Additionally, CRV’s “entrepreneur friendly” approach to investing was not dramatically different from what all other firms were saying about themselves.  The only difference was that CRV practiced what it preached.  Therefore, we not only had to overcome a major lack of name recognition among the national business media, we were also faced with a group of stiff competitors, many of whom could tell similar tales of major successes in backing some of the hottest companies in the new economy.


The overarching objective at the onset of our campaign was to garner coverage in the world’s most respected and best read business publications and consequently heighten awareness among the firm’s target audiences: entrepreneurs and potential fund investors - all of whom had received very little knowledge to date of how CRV differentiated itself from the competition and that the firm had generated some of the most impressive returns in the industry.

While conducting a detailed positioning audit in which we executed one-on-one interviews with internal CRV executives, and external interviews with existing portfolio companies, investors, and reporters/analysts who cover the venture capital and start-up sectors, we also completed a thorough competitive positioning landscape in order to determine not only how the competitors were positioning themselves but, critically, to determine how the media were reporting the positionings.  

Based upon our findings, we recommended the following positioning: “Charles River Ventures: VC’s with a conscience, accelerating an entrepreneur’s vision to be first in and first to a market.”   This line not only differentiated CRV from every other venture capital firm (i.e. they accelerate the entrepreneurs vision by providing a unique set of services that most other firms weren’t offering), it also enabled us to address the specific needs that entrepreneurs were facing in the new economy.


In 2000, PepperCom generated more than 25 articles in leading business and new economy publications.  These stories reflected CRV’s key differentiators and properly positioned the firm’s unique business model.  Placements included feature coverage in The Wall Street Journal, Business 2.0, Red Herring, San Jose Mercury News, Boston Globe, The New York Times, Forbes and many others.  
Most importantly, for the first time, CRV’s target audiences - entrepreneurs and potential fund investors - were reading about how and why CRV had been able to create one of the industry’s most successful track records over the last 30 years.  And finally, through substantial editorial coverage, CRV was able to change the misconception among much of the industry that they were a “B” level player in an industry cluttered with “A” level competitors.