Graphic designer Amy Hanlon got her first big gig through a friend’s referral. That led to more referrals and in 2018 she founded her own agency in Shelbyville—Blue Meta Design. Her current clients include startups around the country as well as some big VCs located in Silicon Valley.
Hanlon and her team play a pivotal role in the success of startups through the brand presentation submitted to VCs for cutting-edge investments. Collectively, her clients were able to raise 9 billion dollars in 2021 and 5 billion dollars already in 2022. We spoke to Hanlon about her path and why she’s perfectly happy to stay in Kentucky while working for national firms.
You say that 90% of your work is either for VC firms or actual startups that aren’t local.
Hanlon: We do everything from branding, execution of branding, websites, pitch decks, all of those things. Pretty much everybody that we work with is in California. We have some startups in DC, one in Mobile, in southern Pennsylvania, and then up on the East Coast like New York, and the Carolinas.
How did you gain those clients?
Hanlon: I’m a graphic designer by trade and have worked in a variety of different industries. At one point, I had the opportunity to start freelancing full time for a technology startup. Then referrals just started rolling in and I started getting contract after contract. It got to the point where it was clear that I couldn’t handle it on my own. I decided to start an agency, started hiring people and we kept growing. The actual agency was founded in 2018 but I was freelancing in tech for about a year and a half before that.
What kind of work did you do for that company?
Hanlon: It was a startup so it involved a lot of branding work. They were getting more assets, so I developed those. We made some tweaks to the color palette. I did their websites. We did white papers and sales papers and pitch decks and onboarding decks. It was a slew of things that I was working with him on.
How did you come to work in the niche of VCs and startups?
Hanlon: Also through a referral. When I was working with the tech startup, I got introduced to a major VC in Silicon Valley. I worked on one project with them and they loved it. We did another project and then another and it got to the point where they wanted a full retainer. That was the point where the agency started blooming.
What kind of work do you do for the VC?
Hanlon: We support the marketing or branding efforts. We do onboarding decks and have set up templates. We work on social media and editorial campaigns. The company does a lot of thought leadership–on what’s going to change in different industries. We work directly with the editorial managers and writers.
We do all of the social media graphics–a lot of charts and infographics and the things that go along with that. We also do fundraising decks for them—the pitch decks we did together last year brought in over $9 billion of fundraising. We work right alongside them and we’re fully ingrained in their process right now.
For startups, you take more of an advisory role.
Hanlon: We assist our clients with their pitch decks. We make sure all of the information that an investor is actually looking for is included. It’s more of letting them know what they need to include or change the order of based on whatever stage of investment that a particular startup is going for.
Every funding stage is different.
Hanlon: Investors are looking for different numbers and different amounts of information at different points. Pre-seed is completely different than an A and an A is different than a B. At the C stage, investors are just looking for more information, more personal results. They want to make sure that you took the investment from the previous seed and increased your profitability margins.
Did you yourself get any funding for your company?
Hanlon: We were completely self-funded from the beginning.
Have you ever considered moving your agency to Silicon Valley?
Hanlon: There’s no need to, especially in this world where everybody has done the work-from-home virtual thing. I don’t need to be in Silicon Valley. I need to be available for my clients but I can accommodate that from here. I haven’t even had any of my clients mention that they would like me to be closer. Everything is virtual so it doesn’t make a difference.