What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
Creating and being the master of your destiny in life while hopefully creating a positive impact on the wider context.
Interview with Patrick Linden
What are you looking for when you meet founders?
No 1: alignment of values of co-founder and myself: personal and business values
No 2: knowing my strengths and weaknesses which helps me to find co-founders able to complement those and each others skillsets
No 3: underpromise, overdeliver. Execution, execution, execution! Not talking the talk but walking the talk
What are business models that you like to invest in? and why?
My first successful ventures have been e-commerce companies in South-East Asia. We started
in 2010 and Food Runner in 2012. Back then e-commerce in SEA was largely a blank page: all the massive verticals like deals, food, fashion, general e-commerce were wide open with little or no competition. Through my journey back then I learned a lot and gained deep domain knowledge in those verticals we built companies in. I largely tried to stick to these areas in angel investing later on as well. E-commerce has gotten extremely competitive so the thesis is now a bit wider and includes digital transactions in a wider sense and selective investments in the blockchain space.
What have been your 3 lessons learned as entrepreneur? What would you differently today?
There are so many, in fact the lessons just keep on coming. Probably the most important one is the perspective on entrepreneurship. It has a lot to do with setting the initial goals, failing (not necessarily the whole company but more likely a certain approach to e.g. sales channels), learning from those failures and adapting your approach. Successful entrepreneurship is not a sprint, not even a marathon, it’s more like an iron man (laughs). So the biggest lesson is setting that perspective right. Too many people throw in the towel due to the initial failures which will come 100% faster and harder than initially anticipated. Instead of failure, see it as evolution into your next best self.
Hiring is a big one. Culture and Team fit are essential. After all you’ll be spending a large part of your life with those people. Especially on C-Level get people who can grow with the company as it expands from a 5-man-show to 500. Make sure your equity distribution reflects your individual inputs to avoid later conflicts. Have the same time horizons.
On the technical side if you don’t have experience in legal matters as a first-time entrepreneur make sure to get excellent counsel before your first VC investments. Sadly, still a good number of entrepreneurs are screwed over anti-dilution clauses, multiple-x liquidation preferences, retaining control and the like. This costs them dearly down the line.
Timing is essential. Is the market just about ready for your product or service or is it likely still 12 months out? The most important timing aspect is maximising value at exit. Time your exit the right way as multiples change vastly over time and the perceived “hotness” of your niche. Talk to people in the industry who dare to challenge your thinking to get more input to make those decisions.
What I would do differently today?
I’m largely very happy and grateful for my journey so far but probably a little bit in the last two.
What have been your 3 lessons learned as investor? What would you do differently today? I’m still trying to learn as much as I can, so nowhere near knowing my stuff inside-out (laughs).
No 2: start up investments are highly risky. Only invest what you can afford to loose without loosing sleep
No 3: invest in projects you are very passionate about. By following that rule I voided rule No 2 multiple times (laughs), but only with projects I co-founded and had a lot of skin in the game. It’s important to be passionate about projects you invest in, as it’s a long-term play.
As a hygiene factor I would also say deeper due diligence in some projects, find the right balance between speculative- and value-investing horizon, only invest in experienced teams (team is everything).
If you would give an entrepreneur one advice — what would it be?
Having a company is like having a new born baby. Have full skin in the game, tunnel-vision, laser-focus on its welfare. Be prepared to stick with it for long (actually, much longer than you expect to be with it), be prepared that it is physically and mentally very challenging. It will start screaming at night when you really don’t want to wake up. In primary school it might try to set the house on fire or pee in the neighbours garden (laughs). You get the idea. You will experience ‘the highest highs, the lowest lows’ and undergo an amazing evolution. That‘s it.