Once a founder and entrepreneur, now a successful investor Edward de Jager (CEO VenturesOne) shared his key learnings and tips during World Startup Factory‘s special Investor Campfire last Tuesday. Tap into this blog based on the question-answer session with Edward to get some exclusive insights and opinions!
1. HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR PERSONAL MISSION IN YOUR LIFE?
Initially, Edward saw his mission in being an entrepreneur, but then his career took another, investor turn. “I want to invest in other companies, in teams and people who build these companies, not for an exit, but for making further innovation possible. I am inspired by those founders who love to build companies striving for innovations and societal improvement”.
2. WHAT MAKES YOU INVEST IN A TEAM?
Based on his experience, Edward distinguishes 3 biggest challenges or failures for startups:
- Failing to get traction and customers
- Lack of cash / investments
- Management issues / team issues
Although the first two points are pretty common and widely discussed, the third one is crucially important and often gets neglected. Edward believes that cultural behavior in a company is arguably the most important thing of all: look at the example of Google to see what we mean (just think about it: Google has people whose sole job is to keep employees happy and maintain productivity!). The stable growth of the company is grounded in cultural behavior within the team, as well as its diversity.
“THE STABLE GROWTH OF THE COMPANY IS GROUNDED IN CULTURAL BEHAVIOR WITHIN THE TEAM, AS WELL AS ITS DIVERSITY.”
3. WHAT WAS THE MOMENT THAT MADE YOU LEARN THE MOST?
“My biggest failures so far had been that I kept going with what probably would not succeed”, – says Edward. He emphasizes that persistence can be both good and bad at times, and it’s important to have a tangible reason for why you stick to one or another practice. See a team as an example: sometimes you can find yourself surrounded by pleasant people who are not quite as impressive in their job. “I think people are the most important thing in a company. The team is number one factor of success”, – mentions Edward. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go those with whom you have a warm personal relationship, but not such a great professional synergy. “Sometimes I stayed with good people, who are not good at their job. It was not always the best idea“.
4. HOW DO YOU DECIDE HOW MUCH TO INVEST?
“We (VenturesOne) are a long-term investor, so we are there for the good and the bad.” – notes Edward. In the estimate, VenturesOne would be ready to support a startup with up to 3-5 million Euro. It goes without saying that we will do so if we truly believe in both the business and people behind it.
“WE ARE A LONG-TERM INVESTOR,
SO WE ARE THERE FOR THE GOOD AND THE BAD.”
5. HOW ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THESE COMPANIES AS AN INVESTOR?
“Since we invest our own money, we are personally very much connected with the founders. We like to support startups in any way that is possible. We prefer to not sit on your chair, but, instead, advice you altogether on what is helpful in achieving your stated objectives”. Edward cannot overstate the importance of being up-to-date with the quickly changing realities of the business: “At my age, it is important to look at the businesses through the eyes of the younger generation. At the same time, as an experienced entrepreneur, I try to share my knowledge with younger innovators so they make their use of it.“
6. IN YOUR OPINION, IS THE GOVERNMENT HELPING OR HINDERING STARTUPS AND ENTREPRENEURS?
In Edward’s view, the government can generally be very helpful for entrepreneurs. However, some regulations can make startups struggle: “For example, banks are overprotective since governmental regulators are trying to regulate blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies. Less regulation will lead to more innovations”.
7. WHAT ARE YOU DREAMING OF?
When asked about his dreams, Edward says: “When I was 21 years old, I had a dream that I could help people in emerging countries to set up their own businesses and lead a better life. Once, over the weekend I wrote a business plan that could potentially stimulate us to invest more in emerging markets. The idea was to have a circular funding model. According to the plan, it would allow people more willingly share a little percentage of wealth with the startup community by transforming the individual one-time risk into a common one, in the situation where long-term cooperation is provided. That would be a self-sustaining system that continually stimulates innovations. That’s how Paperclip Community was born”. (Read more about Paperclip Community here).
8. MANY EUROPE-BASED STARTUPS ARE WONDERING: IS THERE A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE INVESTORS INSIDE OF THE EU? WHAT ARE THE STEREOTYPES ABOUT GERMAN, DUTCH OR BRITISH INVESTORS?
According to Edward, there is no such thing. European investors don’t possess as much national specifics as one would imagine. However, there is quite a notable difference between them and their American counterparts. The US investors are more daring and less afraid of failure. Most importantly, they would invest in an entrepreneur who has failed before. “Failure is a good way to learn. Back in the days, if you had a bankruptcy behind you, European investors would be doubting to support you. Now I can see it gradually changing, and I am happy about it. Failure makes you understand how the companies work, and not do those mistakes again”. And it is not only about the bankruptcy, it is about the failure in general. Edward goes on, saying: “My practice shows that investment in people who have failed previously is more reasonable and has more potential.”
Another big issue here in the EU is that investors speak about long-term outcomes, but often invest short term. Then, if a company does not make a successful exit in, let’s say, 5 years, it is considered to be taking the wrong path. However, notes Edward, it is important to understand, that some companies, especially the ones that are seeking to address the societal issues, just have a longer horizon. When asked about his longest investments, Edward mentioned that some are ongoing for over 30 years. Isn’t it a real dedication?
Edward de Jager is the CEO and Founder of VenturesOne Group. He is also a seasoned businessman with a series of successful ventures. Edward de Jager studied International Business and Trade at the London School of International Trade, graduating with a diploma of the same name. Seven years after acquiring his diploma he founded VenturesOne Group and Omni Bridgeway Holding. Within his capacity of CEO of VenturesOne Group, he has worked with several companies over the years, committed to developing long-lasting and successful businesses.
In addition to his work within VenturesOne Group and Omni Bridgeway Holding, Edward has served as Chairman of Whittington Group Pte Ltd.