Are Munich Startups Sexy Enough? Interview with Mountain Alliance CEO Daniel Wild

The VC company Mountain Alliance has shares in 33 European scaleups in the digital economy, most notably in eHealth, new work and digital education. In the ten years of its existence, the venture capital investor has recorded several exits, for example from the Munich startup Alphapet, which is digitizing the pet supply market, or from the platform Internations. They also currently have Munich startups in their portfolio, such as the eMobility company Qwello, which is located in MTZ. We spoke with Daniel Wild, founder and CEO of Mountain Alliance, about current trends, what local startups could improve on and how European startups will assert themselves in the market in the future.

Munich Startup: Please briefly introduce Mountain Alliance!

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: We are a listed operational investment company that invests in German and European growth companies. As a Munich-based company, we do a lot of investing in the Munich area.

For one, this is because the company was founded here and part of the team went to university here, which means networks have emerged as a result. It’s also because we’ve noticed that the valuations in Munich aren’t as maxed out as in Berlin.

Our goal is to offer the scaleups we invest in more than just financing. As experienced investors and founders, we want to also offer them operational expertise and insights. That decisively differentiates us from investors who focus solely on finances.

Mountain Alliance is investing increasingly in healthtech and digital education

Munich Startup: Do you have a preferred investment area?

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: At Mountain Alliance, we exclusively invest in growth companies, which excludes newly established companies. Our investment focus is on the German and European digital economies. When we founded Mountain Alliance ten years ago, we only focused on eCommerce. Over the years, we started investing in various tech trends, such as fintech and adtech. In the years ahead, we plan to concentrate in particular on healthtech, future of work and digital education.

Munich Startup: Do personal preferences sometimes influence your investments?

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: Investments, like all other business relations, are always a matter of personal impression. As a result, personal preferences naturally influence our individual investment decisions. When you invest in a company and are perhaps even by their side for many years, you have to be on the same wavelength and also be able to go out and have a beer together.

No investments in part-time startups

Munich Startup: What kind of startup would you never invest in?

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: I would never invest in a startup where the founders aren’t doing their job full time, which means they’re “part-time founders.” With our target group of growth companies, however, that’s pretty rare. Furthermore, the founders need to know their way around the market. That means I wouldn’t invest in a company where the “founder-market fit” is poor, because you’ll simply end up paying dearly. That, by the way, was kind of how it was when I founded Getmobile AG: I knew absolutely nothing about the mobile phone market.

Munich Startup: Do startups need to worry about you getting too involved?

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: No, they don’t. But the following principle applies: The better things are going, the less we get involved. Because we’re also founders, it may very well be that we’re more operational than other investors, particularly in cases of majority participation. That’s where we also assume operational responsibility if need be. Otherwise, we typically have a seat on the advisory board and are involved in discussions about strategic issues.

I think founders should follow their own vision and that Mountain Alliance can then contribute its expertise. We feel we are in a position to give more than just financing.

Munich Startup: After initial contact, how long does it take to conclude a contract?

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: Between two and six months.

Tip: Have predictable growth channels

Munich Startup: To be successful, a startup needs to…

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: … be deeply rooted in its market. Moreover, it should learn faster than other market players and have a higher speed of advanced development. If a startup changes or adapts slower than the market, it ends up falling behind. On top of that, a startup should have clearly predictable growth channels. This means that decisive factors such as sales growth are specifically controlled instead of happening by chance.

Munich Startup: What role will European startups play in the tech world of the future?

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: The European Union is already stronger in the tech world than it is perceived. But it needs to be further strengthened, and that’s exactly where Mountain Alliance likes to lend a hand. There are already big European tech companies like Skype or Trivago that prove to us that it’s possible. We believe that there will be more European unicorns, and that’s why we’re here. All you have to do is consider certain economic sectors: For example, Europe has one of the largest wine markets in the world!

Europe will have more unicorns in the future

We always say: “If you can make it in the EU, you can make it anywhere.” That’s true for two reasons: On the one hand, you have the gigantic, but amazingly diverse European single market. On the other hand, you have the strict current European laws and regulations. I view these challenges as an opportunity for European startups as well. Once they’ve conquered the challenges presented by the different languages and realities of European markets and have managed to comply with the current laws, they’ve practically already won the battle. This not only opens up the entire European single market to them, but also equips them for global expansion thanks to the experience they gain in Europe.

Munich Startup: Tell us about a no-go factor in a pitch!

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: When the founders or team members only commit full time after the financing is in place. The team has to be 100% behind the project for Mountain Alliance to make an investment.

Munich Startup: When have you seriously miscalculated a situation?

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: There have been several things, of course. I was most disappointed by online gaming. There is so much potential in the market, but some things just go badly.

Munich Startup: The trend of the year is…!

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: Because of the effects of Covid-19, this year’s trend is – unfortunately – definitely remote working paired with B2B and B2C eLearning. That has also manifested itself in the investments made by Mountain Alliance: Lingoda, Moving Image and Tixxt have all really gained momentum in the last few months.

Munich startups: Marketing needs to catch up

Munich Startup: From an investor standpoint, what does the Munich startup scene do well? What could be improved?

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: In Munich, I’m particularly fascinated by the deeptech startup scene and the array of AI startups that are emerging due to the proximity to the universities. The many partnerships with larger companies are also interesting.

Where the Munich startup scene definitely has some catching up to do is in marketing. What Munich startups are lacking, particularly in comparison to their colleagues in Berlin, is “sexiness,” which would naturally also increase their valuations and appeal to investors…

Munich Startup: Last but not least: Whom should startups contact if they would like to meet up with you?

Daniel Wild, Mountain Alliance: Contact me directly by email.