I focus on the team and problem they are trying to solve. Ambition matters. The wildest, craziest, biggest ideas usually turn into the best companies, as our partner Tim Draper has shown us many times.
Tenacity is the most important quality for an entrepreneur. We’ve been business partners with hundreds of entrepreneurs, and we’ve lived through many ups and downs. My key piece of advice is always to just keep going don’t quit.
Don’t get stuck on buzzwords. In the world of VC, only three things matter. There’s the amount of risk capital, the percentage of growth you are willing to share, and who’s on your board to help you. That’s it.
Companies: Graze, Crowdcube, Podpoint, Perkbox, Trustpilot, Ledger
Measure your impact by the delight you bring your customer. I look for companies that exceed expectations of what ‘good’ looks like, and change perceptions of what’s possible.
AI and machine learning will force dramatic step-changes in technology. Not just in terms of the early applications we see now, but the pressures on infrastructure and hardware. We haven’t seen even a fraction of the uses yet – and that’s an exciting vortex to be in.
It’s too easy to say no. That’s why I focus on what can go right with an idea, not what can go wrong. Gather the best team around you, and give yourself every opportunity to be lucky.
Companies: Kiadis, M-files, Netronome, Conversocial, Crate, Metalysis, Resolver and Realeyes
AI and blockchain will become commonplace, just as the Internet and mobile phone have. They will shape the next few decades, and be part of the world my kids will inherit.
Entrepreneur, advisor, and investor: I’ve been all three. So I know the insights you get when you look at the same picture through different frames.
Tell me a story. I like technology companies that have a fascinating story of where they’ve got to so far, and an equally fascinating opportunity ahead.
Understand your business from the bottom up. And know your unit economics. Who has this problem? What options do they have to resolve it, and how much will they pay to do so?
Can you get to $100m+ revenue in 7-10 years? Show me a pain point, a product-market fit, and what makes you different. The size of the market is important, but so is your ability to reach it.
I need to share your passion, not your sector. I’m thesis-driven, looking for entrepreneurs with a bold vision, ambition to challenge a market, and the potential to create big, sustainable businesses. That’s the beauty of our model: we can support you all the way, to create long-term category market leaders.
Be close to your numbers. My background is in private equity and investment banking; your numbers, KPIs and unit economics really matter. But valuation isn’t everything – your terms and the right VC partner is.
Companies: M-Files, RavenPack, Kaptivo, and Crowdcube
I’m an entrepreneur turned VC, with the first 10 years of my career spent building companies hands-on. I’ve been a founder and CEO and created Datanomic which we sold to Oracle.
You need a big idea, clear focus, and massive attention to execution. Show me that you’ve gone up through the gears: you know what works, what still needs to be figured out, and you’re on a path to market leadership. Then you’ve got me interested.
Build the best team around you, and choose board members who you can call up, who know what it’s like in your position, and who will actively help you, not just turn up and ask questions.
Companies: Bright Computing, Green Park Content, SportPursuit
The problem you solve needs to be a ‘must have’ not a 'nice to have’. Be essential for your customers, and they won’t just use your product, but pay for it too. Solve the problem with passion, energy, and an unfair advantage that will sustain you, even when the competition reacts.
I like entrepreneurs who can hustle. People who aren’t afraid of personal sacrifice, who want to build their business without expensive VC, but recognise when they need capital to scale it.
Investment is the start of a long-term relationship, not a transaction. My entire business career has been about creating relationships, and trust. Be straightforward and honest, and good things happen.
It’s always the people. A PowerPoint and some numbers can tell you that an idea is interesting – but getting to know the team will tell you if the company will fly.
The rules are changing. From consumer behaviour to workforce expectations and the impact of automation on our lives, retail brands face a huge challenge, and an even bigger opportunity in the next decades.
Life is too short to work with people you don’t love working with. Communicating with your investors is essential: it’s a long-term partnership that will have highs and lows. So it’s just as important for you to find the right investor, as it is for us to back the right team.
Companies: Lyst, Verve
I’m excited for the future of finance. Insurance. Fintech. Proptech. Cybersecurity. I’m interested in it all – but especially in companies that see ways to challenge a whole stack of financial products and services, not just the easy pickings.
Understand people, and you understand success. Empathise with your customer, solve their problem, and work hard at it. I learnt that as a cold caller – now I’m keen to see how companies will transform established concepts like credit and insurance.
Don’t tell me I’m missing out. Instead, show me you can hustle without being dishonest. And make sure you have the right team, the right market, and a huge opportunity.
Technology won’t be adopted just because it exists. You might have a product which does the job far better than the current method, but if you can’t sell it, you don’t have a company. Nowhere is this more true than for technology with legal, property and regulatory applications.
Working at Google taught me that I’m not a big company person. Training as a solicitor taught me that I’m not a lawyer either. My career change was about discovery and fine-tuning – and finding a place where you can see the impact your work has.
Read more books. Drink more coffee. Do more deep work. It’s good for the brain. Stop doing ‘busy’ tasks that sap your time, and focus on the meaningful tasks instead.
Invest in, and really nail, your Talent/Hiring from day one. Heading up the partnership team at a Rocket Internet company taught me the importance of that – as well as the importance of good management and leadership, even for the smallest teams.
Forget your vanity metrics. I saw 11 companies graduate from the Techstars programme: the ones that did well were never afraid to change and change again as they found a true product-market fit.
Would I want to work for the founder? Can I see them leading the business in ten years’ time? Would I want to buy equity in them rather than in the business, if I could? These are the questions that help me make a decision – not just the detail on market size and traction.
Create something that people cannot live without. Not just consumer products: I’m interested in companies that enhance business processes, help employees be better at their jobs, and use new tools to solve old problems.
Consumption has changed. Millenials consume products and services on their terms: asset-light, on-demand, cloud-based. The best new products understand and respond to this change: there’s no time for playing catch-up.
Close-knit is the key. You need a team with a fighting spirit, and the energy and capacity to move mountains. In founders, I look for a glint of obsession – the thing that will drive them through the years ahead.
I look for companies that use emerging technologies to find breakthrough solutions. I’m interested in artificial intelligence, blockchain, and robotics – and the companies that use this tech to tackle big problems.
Will we get on? The relationship between investor and entrepreneur is more important than just a stake in the business. If I can see myself spending time with your team, and I can contribute to what you’re building – then I’m interested.
Be open to honest feedback. Question everything, leave no stone unturned, and be responsive to other opinions – even when they differ from your own. A shift in perspective can spark new opportunities, new ways to solve that ‘unsolvable’ problem.
Our planet is going to look very different in 2050. Companies that excite me most understand that.
It might sound odd, but humanity’s biggest challenges are an entrepreneur’s opportunity. A growing and aging population, climate change, food production, energy security; these are problems worth your time, and our money.
Being honest and helpful matters. I’ve worked closely with hundreds of different companies during my career. There are key ingredients and patterns that define successful startups (and unsuccessful ones). It’s our job as investors to relay those insights to you.
Have a big vision you wholeheartedly believe in. That’s what counts. That’s what will spur you on to put the sweat in, even when the going gets tough.
Your ability to succeed comes from adaptability. I’m interested in the next generation of processor, memory, and wireless semiconductor devices. The question is always the same: how well can you respond to changing market opportunities?
Spot a new global mega opportunity before anything has been written about it. That’s all it takes. And if you’re making headway in the world of VR and AR, machine learning and AI, or device and gesture control, the future is yours.
Success takes more time and funding than even the best business plan will tell you. But the truth is that world-class entrepreneurs attract world-class teams, and can get the right VC partners to help their companies accelerate and grow.
Companies: Displaylink, Lime Microsystems, XMOS, Aveillant, Graphcore
Patients are no longer silent bystanders. They are becoming equal partners in their care, empowered by advances in technology. It’s a radical change, for the better.
DNA sequencing and gene editing are just the start. Applying the power of machine learning to biological systems has the potential to accelerate human progress in new and unprecedented ways. It will help us address the challenges we face in energy, environment, food, and healthcare.
Training as a doctor was my comfort zone. I stepped out of it. Venture capital gives me a way to help people make real advances in healthtech – and support companies that will shape the future for us all. When I invest, I look for founders who are just as excited about their teams as they are about their idea.
Companies: Horizon Discovery, Lifesum, Push Doctor, Evonetix, Clue
Ignore the charlatans: blockchain is a genuine game-changer, not just a get-rich-quick scheme. Along with machine learning and artificial intelligence, blockchain has serious potential to create a new wave of innovation.
Entrepreneurship matters because it can change the world for the better – not just create wealth. Making money is one thing, but entrepreneurship also plays a pivotal role in producing better good or services more cheaply, improving living standards, and addressing major environmental and societal issues.
Sell the problem, not the solution. The first thing you need to show me is a high-value, unsolved problem that you have a special insight into. And the second? Show me that you’re thinking two steps ahead.
I started my business above a Chinese takeaway on Newgate Street, overlooking Old Bailey. I didn’t set out to be in venture capital: I started as a corporate financier, raising money, and investing my fee back into the companies. One of them happened to be Sage, of which I became Chairman.
Every company has a defining moment. A big contract, change in business model, or a moment when you think ‘this is it’ – then interest and growth follow. Sage’s moment was being the first to market with a low-cost accounting product for Amstrad.
Don’t forget how random success can be. Of course, there are good indicators: the right team managing the right product for the right market. But luck plays a big part too.
I’ve been through two big crashes, and three bull markets. Before VC, I ran a business for seven years, so I know what it’s like. Always be ready to adapt: buy yourself time in the down periods, and make sure you can get to market quickly in the upturns.
Customers prove the product. And prove that you’ve identified a pain point. But how big is it? And how unique is your solution? Answer those questions, and you begin to have a model for growth.
When everything’s connected, security will be even more important. Trends in technology are leading us to a connected world, running on vast amounts of data. How to secure that data is the next big question – and the next opportunity, especially in enterprise software.
Companies: Concorde Solutions (sold to Ivanti), DC Interact (sold to the Engine Group), Macranet, Bright Networks
There’s great variety in my role: I’m involved in everything from investor relations and fund raising to talking with our portfolio companies and financial reporting.
My background’s in corporate finance and oil and gas, but it’s an exciting time to be in technology investment.
As the pace of change accelerates, I see big potential in blockchain and digital health.
I’m never bored. Whether I’m helping a company navigate a tricky media landscape, speaking to investors or running a creative campaign.
We sit at an interesting crossroad between the entrepreneurial tech community and the city. Helping to bridge that gap is an exciting opportunity.
Telling stories is what I love. Working across a broad range of companies, helping them shape their ideas for their market.
I came to Draper Esprit with 8 years’ experience working as a senior finance leader with private equity backed technology and healthcare businesses. I joined to be part of a rapidly growing company doing clever things in VC, and I enjoy working across multiple disciplines.
At KPMG I was involved in multi-billion dollar buy-outs – but now I come into contact with some of Europe’s most exciting technology companies.
I’m just waiting for IoT and artificial intelligence to bring us fully connected car systems.
I joined the founding team in 2000, following and assisting in its exciting journey from the first fund through to IPO.
I manage the office and administration alongside working with our Management and EIS team – enjoying the direct contact with our investors, the sheer variety of involvement with all aspects of our business and of course appreciating the exciting diversity of technology that filters through our funds.
Before Draper Esprit, I’d always worked at large City finance institutions. Here, I’m part of a much smaller team, learning what it takes to create a successful company (it’s not just about financing the idea).
Being part of Draper Esprit’s IPO was fascinating – it’s just not something a VC usually does.
Working in technology investment is fast-paced – all about finding the next thing to make life easier, and what we won’t be able to live without.
As the team assistant, I make sure everything runs smoothly. I support a growing investment team, assist with events and office refurbishments.
I love to see developments in frontline technology, as well as seeing Draper Esprit grow. I started in 2007, and being a part of the team that got Draper Esprit listed on the London Stock Exchange was a big moment.
Before working in the London office of Draper Esprit I worked at Amadeus and a variety of other investment firms.
Originally from Germany, I did an MA in Translation from London Metropolitan University and a BA in English from Oxford Brookes.
Opportunities happen as you project to great goals. Most breakthroughs come from ideas that aren’t initially identified as being related to the problem. Entrepreneurship is about drive, determination, and having an idea in your head that you just can’t let go of.
I was looking for something like bitcoin for many, many years. Whenever we see an industry getting lazy and providing bad service at a high cost, there’s an opportunity for an entrepreneur to come in there and change everything.
The best advice I’ve ever been given was from my father. It doesn’t matter who’s buying and who’s selling, it’s the personal relationship that matters.
Entrepreneurs are a special breed – learning from them, and playing a part in their journey, is what drew me to venture capital.
I’ve crossed continents and cultures, first from Zambia to the UK, then from Tanzania to the US: it’s taught me to embrace change.
I’m most excited by the people I meet who work in decentralised tech, using the wisdom of crowds to enhance human cognition, and improve the future of education.
I weave an extensive global web connecting entrepreneurs with corporations and investors. My goal is to make bespoke introductions for you to global corporations.
I run the Draper Venture Network. I bring together funds and companies globally to build a better platform for entrepreneurship.
I once sold grass-fed beef to five-star chefs across California – but my more recent background is in strategy consulting and startup entrepreneurship.
I love to meet future game-changers and their backers, and see how simple ideas become great companies.
The next thing I want to see? How blockchain can address inefficiencies in law and government.
I hold the whole thing together. I’m portal and community manager for the Draper Venture Network.
I love seeing CEOs and VCs from across the world come together and make impossible things happen. I help build connections between them to help companies go from good to great.
I applied for a casting call for Tim Draper's reality TV show "Startup U". One thing led to another and I ended up as one of the first graduates from the Draper University.
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