“Being comfortable with risk” and other learnings of an investment manager

by Tanja

Interview, Startup Know-How

13. February 2019

Meeting 100s of founders, reading through tons of business plans and seeing startup pitches on a weekly basis – what you can learn from Florian Resch, Investment Manager at aws Founders Fund

 

aws Founders Fund is Austria’s most active venture capital fund with EUR 68.5m under management. In 2018 we closed a total of 21 transactions – of which 5 were new investments, 16 follow-up investments and 2 exits. Together with international co-investors, we were able to mobilize EUR 153m of venture capital for Austrian start-ups since 2013.

The fund invests during the later seed and series A/B phases of highly scalable Austrian tech start-ups. As a lead or co-investor, the fund invests in equity and mezzanine capital or various flexible contract structures.

Who are you and what’s your role at aws Founders Fund?

Hi, my name is Florian Resch and I joined aws Founders Fund as an investment manager in 2015. Currently, I am responsible for nine startups from our technology and life science portfolio.

Over the last 3,5 years, I had the opportunity to work with amazing founders and teams throughout the whole life cycle, from first discussions through funding rounds, board representation and fortunately also two successful exits. Discussing ideas, navigating blue oceans, constant learning and accompanying founding teams on their journey through the early stages of their startups is certainly the most rewarding part in this profession.

Utilizing my experience from my background in M&A as well as roles as co-founder and executive of digital companies, I try to be the person on the lookout, providing context and perspective and help founders do the tough job of steering their entrepreneur-ship into blue oceans.

What makes aws Founders Fund as investment partner so unique?

aws Founders Fund acts as a long-term entrepreneurial investor. We define ourselves as being mentors and sparring-partners for our portfolio companies. We believe in actively supporting our portfolio companies by involving as board members and offering our experience and knowledge on strategic issues. Especially topics like market entry, international roll-out, and fundraising strategy are areas of expertise we tackle often together with our entrepreneurs and co-investors.

What do you look for in a startup before investing? Is the team really key?

For us, three essential factors are decisive when making an investment decision: the team, a product with a USP and a scalable business model.

A complete and well-coordinated founder team is crucial. Only an excellent team can overcome obstacles and deliver outstanding success. Experience shows that management issues can be the biggest hurdle for VCs to make positive investment decisions.

Looking at the market and business model there must be the potential for scaling. An investor expects a return on his investment after five years, on average. Certainly, not every business model and every market are suitable for this.

Depending on the technology and industry, we like to see either a proof of market or proof of concept before investing. In the former case, first traction and revenue streams are already generated. In DeepTech industries, where the business model might not be established, we would like to see at least proof of concept, meaning the technology works and customers show willingness to engage with the product.

Are you looking for startups in specific industries?

Our sweet spots are start-ups in the IT or digital sector, we also invest in the hardware, deeptech and life science sector. Personally, I focus on B2B-Software and deeptech investments. With startups like ToolSense, endiio, meo smart energy and PlanRadar, I am happy to work with several award-winning teams in this area. Furthermore, with Miracor Medical Systems and Themis Bioscience I am responsible for two high-potential portfolio companies in the life science sector.

What is the typical ticket size?

We support our start-ups with start-up and follow-up investments of up to EUR 3m and the preparation of future financing rounds. Together with our co-investors we can raise EUR 10m to EUR 15m.

How do you support your portfolio companies?

We believe in the additional value of co-investments for the optimal development of the start-up. We offer excellent access to an international investors and corporates network, as well as their market expertise and the numerous support opportunities provided by aws.

aws Founders Fund has invested in 30 companies, showing off 6 exits so far. What are the major learnings in working closely together with the startup teams?

Being comfortable with risk, keeping an open mind and the willingness to learn and staying humble would be my personal top 3. It is – above all – a people’s business and a trusted relationship is the prerequisite for efficient support and cooperation.

What would be your #1 advise for startups looking for investment?

Do your homework. There is plenty of knowledge out there on how to do fundraising. Find out if the potential investor is a good fit for you (stage, ticket size, industry, background), how and where to approach the investor and fine-tune your message. Be open and transparent, approach the investor at eye level, be confident.

Wanna learn more about aws Founders Fund or eager to talk about investment? Get in touch with them.