Janneke Niessen, Founding Partner at CapitalT | Q and A
What were your biggest learnings as a founder?
Being a founder is an ongoing learning experience. You make so many smaller and bigger mistakes. You learn from them, adapt and move on. If you only see the media it is easy to believe that you are the only one where its not smooth sailing towards unicorn status. That is why it is crucial to have a network of fellow founders. You will quickly find out that everybody has their own set of struggles behind the scenes. They also understand what you are going through, how lonely it can be and will give you honest advice based on their experience without any hidden agenda.
What inspired you to become a VC and was there a ‘lightbulb moment’?
There was not a specific lightbulb moment but in VC a lot of things that I value came together. I have been angel investing because I really valued our angels when I was building a company. It is so special that somebody believes in your crazy plans and is willing to put their money behind it that I wanted to do the same for others and I did. I love supporting people that have big ideas. With a fund I can do this at a larger scale. I have also always been very active to get more diversity in tech and I believe that venture capital is an important part of the puzzle to increase diversity in tech. Building my own fund is not so much a lightbulb moment but more a consequence of all the things I feel are important and that I love.
‘The former chief executive, who has come back to Disney (Bob Eiger) after the sacking of his successor, hopes to repair relations with Holywood creatives. But will charm be enough to turn around its fortunes?’(FT 27.11.22)
Charm won’t be enough, that only works in a Disney movie😉 The entertainment industry is tough, and the streaming wars are a true battle. I believe innovation and staying true to your customers is what is needed for a turnaround.
What are the biggest challenges for a founder/entrepreneur in hiring a successor on accepting they have taken the business as far as they can?
Great founders know when it is time to hire a successor. They know what they are good at and their limitations. You should not let ego in the way of accepting that. The most difficult part is keeping the culture after you have left. Founders are often great in carrying the culture of a company (for good and bad). Finding somebody that can keep the great parts of that culture while bringing the company to the next phase is really hard. Making a mistake can cost a lot.
As a prolific angel investor, what are your rules/principals when it comes to investing? I learned a lot along the way to be honest. What I have always believed and still use at CapitalT is conviction on the founders. If there is any doubt there I wont invest. If I don’t understand what a company is doing I wont invest either. What I would have done differently is the amount of investment. I would have done lower amounts, more deals and no follow on investments.
As you and CapitalT are at the cross section of climate tech and being an advisor to Governments, has Bill Gates prediction for 2022 come to pass?
‘We Will At Last Take Action’(Bill Gates in the Wired World 2022)…’Governments and the private sector will create new operating models so that we can …accelerate the transition to a clean economy..’
I think this is absolutely true and necessary. It is encouraging to see the increase in climate tech investments. Our climate portfolio is also doing really well both in terms of the business and interest from investors. Rules and regulations are accelerating the responsibility that companies take.