Charlotte is a Principal at Cherry Ventures. Before joining the team, she was Founder & CEO of EdirectInsure, a direct to consumer insurance platform in SE Asia acquired by FWD Group in November 2018. Prior to this, Charlotte was co-founder and VP Asia Pacific at Quandoo, a commerce platform for restaurants acquired by Recruit Holdings in March 2015. She also held roles as Head of Planning EMEA at Groupon based in Berlin, and Regional Vice President in London where she launched several UK and Nordic markets and the Groupon Goods vertical. Charlotte spent the beginning of her career at Goldman Sachs in London and holds a PhD in Clinical Neuroscience and an MA in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge. She loves to spend her time diving into complex industries and processes, with a particular focus on Fintech, Mobility & Logistics.
Enjoy this Q&A with Charlotte Bruce!
What is your / your fund’s mission?
At Cherry Ventures our mission is to invest in top founders building the next generation of industry-changing companies as early as possible. We are also busy at work building the most founder-centric early-stage fund in Europe. Everyone on the investment team has experience as an entrepreneur or operator, so the idea of Founders First really runs through our DNA. We hope our portfolio companies see us as a sparring partner to help them navigate through the rollercoaster of building and scaling a successful and sustainable business.
What is one thing you are excited about right now?
I think Europe is an incredibly exciting place to be investing right now. The tech ecosystem has matured considerably over the six years that I was based out in Asia, and there are many promising founders emerging with ambitions to build global market leaders. In particular, the nature of the businesses has diversified well beyond consumer into a multitude of product-centric companies and everything in-between. I’m also excited to see more programs supporting university spin-outs, although we still lag behind the US in this regard.
Who is one founder you think we should watch?
Seed is our core stage and what we love to invest in, so of course we think all of our Cherry founders, both announced and those yet to be revealed are visionaries and disruptors and therefore ‘ones to watch’!
What are the 3 top qualities of every great leader?
- Resilience. The path of entrepreneurship is a long and challenging one, so I always look for signs that they can weather the storms. A real passion for their long-term mission is a good indicator.
- Ability to Recruit. A great leader can (and has the ambition level to) attract top talent that will support the key pillars of their business both at early stage, and as they scale the organisation.
- Living and breathing the story and vision of their business. This is key to retain talent, build culture and gain the right support at the right time from investors and advisors.
What and when was your very first investment? What struck you about them?
Not all of our investments this year are announced yet, and as I recently joined Cherry, my first ones for the firm are still under wraps ;). However, one thing that runs through all of our investments is our great founding teams. These founders often explore totally new territories and have very grand visions for how business will be conducted in the future.
What is one question you ask yourself before investing in a company?
Business plans change as a company rolls out, gains customer feedback and as the market evolves. We ask ourselves many questions, but of course when investing at Seed, we need to ask ourselves whether this team has the ability and core attributes to iterate fast, stay ahead and do what it takes to succeed.
What is one thing every founder should ask themselves before walking into a meeting with a potential investor?
Can I clearly, impactfully and concisely explain… My product, the problem it’s solving and why the market is (or will be) big enough. Why is my go-to-market strategy interesting, how will I generate revenue and of course, why is our team the most awesome one to do it.
What do you think should be in a CEO’s top 3 company priorities?
Ultimately their focus should be on executing their long term strategy and vision. Therefore the top 3 priorities will change as they move along this path. I guess this therefore means that an ability to prioritise is one! And of course, recruiting and retaining the right talent will always be important along the way.
Favorite business book, blog, podcast?
These are more founder-centric than for people in VC, but How I Built This by Guy Raz is a great podcast, as well as the regular a16z series. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz covers some great learnings for what it’s like to be a founder. And although I joke, the TV series Silicon Valley has some valuable learnings hidden in some of its episodes.
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?
I’m a pretty passionate Kitesurfer! I got into it when rolling out Quandoo in APAC as it provided a complete break from the bubble and stresses of startup life. Perhaps this is why you get quite a few entrepreneur-kitesurfers and VCs. Before joining Cherry I embarked on a 600km kitesurf down the coast of Brazil raising local awareness about plastic pollution. I also took part in the RedBull Ragnarok snowkite race in Norway this year
Who is one leader you admire?
This probably sounds cliché, but particularly when I was a Founder & CEO, the rest of my leadership team were my absolute rocks. Each of them brought different skills to the table, they were masters in their verticals and whether it was Marketing, Product, Tech or Finance I learned from them greatly. One of my most valuable learnings when founding a business, is to make sure you have a high enough ambition level when recruiting.
What is one interesting thing that most people don’t know about you?
While my career path hasn’t been in that field, I spent a number of years in scientific research at Cambridge University doing my PhD and brief post-doc in Clinical Neuroscience. I was deep in genomics, stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. I originally planned to work on the commercialisation of lab technologies after my first startup experience, but ended up following a different path. I look forward to digging into this as part of my role with Cherry Ventures.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to every founder?
Go for it!
Startups interested in an opportunity to pitch Cherry Ventures can apply here.