Sometimes the startups outside your scope need help the most. Here are four simple things that you can do for them that don't involve a cheque.

As a venture director working in an industry I’m passionate about there is a part of me that wishes I could invest in every novel startup that walks through our door. Having a strong investment thesis is sometimes a helpful restraint in making sure our team keeps its focus. But on the other hand, an investment thesis can sometimes feel like it’s keeping you away from a company that your gut tells you is worthy of attention. Conversations in venture rooms occur daily where one of several factors doesn’t lead to a unanimous yes and at least one person in the room is disappointed that they couldn’t add a certain company to the portfolio.

We’ve been there before. At Leap Venture Studio we make 6-8 investments a year, yet we meet with over 100 companies and evaluate applications from over 200 companies globally. It can be hard to feel like your hands are tied when you want to help.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are four ways CVCs can support startups outside of their investment thesis.

Offer detailed pitch and deck feedback

If a company isn’t a fit for you, but you want to help them on their journey towards securing funding, one of the easiest ways to do so is by offering detailed feedback on their pitch presentation and/or their pitch deck. I find this to be most helpful for first-time founders who don’t necessarily speak the “language” of venture capital.

Speaking this language can make or break initial investor meetings, especially if those founders are getting used to boasting the potential of their product, or if they have to contend with unconscious bias.

By offering pointers on how they could sharpen their pitches and make them more enticing for investors, you just might help them over those initial humps to score funding. You could even consider creating a portal for early-stage startups to submit their pitch decks for 5 minutes of VC feedback.

Create visibility

As investors we can help create visibility for startups even if we’re not announcing them as a portfolio company. For example, pitch competitions are a great way to give emerging startups a literal stage. If you’re already planning to attend a big industry event, consider hosting a pitch competition. They’re fun, they give participants needed practice and opportunities for feedback, and more importantly, they’re introduced to a broader audience.

“If there’s a startup that’s caught your attention name drop them the next time you’re giving an interview to the media.”

Of course, you could also create similar opportunities with far less of a time commitment. If there’s a startup that’s caught your attention, cheerlead them in a LinkedIn post, or better yet, name drop them the next time you’re giving an interview to the media. We all know these small steps add up over time, increasing recognition and building credibility – that’s why so many VC firms are hiring PR agencies these days.

Open networking doors

It can be really difficult to establish a network, especially if you’re not based in a tech hub like San Francisco, where VCs and startups are as plentiful as specialty coffee shops.

“In the CVC world we have a massive advantage when it comes to giving others a networking leg up.”

Sometimes the simplest and most powerful form of support you can give is introducing a founder to someone new. In the CVC world we have a massive advantage when it comes to giving others a networking leg up as our connections are typically going to include various partners, clients, and customers. Leap Venture Studio, for example, is a partnership between three different organisations who each have their own unique networks they can tap into. So if you’ve got access to someone you think could be helpful for a startup, make the introduction.

You can also play matchmaker by organising support groups or communities. It takes little financial investment to set up an online community like a Slack group for a specific niche you’re well connected in and invite engaged community members who you know are ready and willing to help others.

Finally, holding workshops or industry-specific events can help increase the visibility and credibility of your fund while also providing a networking opportunity for those in attendance.

Equip them with resources they can use

Earlier this year, Leap Venture Studio invited an impact company to join our pet care accelerator for the first time. It was a welcome challenge to shake up our internal status-quo and figure out exactly what support would look like for a company whose success is best measured by their impact. If you’re running an accelerator, incubator, or startup hub of your own, I recommend you try something similar.

In the past, we’ve invited startup founders along for tours of production facilities. Granting them access to a “peek behind the curtain” is a great advantage that many traditional VCs may not necessarily have. This could also look like opening doors to industry experts who are supporting our program.

Alternatively, you could follow the lead of some traditional VC firms who have created resources for their portfolio companies and then opened up those resources to others. For example, TheVentureCity launched Growth Scanner, an online data analysis tool available to any startup. Similarly, Growth Warrior Capital made an AI pitch deck generator for founders. It can be invaluable for startups to receive a free tech boost in finding product-market fit or appealing to investors.

Working in CVC is a privilege that affords us a lot of power and influence over how our industries evolve and grow. So if there is a startup out there that you want to help succeed, but can’t invest in, remember that support can look like much more than a number on a cheque.

Rachel Sheppard is director of ventures at Mars Petcare and co-manager of Leap Venture Studio, a partnership between Mars Petcare, Michelson Found Animals and R/GA Ventures.