Reshma, as a prominent leader in the startup ecosystem, could you please give us a brief overview of your background, experiences, and the milestones that led you to where you are today?
Sometimes the moment meets the time, and I was fortunate enough to have a moment where technology and entrepreneurship intersected so heavily in my development at the perfect time in history that it set up a very clear path ahead for me. My undergraduate studies in engineering and business at the University of Pennsylvania kicked off this intersection at the birth of the Internet. After starting my career in technology banking, I quickly realized that banking did not maximize my strengths, but the technology sector certainly did. I worked in venture capital during the dotcom boom and bust era, in a young firm where I had the opportunity to do everything - the legal side of investment making to deciding on investments to working in the business as a marketing or commercial person. Although this was all at a very early stage in my career, I felt that I had found what I wanted to do.
I then went on to get my MBA at INSEAD and, after graduation, worked in operations at Vodafone, where I worked across the entire European footprint, getting a lot of commercial marketing experience.
Wanting to get back into VC, I wound up at a firm which very quickly proved a mutually poor fit. At the time (2006-2007), I was watching the European scene slowly recover from the dotcom bust into a fledgling Internet 2.0 ecosystem. Comparing Europe’s tech ecosystem to Silicon Valley, I wondered why Europe was not at the same scale as the US in terms of productivity, given that it had the landmass, the population, and the talent.
Fortunately, around that time, I met a few great, like-minded people and started Seedcamp together with Saul Klein in 2007.
Originally started as an accelerator, Seedcamp has, over the years, evolved into a VC firm that makes early-stage investments, from Angel to Seed, and follows-on beyond.
Some of the most significant milestones include the public listings of UiPath and Wise in 2021, two companies we’ve backed from the first cheque.
For those who may not be familiar with Seedcamp, could you explain its mission, assets under management, and some notable investments?
Our mission is to identify and invest in world-class founders (connected to Europe) attacking large, global markets and solving real problems using technology.
In addition to providing capital, we fast-track a founder's vision and create value through a lifelong community of support and a global network built upon more than 15 years of experience backing exceptional talent. We mention the term flywheel so exhaustively to represent how everyone in our Seedcamp Nation ecosystem works together in a continuous motion to support each other.
Our Seedcamp Nation now includes over 460 startups building breakout businesses that change the way people live, interact and buy. It includes publicly listed UiPath, Wise, and unicorns Revolut, Hopin, Sorare, Pleo, wefox, Grover, and viz.ai, along with fast-growing businesses such as Synthesia, Peppy, Sylvera, Appwrite, Ramp and Buynomics.
We’ve just launched our Fund VI of $180 million to invest at the earliest stage in the next 100 most ambitious European companies, from Angel to Seed rounds.
As Seedcamp has evolved over the years, what key lessons have you learned from your initial model?
From the early days of Seedcamp, we took a ‘ united states of Europe’ approach, which has proven successful. We are people-driven and experienced firsthand that talent can come from everywhere.
We were one of the first firms to venture into emerging startup hubs all across Europe, from Bucharest to Copenhagen.
We started very small and understood and relied on the power of collaboration and community. We have built a highly collaborative “community” network of Seedcamp-backed founders, Super-Angels from Europe and USA, experienced operators and experts globally, co-investors, and LPs.
Thus we have matured in a very organic and genuine way. Refusing to simply replicate the ‘Silicon Valley tech’ model, we defined our own path to and vision of success. Our values of community-led, entrepreneurial-minded, and teamwork centric - which began very organically and are now implemented at scale very intentionally - have served us extremely well through all the disruptions and changes that happen all around us.
What sets Seedcamp apart from other European VC firms? What do you think contributed to your lasting success?
We've had a really strong North Star all along the journey of building Seedcamp. We keep extremely disciplined and focused on the main thing: give European founders a real platform for global success and be one of the global winners.
Today, we pride ourselves on being an organisation that pairs the agility and ethos of an Angel with the capital, operational excellence, and network of an experienced VC.
We are and will continue to be community-led and entrepreneurially-minded. We’re carving our own path, building products that cater specifically to the needs of European founders and the broader European tech ecosystem. Having worked with thousands of founders, we understand that at the ‘real’ earliest stage, our job is to be the in the entrepreneurs’ corner when they need us and to understand when it’s the right moment to get out of their way.
We are also very teamwork centric - we have an equal partnership and a strong history of nurturing and promoting internal talent. Our success is collective, Seedcamp succeeds if the entire Seedcamp Nation succeeds.
Throughout your time at Seedcamp, how have you fostered strong relationships with entrepreneurs, limited partners, and other stakeholders? What strategies have you employed to ensure effective communication and collaboration?
We’re in the business of building long-standing relationships across the Seedcamp Nation and beyond. Underpinning these relationships is our drive around giving more than taking, manifested through transparency, simplicity, and authenticity.
Every participant in Seedcamp Nation has the potential to wear many different hats across their life’s journey with Seedcamp. An LP today might also become a founder tomorrow. An operator today might become an LP tomorrow. A founder today might become both an operator and LP tomorrow. Our style, therefore, tends to be about building knowledge and empathy across the stakeholders and a clear understanding of the long-term journey ahead for us collectively, which will likely mean they play different roles in Seedcamp Nation over the years.
As a testament to our commitment to long-term partnerships, 80% of investors in our previous fund joined us again on the journey for Fund VI. We are delighted to have the support of some of the world’s most impactful investors: institutions include LGT, Reference Capital, Harbourvest, Legal & General; Angels include the likes of Michael Pennington (Gumtree), Will Neale (Grabyo), Paul Forster (Indeed), Ilkka Paananen (Supercell), Shakil Khan (Prima Materia), Kärt Siilats (GoBeyondCapital), and many founders from the Seedcamp Nation, including the likes of: Taavet Hinrikus (Wise), Daniel Dines (UiPath), Jeppe Rindom (Pleo), and Johnny Boufarhat (Hopin).
Many of the founders we backed over the years have achieved incredible success and are keen to pay it forward and support our ever-growing Seedcamp Nation as peers and experts, LPs, and even co-investors. One of them is Taavet Hinrikus, Co-founder of Seedcamp-portfolio company Wise, Founding Partner of Plural Platform, and Seedcamp Angel LP, who we’ve known for well over a decade now. He is a repeat LP in our funds, and we also co-invest in promising companies.
As a mentor yourself, how do you maintain brand consistency and create a lasting legacy at Seedcamp? What has been your approach to nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs and investors?
Seedcamp is the sum of its people. Founders - as our primary customers - are front and center in everything we do, from how we invest to how we support them along the company-building journey.
With our recently launched Seedcamp Fund VI, we’ve introduced our new Seedcamp Expert Collective (SxC), a community of 100+ top-quality operators who have scaled some of the world’s most successful businesses, including the likes of Uber, Stripe, Cloudflare, Revolut, Deliveroo, NextDoor, Skyscanner and Wise, and will provide support to founders and their teams, through one-to-one sessions, workshops, content, micro-communities, and in some instances, angel investment.
To support emerging fund managers, we made a tradition of publishing the decks we use for raising our funds. We were one of the first funds to reveal what’s underneath the hood by publishing the deck we used to raise when we launched Fund IV, and have done this ever since (here you can see the deck we used for raising our oversubscribed Fund VI).
Our ethos very much is to creat multipliers of talent, both internally and externally. So in most aspects we as mentors are always thinking about how another team member can do something better than we can and how we help them be the best and certainly better than us.
In your experience, what are the core traits of a great entrepreneur, both as a person and in terms of their business (product, market, etc.)?
One of the best traits is curiosity. Curiosity is an opener personality - it opens towards learning, respect for others, and a growth mindset.
Adaptability is also essential. The entrepreneurial journey is filled with many unknowns, and you constantly need to adapt to changing circumstances and environments.
With Seedcamp's recent fund doubling in size, how do you plan to maintain quality while scaling? What do you envision for Seedcamp's future over the next decade, and what goals do you have for the organization?
We take a networked approach to scaling, and are able to leverage the powerful flywheel effects across our Seedcamp Nation, supercharged by companies we’ve backed, our Seedcamp Expert Collective, and the many co-investors and partners we have successfully worked with over the years.
We talk a lot about the ‘Seedcamp Network’ economy. Our size and maturity are now such that we see the true power of the Seedcamp flywheel effect in full motion. Whether it’s companies acquiring one another (UiPath & Re:infer), selling to one another, or learning from and investing in each other, we believe the Seedcamp Nation is any early-stage founder’s unfair advantage.
For Fund VI, we are proud to have alongside us one of Europe’s largest Angel and Expert Networks, specifically curated to support our founders to operationalise and scale faster.
In the future, we plan to expand our breadth and depth of reach all across Europe to identify the most exceptional talent, whether they are fresh out of university or experienced founders or operators. For example, Germany is one of the countries that excites us the most. Including but not limited to the established tech hubs in Berlin and Munich, it has high talent density and a powerful tradition of technological and industrial innovation, spanning all sectors from automotive to healthcare.