Creandum’s Internet Dude Speaks, Interview with Carl Fritjofsson, partner Creandum
How hard it is to compete for the best founders in Silicon Valley and Europe?
It’s incredibly competitive for VCs in both Silicon Valley and Europe. The best entrepreneurs always choose which investors they want to work with. I’ve always said that being a VC is the most privileged sales job in the world, where the most important thing we do is sell to founders why they should pick us.
Clearly Silicon Valley is a league of its own where the best and brightest connect. But companies like Spotify and Adyen in Europe has proven to the world that you can build multi billion dollar businesses, full stack, in Europe. This has created interest from many US and Asian investors who are now willing to back companies in Europe, meaning competition is increasing.
What makes Creandum a unique VC?
We are patient, founder friendly and ultimately see ourselves as service providers to entrepreneurs. We don’t think of ourselves as having the right answers to the hard questions, but we work incredibly hard to bring external perspectives which allows Creandum’s portfolio companies to triangulate and make informed decisions throughout their journey.
How do you feel about losing money as VC? Is this part of the business model?
VC is all about calculated risk taking and in order to win big VCS need to take risk. Loosing money is never a pleasant experience but if Creandum were not to loose money on some deals, we probably wouldn’t be taking enough risk to be part of the true outlier successes like Spotify, iZettle, Klarna and others. The importance is to learn as much as possible from every investment, and do what we can to make even more informed decisions about risks next time around.
How do you spot talent as an investor? For example how do you spot amazing founders at demo days? Do you invest in a good idea and mediocre team or excellent team with a mediocre idea?
Team is 10x more important than idea. Any early stage company will iterate many times around their idea meaning that it’s evolving, but the team should ideally remain fairly constant throughout that journey. The best way to understand the quality of a team is to follow them over time, and see how the trajectory of their business is evolving, are they meeting the goals and targets they set out to do, etc. We also look for teams who have an authentic reason to why they’re pursuing a specific opportunity. Startup life is very challenging, and often times tenacity and grit to push through and never give up needs to come from something bigger than yourself. Founders who can articulate this, is very powerful.
Are accelerators overrated for founders or has the business model of accelerators evolved?
Accelerators can be a phenomenal platform for some founders, while for others it’s a waste of time. There’s no fixed rule to this. Which accelerator you’re considering is also essential as some can provide far more value than others. But it’s important you understand the reasons you look for an accelerator. Is it to find a co-founder, find an idea, find product market fit, find funding, etc? Have the right expectations and make sure you pick an accelerator which can deliver on the promise of what you want.
How do you cold call an investor as a founder? Is there a difference in cold calling an investor in Silicon Valley and Sweden?
The short answer is you don’t. A millions words have been written about why the best way to access VCs are through warm introductions, so I’ll leave out that part. If you truly can’t find access through your network, the second best thing to do is to connect with VCs at an event or on social platforms like Twitter. Don’t pitch but rather build rapport by sharing your perspective about a market or technology trend. Start a discussion. VCs love to geek out about things like that.
Have you ever spaced out during a startup pitch?
Who can honestly claim that they never spaced out in a meeting during their career? This is like the saying that there are 2 different kind of people with wetsuits — those who pee in their wetsuit, and those why lie about how they don’t pee in their wetsuit.
Pitch decks. How long? How short?
10–20 slides covering team, market, problem, solution, momentum and plan. Make sure the pitch is a story and not boring slides. It should convey emotions and feelings, and have a start, middle and and end. The end should leave the audience feeling they want more…
Are there any founder characteristics that excite you as investor?
Founders who have an authentic reason for pursuing a specific idea.
Is there a Swedich VC/founder network and/or Swedish model of venture capital and startup building?
Sweden has successfully fought above its weightclass when it comes to producing technolgy companies. I’m not sure if there’s a unique recipe around how, but one of the main reasons why is because Sweden in the early 90s chose to invest into world class broadband infrastructure across the nation. This led Sweden to breed a generation of people with great access to technology way ahead of the rest of the world. Today, the key thing is that we have is a very prosperous ecosystem which has created role models and success. We now have hundreds of people who have been on a rocket ship journey with Spotify and the likes who are now coming back into the early stages of startups to try their wings and launch their own companies. And we have thousands and thousands of people who look at Spotify’s Daniel Ek as their hero in society. They want to be like him. They want to innovate and change an industry. They want to have impact. This is the reason why Sweden right now is an amazing place for entrepreneurship. Success breeds success.
What brought you to San Francisco?
I co-founded a startup called Wrapp which Creandum seed funded and after raising a Series A from Greylock and a few other VCs we expanded into the US, so I moved over as part of that journey.