At LSE Founder’s Club, we were very honoured to have Anne Glover, the founder and CEO of Amadeus Capital Partners, as our speaker. Prior to being a venture capitalist, Anne Glover had worked in industry (railroad manufacturing with Cummins Engine Company in the US), moved to strategy consulting (Bain & Co), and later came to the UK to join Apax Partners in 1989 to invest in early-stage companies. She finally founded Amadeus Capital Partners in 1997, a time she recalls where there are very few female founders around. Amadeus focuses on the ‘very tech’ side of tech startups that consists of AI and machine learning, cybersecurity, enterprise and infrastructure software, consumer and business services, medical technology and healthcare IT.
5 lessons I learnt from Anne Glover
#1 – Opening new doors despite lack of environment
When looking to go into tech investing, Anne found the VC landscape to be lacking in 1997. Instead of using this as a reason NOT to go into tech investing, she leveraged the environment (or lack of it) to forge her own path, reputation and firm- something a true entrepreneurial VC would do.
Anne Glover: There were generalist VCs, there were later stage companies, there were lots of people becoming buyout houses, but there was no dedicated tech VC. This was a time when Netscape was listing in the US and there was a lot of excitement there.
Since I had spent 13 years in the US, I was tracking it closely and there was little happening in the UK. You can either look at that as a glass half empty or a glass half full and I thought well if there’s nobody here doing it (investing in deep tech companies) then maybe this is an opportunity, so I applied myself by doing analytical work and market research to see how much wealth had been created in the last 20 years – all kinds of detailed analysis on paper, on Bloomberg etc, just to make sure I was right.
I wanted to also see who’d funded them (the tech startups) and I found that every venture capital firm had at least one tech firm in their portfolio. This was usually quite random, so I thought if I become a tech specialist then I’ll attract the right tech entrepreneurs who want to have his or her investors understand them.
#2 – We all have to start somewhere
When Anne realised she wanted to start her own VC firm, there was one issue, she was told that she could not start her fund without another ‘co-founding partner. This didn’t stop her and she went on to try on’ a few people who she could start the fund with. They worked and pitched together and through trial and error- she decided to start Amadeus with Hermann Hauser as co-founder.
Anne Glover: I started interviewing for a partner and I tried on for size- 3 or 4 different people who claimed to be interested in the same area that I was. We worked together for a while to see if we could get on, we did a few pitches together, in front of different people and eventually I had to choose one.
In the end, I was very lucky and I decided to partner up with a guy called Hermann Hauser, who is probably the most visionary technologist in Europe. Even today, visionary in terms of his long term thinking about where tech trends are going. He had also been a business angel but had never run a fund, so we complimented each other.
I had a dutch group back me and said ‘if you find a partner, we’ll give you £5 million and he had Microsoft backing him, saying ‘if you want to set up a fund, we’ll give you £5 million, and we eventually decided to team up. We had £10 million in the bank which wasn’t enough to start a fund, but it was enough to be credible and then we went on the road and it all happened from there
#3 – Finding the right partner with right values
Seeing the trial and error process Anne had to go through, I was curious to see if there is even such a thing as “the perfect partner” to start a VC with.
Anne Glover: I work with a lot of business partners of mine, so you get that experience, but the complementarity really matters. Jokingly they would call him (Hermann Hauser) the geek and me the suit. And some people thought we’d never get on in the long term because of that, but they were wrong and they were wrong because our values are very similar. Yes we have different skills and different backgrounds but our values are very similar. That’s something you only find out over time and that’s the great foundation of a partnership. You don’t want to be with people who are identical but you do want to be with people who will prioritise the same thing.
In summary, it’s a long process of trial and error but its important to get someone who’s skills and strengths are different but your values are similar, so in the end you end up complimenting each other.
#4 – Three is a good number for a core founding team
As there was an impression that many VCs don’t look at solo founders or a team with more than 4 founders, I raised the question to Anne about her thoughts of the optimal number of a core founding team.
Anne Glover: Well we initially started off with three people in our team, myself (Anne, Hermann, and a finance guy).
Three is very useful because when two of you are falling out then the third can always intervene and explain the others perspective to the other. Triangles have this stability where yes there’s a possibility that two against one can happen but more likely is the scenario when the third person can act as the mediator and bring greater stability.
If it’s just one founder, you won’t get backed, you just won’t. People don’t like to take single person risks unless you as a founder have a strong history and past successes and you’re putting your own money in. If you put 50% of the money in from your own pocket then they might back you as it shows skin in the game. But if you’re an entrepreneur without your own background and own wealth in the company then it’s likely that not one person will get back to you. With two co-founders, there’s a risk of drift, and if you split then it’s all gone. Three has a nice triangular characteristics which I talked about and when you get to five, then it’s a question of who’s really in charge? So I think three is the optimal number.
#5 – Learn to play to your strengths
Some from the industry might hold the opinion that founders might not make the best CEOs, and after a certain amount of growth, they should hand over the business to a well-seasoned CEO who can take the business to maturity. Since Anne is a founder and CEO herself, I asked her thoughts on this.
Anne Glover: Well I think it’s horses for courses.
To found a company and grow it to billions is extraordinary and there are some extraordinary people in the world who have done it and can do it, but they are really exceptional and very rare. I think it’s more common where people have a skill set particular to a phase of the company’s development and they enjoy that skill set and they should play to those strengths. In venture capital, our industry is not about growth, it’s about innovation, relationships and returns.
Some people can learn that fast, that they can move through these phases of Innovation, such as Tim Steiner (co-founder and CEO of Ocado) is a great example of this- he’s done an amazing job in 20 years. He founded the company and he’s still there and he’s listed and worth multiple billions. It does happen but I wouldn’t expect it. I think what’s much more important is that you assess two things; firstly what your own skill sets are and that you play to those and the other is what you enjoy.
Aalia Shah is a Tech enthusiast and a Masters in Finance student at the London School of Economics, where her core focus is on Venture Capital, Private Equity, and Entrepreneurial Finance. She has spent time experiencing as much of the tech ecosystem as she can, from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Google, Fintech startups, Venture Capital, and even taking part in a Kickstart Accelerator and teaching herself how to code along the way (with help from Code First Girls). When not studying or working in Venture Capital, she spends her free time interviewing innovative Entrepreneurs, Business mentors and VC Investors for the LSE’s Founders’ Club. She is a supporter of Diversity and is happy to help other women get into startups and Venture Capital.
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