10 years ago I moved to New York and started my Venture Capital career with BMW i Ventures. It was a super exciting new world for me in so many ways. New York was the perfect city for me: fast moving, diverse and hard working. Time moves differently there, and is densely packed with new experiences; I feel like spent my whole life in that city and at the same time it feels like yesterday that I moved there.
We did a lot of cool stuff during my time at BMW aside from the investments: We had a co-working space before WeWork was even a thing, we organized quarterly mobility meetups with many successful CEOs and VCs, organized a Hackathon in San Francisco with 250 people called “Hack The Drive”, with the winner taking home a brand new BMW i3, and we organized a full day “Urban Mobility Summit” at Columbia University that brought together government officials, startups and VCs. Overall it was the best possible landing for me in the USA, an interesting combination of American and German business culture.
Next, I moved on to help Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi start Alliance Ventures. It was a difficult move since I was very happy at BMW i Ventures and enjoyed working with the CEOs and VCs in our close network; but Alliance Ventures gave me some unique opportunities. First, it gave me an opportunity to start a global Venture Capital fund for three OEMs and invest not only in North America, Europe and Israel, but also in China. I have always had a strong desire to work in China since I spent a couple of months in Hangzhou and Hong Kong in 2011 when I was working at Bosch. Second, it taught me not to be “too German”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a proud European and German, but I wanted to expand my horizons and the Alliance gave me the opportunity to work with Japanese and French companies, in an international business context, with a global investment remit. As you can imagine, many people didn’t understand why I would want to put myself in this situation and of course I got some bad jokes about how difficult it is to work with French and Japanese… After nearly three years I can tell you that working with people from different cultures is one of the best learning experiences imaginable, and makes you “uncomfortable” in so many ways. My team for example was as diverse as it gets with people from China, France, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands and the US. I strongly believe that this changed me completely, making me sensitive to different ways of thinking, working and better understanding the backgrounds of people (and trends that influence investment decisions, of course). In the end “All roads lead to Rome”.😊 Third, I learned so much about the collaboration between OEMs. During all my time at BMW and in most of my investments during that time I tried to foster collaboration and joint activities with other OEMs. At the Alliance this was essential part of their DNA, with three OEMs at the table and strong ambition to invest and evolve in mobility, and the mentality to change by senior executives. I was a big fan of the energy that Francois Dossa, who hired me and led Alliance Ventures at the beginning, and Carlos Ghosn brought into the room. Without the passion and conviction of these leaders, I would have never joined. In the end it is always about the people you work with.
In the last three years Alliance Ventures made 14 investments, including two fund investments, in Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel and the US. I’m extremely proud of every single company in the portfolio. In this short period of time we were fortunate enough to invest early on in at least two unicorns and six months from now I could probably say four unicorns. My drive and motivation was always not only to foster the collaboration between our portfolio companies and our OEM shareholders, but also to drive great financial performance. Success breeds success and these are the companies that can transform “business as usual” in the automotive and mobility space, in the long run. It’s also one of the main reasons Alliance Ventures was able to survive turbulent times over the last two years. It’s easy to stop activities if you are only considered a cost-center, which pure collaborations can sometimes be, but not if you’re demonstrating return on investment. Alliance Ventures provided a platform for both.
In the end I’m coming out of this experience with many new friends and mentors, many of whom also moved on to new opportunities in different startups, Amazon, Applied Materials, etc. But now it’s time to evolve again.
My endeavors bring me back full circle to my birthplace, Berlin. I will be joining Target Global’s partnership and will focus on growth investments. Target Global has its headquarter in Berlin with offices all over Europe & Israel and over EUR 1 Billion under management today across their Growth-, Early-Stage and Mobility fund. I’m very excited to dig into health, education and fin-tech as investment fields and to be able to explore new opportunities. Over the last years I have already invested in digital enterprise which will be also a big part of my new investment scope, and of course I will always have a soft spot for sustainability, mobility and transportation-related startups. My focus will be Europe and Israel, but this can also include startups from the rest of the world that see Europe as an important part of their future. Please reach out to me if your startup is looking for funding, at firstname.lastname@example.org 😉
On the personal side, since I moved to Stuttgart to study and work in 2005 I have been looking forward to some day returning to work from Berlin, surrounded by family and old friends. Also in 2005 my father died from cancer which has made it very hard to be far away from my three siblings, grandmother, uncle and rest of the family. It’s typically nothing I would talk about, but business decision and interests are always influenced by the people behind them; it may be also a lesson that I learned from my French colleagues, a close-knit group that became like family.
So Berlin, I’m coming home, and I’m bringing the world with me.