Johan, tell us about yourself and your background?
My background is as an entrepreneur mostly within IT but also in the defense industry. Since studying software development and business administration at University in Jönköping at the end of the nineties I have been involved in startups in different ways; as a founder, CEO, and advisor. I’ve done programming, marketing, sales as well as fundraising from angels and VCs. Since 2010 I’m on the other side of the table doing investments as an Investment Manager at early stage investor Almi Invest in Stockholm.
For those who don’t know who Almi Invest is, tell us about the firm, a little about the history and where you are now?
Almi Invest is a Venture Capital firm investing seed and early expansion capital. Almi is owned by the Swedish state and the funds we invest is from the EU together with regional funds. Almi Invest have actively been investing since 2009 and so far we have three sucessfull exits, Halo Genomics (to Agilent), Mobenga (to Playtech) and Ydre Skåp.
We are always actively looking at new investment proposals and are planning to do 4-7 new investments this year. Typical seed investment are 0,75 – 1,5 msek, for expansion rounds we invest 2– 4 msek.
What companies have you invested in personally, and which industries excite you most?
I have done seven investments including companies such as Sprinkle , Encare, Promobucket and Zoomability. These four companies are active in very different industries (online video affiliate, healthcare, SAAS and electrical vehicles) so it is really hard to pick one favorite industry.
Broadly speaking I get most excited by online businesses and more specifically I focus on the theme of how software can transform old industries, enterprises and how organizations go about their work every day. Both Encare and Promobucket are investment that fit into that theme.
What do you look for in entrepreneurs and startups?
It’s a cliché I know but for me the founding team is the key. I look for two or three founders with skillsets that complete each other with a mix of business and technology knowledge. Teams that balance each other’s strong and not so strong sides are key. I look for founders with a lot of drive, energy but also with attitude of openness. Successful entrepreneurs know their own strength and weaknesses and are good communicators in order to get good advice from the rest of the team, the board and their investors.
The startup scene in Stockholm seems to be buzzing – what do you atribute that to – and what could be improved?
I agree. I think Swedish entrepreneurs have successfully adopted the mindset from the US and Silicon Valley and developed it further. For me a successful startup scene is defined by cooperation, transparency, openness and helping each other out. This mindset have been imported to Stockholm by previously successful entrepreneurs such as Hjalmar Winbladh, Mattias Miksche, Johan Brenner, Hans Otterling and many others who have experienced this culture in the US or in internationally successful startups first hand and then transferred it into the scene here. From now on this positive feedback look keeps accelerating with a new generation of successful Swedish startups, such as Spotify, Klarna, Tictail and others.
How should entrepreneurs approach you (and Almi)?
The best way is to give us a call or send us an email with an brief description of your business idea. After that we find a suitable time to meet face-to-face. We love sitting down with founders understanding their business, the potential and the plan going forward.