I had the pleasure of interviewing Carl Fritjofsson, a former founder turned VC, and now a Partner with the European early stage VC Creandum.
Jean: Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share your story about how you got into the VC space?
Creandum invested in my previous startup, in which I was part of expanding from Sweden into the world. This brought me to Silicon Valley, and when I started thinking about the next thing I became a part-time resource for Creandum based in Silicon Valley, which eventually grew into a full-time commitment.
Jean: What kinds of startups do you typically work with?
Creandum backs early stage software companies in Europe in seed and A rounds and helps them expand across the world.
Jean: What do you look for in the management team of your investment companies?
We look for people who have identified an authentic pain or problem in their life which they just have to solve. This usually means these people have unique insights into addressing this problem, which gives them unfair advantages in the market.
Jean: Can you share a story of a successful Angel or VC investment? What were some of the highlights?
Creandum backed an online grocery store called Cornershop a couple of years ago. The company targets Latin America which is a market we didn’t know much about at the time, and the company was also operating with negative gross margins meaning they lost money on every order they fulfilled. The team had a remarkably good understanding of operations and managed the business down to the most granular level of detail. The bet was that with scale and fantastic operations the model would be profitable, and fortunately enough that’s how it played out. The company has done very well and everyday we continue to be inspired by the fantastic founders and how they built this machine and broke out of the J curve many investors talk about.
Jean: What is one piece of advice you would give a startup?
Focus on learning. Every day try to learn. Validate your ideas, strategies, tactics, decisions, etc. all day every day. Use internal resources, customers, competitors, mentors, investors, family members, and anything else which can help triangulate your business. Treat negative feedback and comments as gold. It’s your opportunity to learn and allows you to bring a product into the world which works by the people you intend it to work for.
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
In today’s polarized day and age I’d suggest The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. Moral ideas is one of the most fundamental driving forces behind human behaviour, and getting a better understanding of how and why good people can think and act so differently than you is key to get to a mutual understanding.
Jean: What are your “5 Things I Wish Founders Knew Before They Pitched To Me” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- The underlying market size required for VC returns. There are many great ideas out there which will sustain healthy businesses. But the number of ideas which can generate billion dollar outcomes are rare. We only look for these massive opportunities and founders should understand that if they choose to raise VC funding that is the only outcome which really matters.
- Storytelling is everything. There are always so many unknowns and risks with early stage companies. We can always come up with a number of reasons why a certain company will not succeed. The way to win over investors is by taking them on an emotional story. We remember excitement, fear, connection, sadness, joy, disgust, etc. Rather than presenting hard numbers, pitch the investor a journey and make us feel something. Storytelling with strong emotions is what separates the best pitches from the rest.
- Have no exit strategy. We look for founders who are determined they want to solve a big problem in the world; not making a quick buck. Talking about early acquisition offers and potential acquirers turns VCs off. The best companies remain independent. Few companies are that successful, but those are the companies we aspire to back. Show us you are the founder who wants to go long.
- Know your metrics. Every great company is managed with operational excellence, which comes from understanding your metrics. Know what key metrics drive your specific business and know these numbers even if someone woke you up in your sleep. Show investors you are the type of founder who not only has a big long-term vision, but also understands the path to that vision is by managing the business day to day here and now.
- Know who you’re talking to. There are many different types of investors out there. Some lead, others follow on. Some invest in certain geographies, and others don’t. Some do hardware, others don’t, etc. This information is out there if you do some research. Being informed of what type of investor you are speaking to and the type of deals she is looking for, will help you adapt your pitch and story.
Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Earvin “Magic” Johnson — someone that literally has been successful across all those categories in the same lifetime.
Connect with me on Social Media:
- Personal website: fritjofsson.com
- Connect on Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/fritjofsson
- Connect on Facebook: facebook.com/fritjofsson
- Follow on Twitter: twitter.com/fritjofsson
Jean: This was really inspiring! Thank you so much for your time.
-Published on September 13 2018