“Don’t get distracted” – A talk with… Holtzbrinck Ventures
Founded in 2000, Holtzbrinck Ventures (HV Ventures) is a Munich based, independent European early stage funds. Right from the start, they have been supporting founders in developing their Internet businesses. During this time, the company has invested in over 150 businesses, such as Flixbus, Stylight, Scalable Capital and many others.
Barbod Namini, Prinicipal at Holtzbrinck Ventures, did answer our questions.
On the lookout for strong teams
How would you describe your investment strategy?
HV Ventures’ core focus lies within consumer-facing early stage startups with a pan-European or Global vision. Said that we cover a broad range of sectors and ultimately are on the lookout for strong teams tackling large opportunities.
Would you invest in unknown industries?
Yes and No. We always seek to help our portfolio companies the best we can by giving them access to our extended network and facilitating their growth beyond the mere financial investment. If the opportunity is completely out of HV Ventures’ domain then there should at least be a clear angle on how we could support the team through our network and experience.
Is there a type of startup you would never invest in?
Never say never. HV Ventures’ mandate has evolved over the years and some of the current portfolio companies would not have been within the focus of the fund 10 years ago. Said that, some areas in which the fund does not invest are gambling, tobacco, arms manufacturing and sales among others…
We review thousands of business plans
Are you scouting the companies yourself?
Finding good investment opportunities is a key part of our job. As a team we review thousands of business plans each year, attend events and meet with hundreds of teams. We do obviously have a trusted network of Angels and entrepreneurs and a warm lead from a trusted source is always looked at very closely.
Do startups have to fear your interfering?
Not at all. Startups should see Holtzbrick Ventures as a sparring partner and benefit from our experience, network and support. The operational day-to-day activities should always be run by the founders and / or management team.
We want to see a fully formed founding team
At what stage do startups contact you?
At an early stage. We usually want to see a fully formed founding team, with a clear business plan and a first version of the product. Most startups that approach us would have already raised a small Angel or Friends & Family round and would be looking to add their first institutional investor on board.
There are always exceptions in which an opportunity might arise earlier (or later) but the above would be the most common setup.
How long does it take from first contact to conclusion of contract?
This is very much dependent on the stage of the company, the depth of the necessary DD and the investment sum. 2-3 months would be quite standard, but we already had deals close in less than a month.
To be successful, a startup needs to…
… believe in the long term vision and don’t get distracted by the bumps along the road.
Don’t get distracted – and never lie
Name a criteria for exclusion!
You can sell hard… but never lie!
Did you ever miscalculate seriously?
At the stage at which the fund invests there are always many risks and many unknowns. The market size might be smaller than initially thought, the product-market fit might not be right, the team might not turn out to work well together etc. Ultimately we enter a common journey with the founders and live through it through successes and failures.
The trend of the year is…
The buzz word of the year is definitely “Artificial Intelligence” across business models.
What makes the Munich startup scene so special?
The high concentration of large tech corporates (Google, Microsoft, Siemens, Nokia etc.) makes Munich a magnet for great tech talent. It’s the city’s and the investor community’s job to offer such tech talent a good platform to foster entrepreneurship.
Last but not least: Who should startups contact if they would like to meet up with you?
The best approach is always through an intro or in person. We have quite public profiles and founders can easily find out which events we are attending. Should the opportunity to cross paths not arise founders can send their pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org and the most relevant person from our team will get in touch.
Thanks to Barbod for answering our questions!