An interview with a Venture Capitalist, Anne Glover- Founder and CEO of Amadeus Capital Partners.
Anne Glover, is one of only a handful of female Venture Capitalists who have founded their own funds (big ones too), raised capital (over $500million) and invested in revolutionary tech companies. We (LSE Founder’s Club) were incredibly excited to host Anne as the first speaker of the academic term and I was interested to interview her on all matters from early days to bad days.
A Bit about Amadeus Capital Partners….
The fund was founded in 1997, when Anne remembers that there were very few female founded funds around. Since then, Amadeus has closed 5 funds, and holds $520 million AUM. Amadeus Capital Partners caters to the technology sector with seed, early, and later stage venture, as well as private equity investment style buyouts. Amadeus focuses on the ‘very tech’ side of tech startups. Consisting of AI and machine learning, cybersecurity, enterprise and infrastructure software, consumer and business services, medical technology and healthcare IT.
My Favourite 3 investments?
- Healx (AI, Machine learning and Digital health)
Healx is a Cambridge, UK-based company passionate about finding new therapeutic solutions for rare diseases. The company uses advanced data analytics, including machine learning and modern computational biology techniques to identify novel drug applications in the area of rare disorders.
- Graphcore (AI and Machine Learning)
Graphcore has created a completely new processor, the Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU), specifically designed for artificial intelligence. The IPU’s unique architecture means developers can run current machine learning models orders of magnitude faster. More importantly, it lets AI researchers undertake entirely new types of work, not possible using current hardware, to drive the next great breakthroughs in general artificial intelligence. Graphcore believes its IPU technology will become the worldwide standard for artificial intelligence computing. The performance, efficiency and flexibility of the IPU will be transformative across all industries and sectors whether you are a medical researcher, roboticist, building autonomous cars or making new scientific breakthroughs
- Nu Quantum (Quantum computing and cyber security)
Nu Quantum is developing quantum photonics hardware to power the quantum revolution in communications, sensing and computing. A spin-out of the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, Nu Quantum combines novel materials with traditional semiconductor photonics to achieve high performance at the single-photon level. The first application of these proprietary components will be an end-to-end free-space quantum cyber security system which will enable the secure exchange of cryptographic keys globally via satellite and metropolitan links.
A Bit more about Anne
Anne has been an active venture capitalist for over thirty years- long enough to see shifting trends and upcoming technologies. Anne comes from a Science background originally, having gained her Masters Degree from Cambridge in metallurgy and material science and then a Masters degree in Management from the Yale School of Management. Prior to venture, she has worked in industry (railroad manufacturing with Cummins Engine Company in the US), moved to strategy consulting (Bain & Co), and later came to the UK to join Apax Partners in 1989 to invest in early stage companies. Anne has experienced working in all areas of the business cycle; she’s been the CEO of a portfolio company, worked as an angel investor and after that she co-founded Amadeus Capital Partners in 1997 with Hermann Hauser.A former Chairman of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (2004/05) and Invest Europe (2014/15).
5 Key takeaways from the interview
1. When looking to go into tech investing, Anne found the VC landscape to be lacking in 1997. Instead of using this as a reason NOT to go into tech investing, she used leveraged the environment (or lack of it) to forge her own path, reputation and firm- something a true entrepreneurial VC would do.
‘ There were generalist VCs, there were later stage companies, there were lots of people becoming buyout houses, but there was no dedicated tech VC. This was a time when Netscape was listing in the US and there was a lot of excitement there, and since I had spent 13 years in the US, I was tracking it closely- and there was little happening in the UK. You can either look at that as a glass half empty or a glass half full…and I thought well if theres nobody here doing it (investing in deep tech companies) then maybe this is an opportunity, so I applied myself by doing analytical work and market research to see how much wealth had been created in the last 20 years…all kinds of detailed analysis on paper, on Bloomberg etc, just to make sure I was right. I wanted to also see who’d funded them (the tech startups) and I found that every venture capital firm had at least one tech firm in their portfolio- it was usually quite random- so I thought if I become a tech specialist then I’ll attract the right tech entrepreneurs who wants to have his or her investors understand them’.
2. When Anne realised she wanted to start her own VC firm, there was one issue, she was told that she could not start her fund without another ‘co-founding’ partner. This didn’t stop her and she went on to ‘try on’ a few people who she could start the fund with. They worked and pitched together and through trial and error- she decided to start Amadeus with Hermann Hauser as co-founder.
‘ I started interviewing for a partner and I tried on for size- 3 or 4 different people who claimed to be interested in the same area that I was. We worked together for a while to see if we could get on, we did a few pitches together, in front of different people and eventually I had to choose one. And in the end I was very lucky and I decided to partner up with a guy called Hermann Hauser, who us probably the most visionary technologist in Europe. Even today, visionary in terms of his long term thinking about where tech trends are going. He had also been a business angel but had never run a fund, so we complimented each other. I had a dutch group back me to say ‘if you find a partner, we’ll give you £5 million and he had Microsoft backing him, saying ‘if you want to set up a fund, we’ll give you £5 million, and we eventually decided to team up. We had £10 million in the bank which wasn’t enough to start a fund, but it was enough to be credible and then we went on the road and it all happened from there’.
3. How do you find the perfect partner to start a VC with? is there even such a thing? Short answer- it’s a long process of trial and error but its important to get someone who’s skills and strengths are different but your values are similar, so in the end you end up complimenting each other.
‘ I work with a lot of business partners of mine, so you get that experience, but the complementarity really matters. Jokingly they would call him (Hermann Hauser) the geek and me the suit. And some people thought we’d never get on in the long term because of that, but they were wrong and they were wrong because our values are very similar. Yes we have different skills and different backgrounds but our values are very similar. That’s something you only find out over time and that’s the great foundation of a partnership. You don’t want to be with people who are identical but you do want to be with people who will prioritise the same thing’.
4. What should the core founding team look like? Many of the audience members who are LSE students looking to become founders of a startup may have the impression that VCs don’t look at solo founders or a team with more than 4 founders. Is this true?
‘ Well we initially started of with three people in our team, myself (Anne, Hermann, and a finance guy. Three is very useful because when two of you are falling out then the third can always intervene and explain the others perspective to the other . Triangles have this stability where yes theres a possibility that two against one can happen but more likely is the scenario when the third person can act as the mediator and bring greater stability. If its just one founder, you won’t get backed, you just won’t. People don’t like to take single person risks unless you as a founder have a strong history and past successes and you’re putting your own money in. If you put 50% of the money in from your own pocket then they might back you as it shows skin in the game. But if you’re an entrepreneur without your own background and own wealth in the company then it’s likely that not one person will get back to you. With two co-founders, there’s a risk of drift, and if you split then it’s all gone. Three has a nice triangular characteristics which I talked about and when you get to five, then it’s a question of who’s really in charge? So I think three is the optimal number’.
5. As you’re a founder of Amadeus as well as the CEO, you may have heard of the opinion than some people in the industry hold- which is that founders may not always make the best CEOs and that after a certain amount of growth they should give the business over to a well seasoned CEO who can take the business to maturity.
‘ Well I think it’s horses for courses. To found a company and grow it to billions is extraordinary and there are some extraordinary people in the world who have done it and can do it, but they are really exceptional and very rare. I think it’s more common where people have a skill set particular to a phase of the company’s development and they enjoy that skill set and they should play to those strengths. In venture capital, our industry is not about growth, it’s about innovation, relationships and returns. Some people can learn that fast, that they can move through these phases of Innovation, such as Tim Steiner (co-founder and CEO of Ocado) is a great example of this- he’s done an amazing job in 20 years. He founded the company and he’s still there and he’s listed and worth multiple billions. It does happen but I wouldn’t expect it. I think what’s much more important is that you assess two things; firstly what your own skill sets are and that you play to those and the other is what you enjoy’.
Last words from Anne: Advice to current and future entrepreneurs of LSE and future founders of VC funds?
‘Listen hard and listen very carefully. Listening is very underrated as a communication skill. People talk about talking and presenting but actually, listening is very important. So listening to the feedback. And then not giving up and going through with whatever you believe in. It’s about determination and having that mindset. But you can’t knock your head against a brick wall, you have to duck and dive. That’s why I was saying it’s important to listen..so that you can adapt and learn’.
Huge thank you to Anne Glover for this insightful interview- one of my favourite so far! And thank you for reading.