What inspired you to become a VC and was there a particular lightbulb moment?
I first started thinking seriously about VC when I was at INSEAD about 10 years ago. I realised that the key skills of early stage VC were not so much in financial engineering but in understanding startup founders, market & tech trends and great product development. In the ensuing years I started angel investing and getting to know people in the industry. There wasn’t a single lightbulb moment but rather a series of steps along the way.
In Germany ‘ Legislation is set to mandate companies have at least one female executive on the board’ (FT 08.03.21). Would you like to see a similar policy adopted in the UK and why?
I am a big believer that what gets measured gets done. Whether it’s a government mandate or non-statutory measures that focus on improved transparency and benchmarking of the makeup of company leadership, I think it’s only possible to make a change by being more vocal about the imbalance we see today. I also favour any additional focus on continued diversity and inclusion efforts at all levels of company leadership to ensure an increasingly representative pool of talent.
How do you judge a Founder as against a Company?
I want to see a strong connection between a founder and the mission that drives their desire to found an exceptional company. Of course I also want to see compelling insights into the problem being solved, which depending on the stage of development, will manifest itself in different levels of validation. I love it when founders educate me about an opportunity that I have no insight about and convince me how their approach will make fundamental changes.
What were the key lessons taken from your experiences at Apple,Health Unlocked and The Boston Consulting Group?
Apple: Maniacal focus on high quality products. We planned and executed as close to flawlessly as possible (and mostly in secret). It’s not a style that works for everyone.
Health Unlocked: The emotional rollercoaster of being in an early stage startup can be exhausting. I also felt for the first time the immediate impact of every decision I made.
BCG: Structure, focus, attention to detail, and crisp communication. In professional services this is paramount.
Do you think Rishi Sunak’s budget will enable the UK to become a scientific superpower? (Reforming tax benefits for tech companies, credits for R and D and relief on employee stock options)
I have made the UK my home for the last 15 years, so I am bullish on the future. The UK has a long history of scientific breakthroughs. Ultimately though new discoveries are only one piece of the puzzle that also includes application and commercialisation. While individual initiatives such as those the Chancellor is proposing are likely to help, what’s more important is where the initiatives fit in the broader roadmap that drives global commercialisation of UK-based innovations.
What do you think will be the effect on the gig economy following Uber’s defeat at the Supreme Court?
Periods of economic disruption tend to expose flaws in business models that were previously discounted or overlooked, and the pandemic is a clear example of this for many gig economy workers. Ultimately, if there is broad public support for more regulation and government intervention in the employment market, then the Supreme Court decision will likely be seen as a turning point. In isolation I’d be surprised if the Supreme Court decision has a significant impact.