Building not just another VC
When I was a startup founder, I was always skeptical about whether VCs could truly deliver added value. Personally, I rarely received anything from them but money. Ten years later, I’m on the other side of the table, and I’ll be the first to admit it’s easier said than done.
Adding real value “from the outside” is really, really hard. It takes a lot of time, effort and resources. And it requires focus on a few high impact areas where the founders are stuck or simply too slow on their own. Identifying and addressing these gaps requires consistent engagement from all sides, and above all, a lot of trust between the founders and the investor.
This type of operational support, far beyond the usual “VC marketing speech”, was the founding idea of Speedinvest. Nine years ago, six quite experienced operators (me being one of them) launched a tiny €10M fund with the idea that all of us would spend a considerable part of our time working side by side with founders — quite different from most VC setups out there.
We’ve learned a lot along the way
In the beginning, it was simple. If there was something a founder needed help with, we jumped in. We knew we had to demonstrate impact to our founders from day one, otherwise they would quickly move on — as we would have done if we were in their shoes. And it worked. Small, yet important contributions, from customer wins to critical hires, to much needed intelligence on the US market. Founders appreciated our support and we loved our job.
But as Speedinvest grew, we had less and less time to offer the hands-on support we knew our founders needed and deserved. Not to mention, we started realizing we were not experts in everything. It was time for reinforcements.
Having sold my own business to a US public company (Verisign), and having spent a number of years in Silicon Valley, I knew from day one that a bridge to the US market was critical for our success.
So Speedinvest established a senior team on the ground in San Francisco to fully focus on finding US product-market fit, building a strong local network, and navigating US business culture. Today, with nine years of experience helping countless startups with their US expansions, we know what it takes to make this critical step successful. Back in Europe, we narrowed in on the two core ingredients of any startup success story: understanding levers for growth and attracting and retaining talent.
Over the years we expanded, scaled and professionalized our offerings. From the beginning, founders benefited, but we knew we could do more. We could build something better. So that became one of our key 2020 goals.
And what a year it’s been
The year started with a bang. Our new fund, Si 3, grew beyond our fundraising goal to reach €190M at final close. We opened our sixth office in Paris, and Joerg Floeck joined as Managing Partner to help us take our founder support to the next level. And then…
Lockdowns. Market collapse. March 2020 hit hard, and COVID-19 tested our commitment to our startups like never before.
Our investment managers and in-house support teams did what they do best — went into action mode and began offering all our services for free. While our investors helped companies raise the follow-on funding they needed to extend their runways, our operational team was busy supporting our founders with applications for government support, customized marketing strategies, business pivots, and much more.
We’ve now successfully executed more than 50 projects for our portfolio. In March, only 40% of our startups had a runway longer than twelve months and just 50% reported a positive business outlook. Now, despite continued economic turmoil in many industries, these numbers stand at 90% and 67%. That’s not a “VC marketing speech,” just data that speaks for itself.
The Best is Yet to Come
We had no idea that helping our founders navigate successfully through an unprecedented global crisis would lay the foundation for version 2.0 of our platform. But it did, so we doubled down.
After years of working side-by-side with founders, making some mistakes, seeing some huge successes, and learning a lot along the way, we’ve managed to build what I believe is much more than just another cash-and-grab VC. With Platform+, we’re now providing an unrivaled level of founder support from day one. But are we satisfied? No.
This is only the beginning. Stay tuned.