Why Kate Dinon’s PR agency has launched a seed fund for startup investment

Kate Dinon

Character + Distinction founder and managing director Kate Dinon. Source: supplied.

Melbourne PR and communications agency Character + Distinction has launched its own seed fund for investing in Aussie startups, with a focus on helping founders bring storytelling into their growth strategy.

Speaking to SmartCompany, C+D founder and managing director Kate Dinon says launching the Protagonist fund felt like a “really natural next step” for the business.

Dinon herself is already deeply involved in the startup scene as an advisor and angel investor, and the business works with early-stage startups offering media workshops and mentoring through the Melbourne Accelerator Program and Startmate.

It became clear that, especially for founders at the early stages, the C+D team had a valuable skill set to offer: “helping them to craft their story”.

“We know that when you get it right, it really brings clarity to your team, helps you engage customers, and helps you attract the right investors,” Dinon explains.

“If you can get story right, it can really help you with your growth at that stage.”

Of course it will also serve to make C+D stronger as a business, offering real-life exposure to the team members and helping them become better advisors and mentors.

The fund will also provide financial benefits to C+D employees, “which was really important to me”, Dinon explains.

“I want to build a business that people want to work in.”

A “cheque with benefits”

Protagonist is launching at a time when there’s a lot of capital around, and more and more niche investors and angel groups emerging.

The fund will offer what Dinon calls a “cheque with benefits”. She knows what her team is good at, and what will make the fund attractive to a particular type of startup.

“We’ll be staying in our lane.”

As for what that lane is, Dinon says the fund will be mainly focused on backing pre-revenue and early-revenue startups.

C+D’s expertise lies in consumer and B2B Software-as-a-Service businesses, and that’s where Dinon feels the team could add a lot of value. She’s also interested in backing businesses in the ‘Web 3’ space.

That said, Dinon is keeping an open mind.

“We won’t be dogmatic about it,” she says.

“There are so many incredible people building businesses out there.… I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

Dinon announced the launch of Protagonist via Twitter earlier this month, and already the fund is fielding inbound interest from startups, she says.

But beyond the strength of the product and the story behind it, Dinon and the team are looking for alignment on values and vision — something that’s also important in the communications arm of the business.

“It sounds really trite, but honestly we just like to work with good people — people who are purpose-driven and values-aligned,” she says.

The entrepreneurial flywheel

While it may be unusual to build a seed fund into an existing small business, Dinon is far from the first entrepreneur to turn her hand to investing.

In fact, it’s an increasing trend that is leading to more funding and more opportunities for early-stage startups.

Women investors, in particular, are committing to opening doors for other women founders.

While Dinon is relatively new to investing, she says she has noticed activity increasing in the startup space over the past few years.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s on the fringes anymore,” she notes.

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