Magnus and I, we know each other since our first CEO & Founder Dinner that we organised in Singapore in 2016. Back then he was CEO & Founder of Global Fashion Group (=mother company of Zalora) and he is now CEO & Founder of antler: the premier tech founder incubator in Asia. He is an amazingly smart and nice person so enjoy the interview with him below.
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
When I think about entrepreneurship: building products through innovation that positively impact the world. By teams or strong individuals.
What are you looking for when you meet founders?
So typically first: some sort of spike. Either personal traits or functionality or an area of knowledge that is deeper and better than everyone else has it. This can be being amazing in sales, or deep in a specific industry, or be really great at solving problems.
No 2: drive, inner engine to make things happen.
No 3: tenacity: typically the hardest thing to discover. Is this a person that failing is not an option. They drive and succeed.
Fourthly, common values of integrity. Is this a person you want to be in business with.
What are business models that you like to invest in? and why?
I typically invest in business models that utilises technology’s or some operational know-how that allows you to scale very rapidly. Typically, I only get excited with solutions with regional/global potential that is enabled by specific know-how or technology.
No 2: companies that work on a problem that have a positive impact from one area to the other. This can be from environment to impact business operations: you need this positive impact to succeed.
What have been your 3 lessons learned as entrepreneur? What would you differently today?
That’s the most difficult question.
I would say: No 1 is ensure that you are always working with triple A team. Never comprise on your co-founders and most important team members. One wrong hire (starting with a wrong co-founder) can put you back a year or two.
Second: really spending time going on your business model before starting to build. With going deep I mean: longer term vision how you capture a specific market, and think through the go-to-market, spend really good time into business models, break it down on how you go into the market as quickly as possible.
Three, just as important: velocity. Creating early velocity. One learning, whenever we got into a new model/industry (I have one value that we also implemented at antler: to do something is better than perfect). And less velocity in the cases when perfect is needed.
Break it down; if it is a reversible decision: execute fast. If it is not reversible such a SHA (anything legal is non reversible), or implementation of ERP system: spend proper time on it. Otherwise getting something done is better than perfect. Best companies out there are doing it in an amazing way: amazon, Google, amazing features every day and forget about the ones that don’t work.
Spend considerable amount of time on “who I want to work with at antler”. Complimentary skill set, a lot of fun together, 6 months going really deep business models, breaking up every single part of it before starting. Once we started building, started with extreme velocity. 2 people on the website, now in SEA & Europe. Close to building 20 companies at the same time.
One major learning of Zalora was that we went very hard in building & rolling out operations for eCommerce while it is pretty intense with hyper local logistics set-up, it is a more profitable space, and could have done it earlier. Instead, we spend too much time on marketing before the product was great. Importance of my points 2-3 spending a lot of time deep in the business model, waiting with hard execution when you are clear on structure. This is what we have done much better with antler.
What have been your 3 lessons learned as investor? What would you do differently today?
Again, no 1 & 2: is the team. If you have an amazing co-founder team they will accomplish something great.
3 things: need to believe in individuals in the team. They are individually great (see points above).
Number 2: complimentary skill sets in the team, I don’t think it is absolutely necessary. Definitely better than everyone is exactly the same. Some teams, lacking some functions.
Number 3: around this general chemistry of the team: will these guys enjoy spending 90hours a week together over 5 year period.
Only after that comes only the business model. Where 1 thing is product, market-fit. Better way addressing it as other people currently do in the market.
As important is timing. Great team, great area and problem to solve. They got the timing completely wrong. Too late or too early.
Last aspect, how they use technology to solve the problem they want to solve. Real technology or innovation in operations that allow you to scale faster
One big warning: some people are really great at technology, however, sometimes they are building for the sake of technology: They should ask the question first how technology or the operational model will best solve the problem. Not trying to solve something for the sake of using a new technology: such as blockchain, artificial intelligence – important related back to how to solve the problem. Ask yourself the question: do you really need blockchain or artificial intelligence to solve the problem?
If you would give an entrepreneur one advice – what would it be?
Get an amazing co-founder
From Entrepreneurs For Entrepreneurs is a weekly interview session with some of the most influential entrepreneurs, creators and investors. Goal is to share our lessons learned and help to shape the next generation of entrepreneurs.