Why venturing with Josephmark is the smartest move for your startup

An interview with JM Managing Partner, Matt McCauley

One thing that has always differentiated Josephmark from most digital and design studios is our focus on launching our own ventures—and the value that brings to the breadth of what we offer to our clients and partners. Venturing is a tough slog. After launching over 20 different ventures spanning a decade playing in sextech, agtech, fintech and beyond, we know it first-hand.

So, why does Josephmark specialise in venturing with startups and building digital businesses?

Matt McCauley (rad dad, surfer and JM group Managing Partner) has the answers. We sat down together to break down the art of venturing — specifically, how JM aligns and builds value through venturing as a service.

A black-and-white photo of Matt, wearing a t-shirt and jacket. Soft light is shining on him from one side, and his face is turned toward it. He’s got a small smile on his face.
Josephmark Managing Partner Matt McCauley

Hey Matt — what’s your role at JM in a nutshell?

JM has a really big vision to inspire massive change in the social, environmental and cultural spaces closest to our hearts. I’m responsible for ensuring this vision is brought to life. In my case, that happens through leading and executing business strategy — specifically looking after the commercial and operational side of the JM group.

Folks at JM use the term venture a lot. Why do you use that term, and why not startup, scale-up, small business, etc?

Those terms can mean different things to different people. At Josephmark, we’re specifically focused on venturing with funded, early-stage businesses looking for a path to market or to scale in market. The people we work with tend to be in one of two stages:

Conceptual stage: In this stage, they’ve got an idea and they’re building out a conceptual model of what the business could be and where its potential lies.

Early growth stage: Early in the growth cycle — either in nascent and not yet formed businesses or in existing, functioning businesses — is the other sweet spot for us.

We call it venturing because of the mindset that we approach our work with.

Speaking of: You talk a lot about venture mindset and venture mindset methodology. What is that, and how do you practice it?

The venture-based mindset is about alignment in how business value is created. It requires us to move away from a service-based mindset of fixed deliverables and perpetual engagements to adaptable and objective-driven relationships, where we can evolve our mindset to accommodate a much broader appreciation for what an individual business actually needs to succeed. Then, we figure out how to deliver against that.

Planning to make ourselves redundant by building internal capability within any given venture is a great example of this mindset in action.

What we’re bringing to the table is a compounding knowledge of what’s working, what’s not, how to adapt things and bring those insights to each venture that we’re working on. Working through a repeatable process means we can do it again and again and again, guiding founders and businesses through this journey to systematically improve the chance of success.

When we break down an idea and really seek to understand the merits and risks of that vision, we then develop a holistic strategy on how to address it and bring it to market.

We’re not just looking at the product, the website, or other digital components; instead, we’re looking at how that component feeds into the overall business objectives. We consider every aspect of that business necessary to make it a success.

Nothing’s set in stone. We’re adapting as we get more information in, and we leverage that agility all the way through the process to make sure we end up with the best possible outcome. That outcome is always stronger than the kind you can prescribe at the beginning.

Why is Venture as a Service (VaaS) a stronger option than startup alternatives such as incubators or accelerators?

When you look into why startups fail, so much of it comes down to the core elements of poor execution, timing, and running out of capital. Trying to assemble a team today in this competitive environment is incredibly difficult, let alone getting a team working efficiently to a world-class standard.

JM is able to mitigate much of the execution risk for a founder by contributing an expert team who can move at pace to align strategy, validate core assumptions and actually do the work across brand, product, marketing and operations to drive the business forward. For a venture to be able to thrive independently, it’s essential that the skills, knowledge and process IP that JM brings and develops through the engagement is transferred into the businesses. That’s why we build and integrate capability progressively through the course of our work.

Josephmark brings an incredible amount of experience and talent to the table, and across the table. It all goes back to compounding knowledge, having done it again and again over lots of different domains. We can rapidly help accelerate this pathway to market or this growth stage of a business.

Venturing as a Service also comes hand-in-hand with investment readiness. Our investment specialists join the team to ensure readiness and support capital raising processes essential to that early-stage momentum. We help founders access a network of potential investors through our investor community and partnerships, helping ensure that the capital needs of those ventures are met in a timely fashion.

Is there a particular JM case study you could share as an example?

We’re very close to launch for a new product called Backpocket: one of the many exciting examples of VaaS in the JM studio right now.

Backpocket was conceived by a founder with experience investing in a number of payment services, which had led to a strong thesis around the social payment space. With capital behind them to pursue the idea, the founder challenge was assembling and managing a team that could fully realise their ambitious vision.

Engaging JM’s VaaS offering meant that our venture team and surrounding specialists became a proxy founding team for Backpocket. The JM venture team was able to take the founder’s unique market insight, and develop it into a full venture strategy that then set a pathway for bringing the product to market. Through the course of building out the BackPocket MVP (minimum viable product), we’ve also helped with resourcing, defining the roles of those pivotal first hires, and helping to triage quality candidates to get them prepared in the right seats for post-launch market success.

Said a different way: Instead of hiring to bring the product to market, we stepped in — that way Backpocket could make sure their own founding hires were those best equipped to stick around and help the business scale in-market.

Can you take us through the very first steps of Josephmark’s approach to Venture as a Service?

Sure. We kick off with recon: that’s JM slang for reconnaissance, a.k.a preliminary surveying or research. It’s a 2–4 week teardown and analysis of the existing business, product strategy and brand. Recon is a rapid process that gives us an in-depth understanding of where things need to evolve — steering pivotal, early-stage decision-making for companies like Klyk, Clipchamp and Tammy Fit who have since seen massive growth.

A wall covered in stickynotes with two women at the wall putting them up. You can see the back of three heads in the foreground, all turned toward the exercise.
The Josephmark team building a venture roadmap during a project recon.

We then develop a complete blueprint in terms of the business model, sequential roadmap and capital required to bring the proposed solution to market: everything that an investor might need to know to make a confident investment is worked through as part of that recon process. For businesses that aren’t needing to raise capital, the recon process instead prepares them to understand the investment that they’re about to make, and gain clarity and confidence in a plan to move forward.

Regenerative design is a core company value at JM. Where does this come into play here?

Regenerative design, for us, is not just about sustainability—it’s about leaving things in a better place than they were before. We try to think systematically about how the businesses we help create can cultivate a richer human experience and preserve the integrity of nature. When we look at the startup ecosystem we see an enormous amount of waste and inefficiency. Vast sums of capital are deployed into early-stage ventures, stimulating huge amounts of activity and resource consumption. The huge failure rate of these ventures (as high as 95%) is symptomatic of market dynamics continuing to pursue ideas that don’t validate and are poorly executed. It’s also symptomatic of pivotal lessons from these failures dissipating with individuals instead of compounding (or regenerating) within teams.

Regenerative processes instead seek to hold onto those learnings, having a consistent team gain from those experiences, and bring that gained knowledge and insight into each new venture we embark on. JM sees a future where capital is deployed more efficiently through venture studios that operate in thematics that provide for deep domain focus and rapid generation of high-quality businesses with validated market fit.

This also means that ideas that don’t validate can easily be shelved, and IP can be preserved for reuse in future ventures.

Does VaaS reduce risk?

Absolutely. Our continuously refined venture design process provides a strong filter on what to invest in through early validation of an idea, early formation of the right direction, and the ability then to execute a concept at a world-class level to bring an idea to market. We also look at acceptable risk ranges and how to venture with those risks in mind.

As we all know, activity is not the same as productivity: working with the calibre of our team at JM substantially reduces the risks that come in the execution of a venture. We can align on a shared vision and have the skills to rapidly iterate through a cycle of experimentation to move toward that vision. The process of independently assembling a team and hoping they can coordinate in a way that’s going to deliver to a market-ready level is inherently difficult. That’s why VaaS provides an opportunity to attract talent later in the journey when the value proposition is better established and the capabilities required are more fully understood.

Moving too far or fast without having validated the key aspects of an idea can get companies into a sunk-cost space. Taking a considered approach to validating key aspects of an idea in order to find a product-market fit before developing and unloading a full-scale platform is a valuable risk management activity. It’s either going to help get a better outcome or preserve capital for another opportunity — which is ultimately a win for everyone involved.

Does that mean that JM partners with not only founders but capital managers and family offices?

We’ve found that a number of JM’s offerings really speak to the needs of family offices, high-net-worth individuals, VCs, or capital managers, who are looking to make confident investments and see them grow in value.

One of the biggest pain points for investors in early-stage ventures is high-quality deal flow. There is an incredible amount of leg work to find high-quality deals, and there’s a hell of a lot of competition around early-stage ventures as well. JM Ventures represent high-quality deal flow with known and mitigated risks verified through the VaaS process. We’ve found that it’s a pretty compelling deal source for most early-stage investors.

What is most exciting to me is working with the type of investors (just like our Backpocket founder) who have their own market insight based on their portfolio and interests. A connection with JM represents an incredible opportunity to authentically turn their insights into valuable businesses, and not have to wait for someone else to dream it up and knock on their door.

That’s all from Matt for now. He’s got a wave to catch. 🏄🏻

Matt playing beer pong with the team. You can see the slight blur of an orange ball about to land in the cup – he never misses, and it’s INFURIATING.

If you’d like to link up with our venture team for a chat, find out more about our VaaS capabilities, volunteer to try and knock Matt off the beer pong mantle, or all of the above — we’re just an email away.

We create work we love. We believe in what we do. We are Josephmark. www.josephmark.com.au