Apr 17, 2019
EP #24 – Daniel Gutenberg: How To Fundraise As An Early Stage Startup
Daniel Gutenberg (Angel Investor)
Aleksandra Laska is a partner at Redalpine and expert Venture Capitalist with broad experience in board management and investment operations. With a background in Law and Finance, she spent 5 intense years on Goldman Sach’s trading floor. In 2013, she started her own business journey with MobileDots Ltd. Believing “people are the foundation for any company’s success”, she holds strong commitment and enthusiasm for solving problems in creative, sustainable ways.
See Aleksandra’s LinkedIn here.
Check Redalpine’s website here.
Ever wondered how the everyday hustle-and-bustle of the life of a Venture Capitalist looks like? The community has asked, and Swisspreneur has answered! Today, we interview Redalpine partner Aleksandra Laska for an experienced account of navigating the VC world.
“It’s never boring!”. The answer may sound a bit cliché, but there really isn’t a strict routine to follow. Usually, Aleksandra will dedicate her first work hours to due diligence research and deal sourcing. Then, she’lll move on to working with portfolio companies. The time dedicated to each task varies widely, depending on the deal flow, the company’s groove and the current circumstances of the time. In the first COVID-19 lockdown, for example, portfolio companies needed additional support: this shows how you must keep the communicative flow in the face of hard times.
However, Aleksandra’s favourite part is certainly the intellectual stimulus! Engaging with other VCs who challenge one another keeps her on her toes and up to date with all that is happening in the ecosystem.
“I feel that VC really combines both: the financial background, but also the entrepreneurial, the ‘tech-y.’”
As a college student, Aleks couldn’t exactly put a finger on what Venture Capitalism really was. After spending 5 years on the trading floor for Goldman Sachs and starting her own business, she quickly “fell into it”. Aleksandra wished to be exposed to many different ideas, backgrounds, and mindsets: entrepreneurship, “combining the best of two worlds”, is the place to go for innovation!
“First and foremost, I think it’s important to look after yourself. If you don’t, it’s very difficult to do a good job or help other people out.”
Aleksandra confesses it’s a long learning process. Going through such an intense experience can seem daunting for new graduates. Luckily, there is a way to keep your head afloat! Here are Aleks’s recommendations:
– Carve out a moment for introspection — yoga and meditation are great options;
– Seek a distanced approach, even if the world seems ready to collapse;
– Try your best to eat healthy and sleep properly.
However, being part of a fast-moving mechanism brings its share of lessons:
– The ability to remain calm and manoeuvre tricky situations, while transmitting that same sense of ease to others;
– A valuable network for years to come: as former partners branch out to diverse industries, all brainstorming sessions will become incredibly fruitful.
Imagine elevator chatting: when time runs short, you aim for quality, right?. We all know long-winded messages are bound to stay buried in a pile of unread mail, so strive for a crisp introduction with a pinch of personality. Attach your deck for further constructive feedback and you’re golden. Vision pitches catch the attention for their courage and passion; problem statements, in the meantime, show responsibility and organisational skills.
“It boils down to the entirety of the business.”
As Aleks recognises, nothing is “set in stone”. Deciding to invest in an idea at seed and early stage, as Redalpine does, definitely seems like rocket science.
However, investors should pay attention to certain key aspects. Product/market fit, a reliable prototype (MVP) and early traction are reassuring signs: they show how the original idea can bloom into an impressive market tour de force.
Just as importantly, check for previous entrepreneurial experience and team fit. In case of doubt, reach out to your network and hear what they have to say!
“A complex idea in simple terms”: you have 10 minutes to make your best leap, so use them wisely! Here’s how to shape your strongest pitch presentation:
– Get down to business and focus on solutions;
– Be clear about where you stand: at what stage is the project? What is your financial plan?;
– Show awareness of the competitive landscape: what makes your idea ground-breaking?;
– Talk about your team and appreciate its diverse skill sets;
– Don’t rely too much on templates: like a business card, a pitch deck should reflect your company’s unique goals.
After challenging the company’s proposals and discussing things internally, trusting a great gut feeling and a constructive phone call are all it takes to build a connection. As Aleksandra says, “the money is a very small part of being an investor”. For the other side of the game, if the feedback wasn’t what you wished for, remember commitment is a two-way street, so keep showcasing your company’s achievements on all channels you have available — you never know when the perfect moment will come and someone will notice you!
Aleks knows how being a founder can be “a very lonely job”, as everyone expects you to keep the ball rolling at every moment. The right investor can play an invaluable role in the success of a company by:
– Position your companies for the best possible outcome by helping with later funding rounds;
– Use your extensive network to help filling key-roles;
– Lastly, let founders be founders: “ultimately, it’s their idea, their brainchild”.
Redalpine funds are financed by a tight-knit community of LPs (limited partnerships) that range from individuals to banks and insurance companies as well as family offices. For a strong deal flow of promising companies, Aleksandra recommends the following:
– Ask your portfolio companies for feedback: how is it like to work with you? Potentially also ask for introductions to other great companies. Startups usually know their peers best;
– Be present through networking and mentoring, securing possible bonds early on: getting to know a founder while ideas are still brewing in his mind fosters reliance;
– Be proactive and deep-dive into your ecosystem, “hopefully fishing out the best ones!”.
At Redalpine, Aleksandra feels valued among her peers, though she is “fully aware that, unfortunately, that’s not the case with many female VCs out there.” Lack of diversity is a structural problem extending far beyond STEM and the entrepreneurial world, either by conscious segregation or by unconscious bias.
Thankfully, the tables are turning. If you wish to nurture a more inclusive community where all voices are heard, the law of attraction is on your side! Keeping a strong female model at the table may encourage other aspiring female VCs to raise their hands and join along. If you are hesitant on diving in and embracing VC yourself, don’t let glass ceilings frighten you: your journey is limitless.
Aleksandra’s final advice:
Don’t forget to give us a follow on our Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin accounts, so you can always stay up to date with our latest initiatives. That way, there’s no excuse for missing out on live shows, weekly give-aways or founders dinners!
Daniel Gutenberg (Angel Investor)
Thomas Sterchi (Jobs.ch)
Cédric Walburger (Dfinity & Sendtask)
Herbert Bay (Magic Leap)
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