Sie sind gemeinsam mit einem motivierten Gründerteam und einer guten Idee der Motor eines jungen Unternehmens: Investoren. Egal, ob Venture-Capitalist, Business-Angel oder Inkubator – ohne das nötige Kleingeld gäbe es so manche spannende Business-Idee nur auf dem Papier. Gründerszene hat sich daher einmal die Mühe gemacht und unter dem Motto “Interview mit einem VC” – und nein, Anspielungen an Blutsauger sind gänzlich zufällig – Deutschlands spannendste Geldgeber zu einem Interview gebeten. Dieses Mal: Eran Davidson von Hasso Plattner Ventures (www.hp-ventures.com).
Please introduce yourself: Who are you and what are you doing as an investor?
My name is Eran Davidson and I am the CEO and managing partner of Hasso Plattner Ventures since it’s foundation in 2005. Together with my team of investment professionals, we invest in promising start up companies in Germany, Europe and Israel. We have already successfully exited several companies; the latest exit being at the beginning of this year.
Give us some numbers: Size ofyour business, size of your funds, focus, stage, investments.
To date Hasso Plattner Ventures has successfully invested in 20 companies with accumulated revenues of 130 million Euro (2011). Our portfolio companies provide employment for 1365 employees.
We invest in IT, software and web service provider companies across various stages of company development from slideware to growth stage, with an investment size rangingfrom 250k and up to 10m Euro.
The size of our funds is 150M Euro
How much do you invest and how many shares do founders have to give in return? (“It depends” is no valid answer)
It is impossible to state here one number. The amount of shares we are aiming to acquire depends on the stage of the company. Did I say “It depends”? Well it is fair to say that on average we target between 20-25 percent ownershipafter the last financial round.
Are you invested in investments of your own fonds? For example via direct investments or via carry?
I am invested only indirectly via carry structure.
What enthuses you about being a VC?
More so in my field than in many others, as a VC there is never a dull moment. In this line of work you find yourself surrounded by brilliant people who ensure that every day brings with it something new; new ideas, new ways of thinking that challenge you in the best way possible. In this arena you drive yourself to high risks, while knowing that with them you receive high gains.
Tell us about your best and worst entrepreneurial experience. I would say, that my worst experience makes my best experience just that much better. As an entrepreneur I find myself working with many people from different walks of life, and unfortunately a long the way at times I have placed my trust in the wrong people. However, these trials and tribulations have lead me to the most amazing entrepreneurial experience – founding HPV in Germany from scratch.
What is more important: Team or idea?
I don’t think it is an either-or decision. You need great entrepreneurs and a great idea. Fortunately, great teams usually come up with an idea that is well thought out. If you are pushing me to decide I would put my emphasis on the team. In our experience, good teams with excellent execution skills can even succeed without the best idea.
Is there any such thing as an ideal founding team?
Your question is already pointing in the right direction- speaking about team, not a single founder. We at Hasso Plattner Ventures definitely prefer to invest in teams and not in single founders. A perfect founding team integrates all of the characteristics and skills you need to built up a successful company: passion, determination, execution skills, a healthy bit of craziness and the ability to think big and out of the box. Let me mention one more thing: a perfect founding team will not necessarily also incorporate all the skills required to lead a company in a later stage. I can’t remember many cases in which the team stayed as it originally was until the exit.
What does a founder have to do to get financed by you? What, in your opinion, are the most important criteria for startups?
First of all, everybody with a great team and great idea is welcome to send us their business plan. However, we are not business angels, so we prefer at least a prototype and an established company. As I mentioned earlier, we invest from early stage to late stage.
What is more important: Profitability or growth?
Am I allowed to say “It depends” now? It really depends on the stage of the company. In the beginning the focus should be on growth. Companies should think big and try to grow fast and sustainably – the aim is to become profitable in the long run.
What are the three biggest mistakes of German startups?
Not thinking big enough, being too local, and taking too little risks.
US vs. EU – do we lag behind America in terms of VC and entrepreneurship?
It is hard to compare. I believe there is a need for further funding in these fields in Germany, in order to bring about a different more entrepreneurial mindset that encourages thinking outside the box and discovering the next big thing.
What topics do you find hot at the moment?
We try to be open for everything. I tell you one thing that’s not hot: everything that contains the word “deals”.
What’s your opinion on copycats?
We don’t like to invest in copycats but still we are not a friend of bashing VCs and incubators who do so. What counts at the end is the success.
Which events can startups find you at and which blogs/newspapers do you recommend?
I think at every big startup event in Berlin and also internationally you will find one of our team members. Startups normally contact us during these events. It is easy to find and contact the German VCs – there are not too many of us anyway.
We like to recommend our own „HPV Forum on Entrepreneurship“ which gains great traction and popularity in Europe. It will be our 8th Forum this year, scheduled for September 12th, 2012 in Potsdam, with the topic „PASSION!“