Taking you into the world of venture capitalists and new ways of doing business with Philipp Schroeder and Sebastian Blum. Philipp is a Founding Partner at ACTIVE Venture Partners and new member on adjust’s Board of Directors, while Sebastian is ACTIVE Venture Partners’ newly appointed Partner who will also be supporting their new investment in adjust. Combined, they have decades of experience across Europe, Asia and America. With a presence in Spain, Germany and Scandinavia, ACTIVE targets entrepreneurial teams driving digital start-ups and seeks holistic partnerships based on shared values and pro-active support. Since 2004 ACTIVE has invested in 24 companies with its two funds totaling €74m.
In this Q&A post we delve into their investments, what makes them tick and advice they have for others looking for the right investor.
Sebastian Blum and Philipp Schroeder
How does ACTIVE Venture Partners differ from other VCs?
Philipp: We are diverse, international and value driven. Our team of 10 is from seven different countries, have 10 different backgrounds and speak 10 different languages. We bring varied areas of expertise to the table, however we share the one common thread of all coming from entrepreneurial backgrounds. We understand the needs of entrepreneurs and believe that ‘more than money’ is the real differencing factor.
We are partners of our entrepreneurial teams providing them with operational know how and experience. Our role is to connect them to the unique ACTIVE community to engage with sector specialists, growth experts and senior advisors. We call it ‘ACTIVE Value Building’ and since 2007 have been promoting relationships between successful serial entrepreneurs investing in early stage companies.
ACTIVE practices what we preach and we are also on our own journey to disrupt and transform the venture capital industry. It is not only about supporting disruptive teams but also about being disruptive ourselves. We are about to launch the collaborative movement ‘Change VC!’ More about this in the coming weeks…
What do you most enjoy about your job and what your company does?
Sebastian: It is super simple actually. I thoroughly enjoy working with founders and entrepreneurs to help them change the world and bring their vision to the market. Being a part of the creative process and seeing the passion, sweat and hard work yielding positive outcomes is so rewarding to me personally. It is also very gratifying to be able to experience the transition of something that started small to then see it grow much bigger. Working with these very unique individuals is extremely inspirational and drives us likewise in our business of investing and backing start-ups.
What other investments do you have in your portfolio?
Philipp: Our portfolio includes Yieldr, Packlink, BUYVIP (acquired by Amazon) and Golden Gekko (acquired by DMI) to name a few.
Yieldr brings programmatic display advertising to a new level. Right from the beginning the company focused on transparency so the advertiser knows, who is earning what within the value chain. Yieldr has excelled in first party data activation to enhance marketing ROI with a special emphasis on the travel, telecom and ecommerce industries.
We invested in the company because we share the same vision that advertisers will become more sophisticated and will move their budgets from agencies towards in-house. Yieldr is uniquely positioned with its new product Yieldr Enterprise to take a big chunk of this market.
Packlink is Europe’s leading price comparison site and booking tool for package shipping. The company is showing incredible traction and results since its inception, and is expanding internationally at a very high speed. We have invested in the company because of the diverse team with its eagerness to disrupt the market whilst still being humble. We saw that there was an untapped market with a clear pain for the end consumer that Packlink is solving in a very simple way. It’s always about satisfying a clear pain with simplicity.
We also invested in BuyVIP, which is one of the biggest players in the private outlet market such as Vente-Privee and Brands4Friends. We have rarely seen a business model in the ecommerce sector that was so beneficial for all stakeholders and that’s why the market exploded. Next to the attractiveness of the business model, it was again the team that convinced us with its international background and ability to scale a company in various countries. We sold the company in 2010 to Amazon for approximately $100 million USD.
What attracted you to adjust?
Sebastian: There were several reasons for this. First of all it was Christian, Paul and Manuel, and the rest of the team that really impressed us. When we spoke with people around adjust, whether it was customers or partners, we immediately felt the depth of the relationship and immense respect there was for the company, people and the products.
Next, the company has been working on a problem that is core to driving any mobile app business, and helps developers and marketers better their decision-making processes. While in other industries business intelligence is a lot more mature, in mobile there is still a long way to go. The app economy is already very big; it will continue to grow at a fast pace and adjust is trying to solve very important and hard questions for people in this ecosystem. Lastly, we saw a very solid syndicate of investors in this deal who share the same vision and we are looking forward to working with Target Partners, Capnamic Ventures and Iris Capital.
adjust is your first investment in Berlin, Germany – do you have plans for further investments here?
Philipp: Yes, while our geographic scope is broader than just Germany, we have seen great deal-flow from Berlin. With the move of Sebastian from Silicon Valley to Germany and joining our firm, we wanted to beef up resources to match this deal-flow. We look forward to engaging more deeply with the community, start-ups and entrepreneurs in Berlin.
What advice would you give other start-ups such as app developers or publishers looking for an investor?
Sebastian: Get your investor to be the best extended business development arm for you possible and also make sure that they are using your products. Get them engaged around the product and see if they understand the proposition through and through. Check to see if they have downloaded your app and played with it. If they have, then you know for sure know that they care and have already done their homework so you can engage in a much deeper conversation with them instead of spending most of your first meetings teaching them about the problem the app is trying to solve and the market in the first place.
Create a competitive situation in your deal and then make them hustle for you. Test their network to see how well they are connected in the market and how well they understand the dynamics. All of this will help you choose the best investment partner so you can better anticipate how it would be to work with the individual partner on the deal and the firm.
For more information about ACTIVE Venture Partners visit active-vp.com
About Philipp Schroeder
Philipp is one of the founding partners of ACTIVE Venture Partners since its inception in 2002. He discovered his passion for technology companies when working for a software company specialized in the technology transfer industry. He started his first venture capital company right after graduation in 1999 and since then has supported dozens of technology companies from seed until exit. Before his venture capital endeavors, Philipp worked in the investment banking, software and logistics sectors in New York, London and Hamburg.
Philipp currently serves on the boards of Yieldr, Userzoom and Oferton. Prior boards seats and observer roles include BuyVIP, Telemedicine Clinic, Smartimpression and Storevision. Philipp was born in Germany and has lived and worked in Germany, England, United States and Spain. He is fluent in German, English and Spanish. Philipp graduated from the City University Business School London in 1999.
About Sebastian Blum
Sebastian joined ACTIVE as a Partner in mid-2014. His 15 years of international experience in corporate, investment as well as operational startup roles in the EU and US position him very uniquely to add value to ACTIVE’s current and future portfolio of companies.
Sebastian lived in Silicon Valley for eight years. Prior to joining ACTIVE he was the VP of Business Development at San Francisco based Cooliris where he was responsible for corporate and business development as well as partnerships. He joined Cooliris in 2010 coming from T-Venture, the venture capital arm of Deutsche Telekom, where he served for four years as the Managing Director in their Silicon Valley presence. As part of this role, Sebastian fundamentally drove partnerships between startup companies and Deutsche Telekom throughout Europe and the US. Amongst other deals, Sebastian drove the investments in Jajah, Ruckus Wireless, Apertio and QPass. Prior to his seven year tenure with T-Venture in Europe Sebastian was with Unilever in several sales and marketing roles.
Sebastian holds an MBA from NIMBAS Bradford Graduate School of Management, Utrecht, Netherlands and a BA in business from Berufsakademie Stuttgart.