1. What inspired you to become a VC and was there a particular ‘lightbulb’ moment?
I didn’t go to Harvard, I’m not technical and I have a short attention span. Oh, and I’m from Texas. When I finished school, I wanted to figure out who I was and have life experiences. So I moved to London and had the opportunity to work at a big co for a year.. Thereafter, I was a nanny (I suppose one would say manny), worked in an antique shop, worked in A&R and haphazardly became a researcher and learned how to use MATLAB (I thought I had always hated math until I had a good teacher). This led me to a commercial role at a startup and the rest is history.
2. You describe Crane as a “thematic” investment firm, what does this mean?
We only invest into founders building enterprise companies. How can Crane support these founders if we’re generalists investing into D2C brands, food delivery or healthcare? We have a deep bench of investors and company builders who can help any one of our companies at any stage of their go-to-market. Now that European founders have a choice of who to take money from at the seed stage, we’ve found that they would rather partner with a specialist investor than the other options.
3. What particular DNA do you look for in a Founder/team?
Every team we have backed to date is deeply technical and has experienced the problem they have committed their working lives to solve. But, a lot of geniuses do not have the ability to build a system or architecture to enable their company to thrive. So we also look for founders who not only have a relentless drive to win through attracting the best talent and providing the most value to their customers, but they are humble. They can’t hog the limelight and they implicitly understand how important it is to build a team and let them shine.
4. Most seed funds invest in their core market plus maybe one other country. Why does Crane invest on a Pan European basis?
My co-founder Krishna and I invested in 7 European countries before we founded Crane. It was there that we witnessed a talent explosion. We love investing in places like Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen and Madrid, but London does have a dominant role to play in Europe. There are thousands of experienced people working in or around London for cloud companies or the largest global tech companies, not only in engineering, but in sales, marketing and ops. So it’s the easiest place to scale a business in Europe, but we see this changing as there are more exits across the Continent.
5. What advice do you have for younger VCs just starting their investing career?
Become indispensable to your team and to the founders you support through leveraging your own unique talent. Figure out what that is and sharpen it. Also, be patient. It takes years to master this craft. I passed the 10 year mark earlier this year and still have a lot of growing left. If you don’t wake up every single morning looking forward to working with founders, I highly suggest taking some time out to find yourself (or become a nanny).