“Passion & excitement in ideas” Interview with Marco Breu

Marco and I, we got to know each other through our co-investment in OkieLa in Vietnam. Apart from his day job (Global Partner of McKinsey and Managing Partner for Vietnam) he is also supporting start-ups in the region. In addition, he has co-founded the Mekong Business Challenge to promote Entrepreneurship. Marco is currently on a sabbatical from McKinsey and teaching at the Royal Thimpu College in Bhutan. I had the great pleasure to visit him and lecture with him at some of his classes in Business Administration & Entrepreneurship. It is always great to catch-up with Marco so enjoy the short interview below.

What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

Number 1: I think the one sentence that comes to my mind: passion & excitement in ideas. The ideas might not be fully thought through yet, but you can feel that founder(s) would want to pursue it.

Number 2: not a fully developed business model (yet). Starting point is an outline & concept that is customer-driven/backed. When I hear about ideas I want to hear about the customer angle.

Number 3: openness to pivot. Founders need to be stubborn. But there might be a time to pivot based on input from your customer.

What are you looking for when you meet founders?

Screenshot 2019-05-05 17.11.22.png

It depends a bit where they come from. When they come from emerging markets: certain amount of professional work experience. Because I really want to see practicality of ideas.

Number 2: I want to see a level of versatility and maturity to be both stubborn while at the same time being able to listen to what customers say and willing to adapt accordingly.

Number 3: an understanding of the entrepreneur about the importance of monetization of an idea. It’s ok to have a social cause and commitment. But I also expect a good grasp on financials and how to make it economically sustainable.

What are business models that you like to invest in? and why?

Something I have learned and moved away from: I try not to invest in a local-only model. I am looking for some regional or global scalability. I understand when entrepreneurs focus only on one market (example Vietnam with close to 100MM people) but there must be potential to think about a regional or global set up.

Clarity and that there is a spark of innovation in it. Not just an imitation. Not just „it has worked elsewhere and let‘s replicate it“. Try to understand & change it for your initial target market. It does not need to be complete innovation. But not just a “copy & paste”.

As Angel investor, I moved away from investing on my own to invest more together with other people that can supplement each other and can help with different capabilities & skill-set (club deals). I don‘t want to do this on my own.

What have been your 3 lessons learned as entrepreneur? What would you differently today?

Well, I obviously missed out on being an entrepreneur myself. There was a time when this was an option. It comes with a bit of regret, an opportunity that I missed.

What I would do differently today? I should have listened more about what my real passion is in a specific industry. For example, I do a lot of work with banks and in finance. But I love aviation and am a passionate hobby pilot. Hence, I should have translated this passion also in terms of my day-to-day work. For example, working in aviation or the airlines industry.

Lastly, I truly like teaching that‘s why I am taking time off and teach in Bhutan. Maybe I should integrate some of this into my day-to-day work too.

What have been your 3 lessons learned as investor? What would you do differently today?

Number 1: I would want to see a founder/team with some diversification. Not only in skills but also equity structure. There should not only be one party who owns the cap table – it should be carried by all Founders. Founders should have a majority. But not one single entity or person has a majority among the founders. It usually doesn’t work well for further rounds of investments.

I don‘t see how it is really gonna work if you just go to start up weekends and invest there randomly. I always want to have one of the angels to know the founders very personally. I am not keen on investing when neither me nor any of the other investors have a longer-term or personal relationship with the founder team.

The last thing: I try to get a sense of whether the founder is fully in. I had to go through the experience of a founder who is doing 3 things at the same time and on top of it tried running a crypto-mining side business. It obviously ended badly.

If you would give an entrepreneur one advice – what would it be?

One advice. I have many advises but what would be the one thing… I would say: don‘t do it alone. Find at least one or two others who are in it with you. Especially for the rainy days.

THANK YOU.


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.

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