9. July 2014–
Accel Partnersis a venture and growth equity firm known for its investments in companies such as Facebook and Groupon. In Germany, Accel invested in startups like Gameforge and CHECK24. Now Accel Partners are hoping to meet the next generation of startups on Wednesday, July 23rd in the Factory in Berlin. For this special event, Michael Treskow, Vice President at Accel Partners, and Sonali De Rycker, Partner at Accel Partners, will be in town.
We sat down Treskow to understand a bit more about what he is looking for in the startups that interview with him. While FinTech is one of Treskow favorite topics, he is also excited to meet with entrepreneurs “who have run into a particular problem enough times to want to do something about it”. When pitching to him, startups should rather not compare themselves to companies who have already made it (“We are the Uber of X”). “Good ideas can typically stand on their own and don’t need comparisons,” he says.
Interested in learning more? Here is our full interview with Treskow that discusses Accel Partners, what they are looking for in startups, and the potential that they see in Berlin. Below you can also find the details on how to apply.
VENTUREVILLAGE: Accel Partners is looking for startups to invest in in Berlin. Why here and why now? Which other regions are interesting to Accel Partners right now?
Treskow: We are really excited about the creative energy in Berlin and the maturation process the ecosystem has gone through over the last few years. Our goal is to partner with the most exciting and promising entrepreneurs worldwide, and Berlin has clearly become a natural “hunting ground” in that regard – the number and quality of entrepreneurs with independent ideas always makes the trip from London worthwhile. What I personally find exciting is that an increasing number of non-German and European founders choose Berlin as a place to start their company and often times don’t speak German, which would have been unheard of back in 2000 when I moved from Berlin to the States …the change is quite striking. It adds new ideas, perspectives and experiences to the ecosystem.
"left"]As to the now, Accel has a long history of investing in successful startups in Germany, ranging from Gameforge to CHECK24, and we have been spending a lot of time in Berlin for a while now, so I don’t really have a particular event or catalyst to point to other than the beautiful summer weather and Germany’s continued success in the World Cup.
Outside of Berlin, we currently spend a lot of time in the UK, where financial technology in particular is booming, as well as Israel, which has a lot of promising enterprise software and infrastructure companies.
VENTUREVILLAGE: What size and how many investments is Accel Partners looking for? (Seed/A-/B-/.. round)
Treskow: We are stage agnostic and happy to invest from pre-product all the way to profitability. What matters most to us is the size of the opportunity ahead of the company, the team’s ability to take advantage of that opportunity, and the extent to which we can support them (“add value” is the buzzword) along the way. On average, we try to make ~10 investments per year.
VENTUREVILLAGE: What ideas are interesting to Accel Partners and to you personally?
Treskow: We typically get excited about backing entrepreneurs who we believe can create category-defining companies in large markets. In some cases, we have a view about what these large markets are and what type of companies may be successful in them (e.g., we have a Big Data fund that seeks to support companies in that space), but frequently we’ll meet a team that has a great vision in a space that we are not very familiar with – we try to be as open-minded as possible! In my experience, most truly successful investments are the result of a correct contrarian bet, so we try to keep that in mind as we evaluate opportunities.
Personally, I am excited about the current wave of innovation in the financial technology and services space, as well as the consumerization of enterprise software. In both cases, very large incumbents look increasingly shaky and open to disruption through more affordable and consumer-friendly alternatives.
VENTUREVILLAGE: Is Berlin a good place to start a tech business? Why/why not/What is missing?
Treskow: Absolutely. I think it’s a great combination of being a good place to live on a personal level (social/cultural environment and cost of living are factors that impact both personal sanity and its ability to attract non-resident talent), as well as from a professional perspective (the city’s vibrant start-up ecosystem makes it easier to get feedback from mentors who’ve been there before and peers who are making the same mistakes, be it for architecting a scalable back-end or putting together a VC pitch deck). It’s also nice to see involvement from corporates who provide not only resources but also insights into their needs as potential customers or partners.
Treskow: For selfish reasons, I’m excited about the continuously increasing number of fintech and enterprise software companies coming out of Berlin. On a more general level, I like to meet with domain experts who have run into a particular problem enough times to want to do something about it. If the problem happens to be large and applicable enough, and the team has a promising approach and the right background to solving it, things can get exciting quickly.
VENTUREVILLAGE: Can you name two things startups should not do when pitching to you?
Treskow: One pet peeve is teams who describe themselves as the equivalent of a very successful startup in another industry (“we are the Uber of X”). Most of the time, I either get the business model similarity on my own or think it’s flawed – neither is helpful. Good ideas can typically stand on their own and don’t need comparisons.
I also think personal introductions are very important to establish context and credibility, but their length should be proportional to their relevance to the business idea presented. For example, I rarely bring up the fact that I (barely) finished a marathon when introducing myself as an investor.
VENTUREVILLAGE: How can people prepare for a meeting with Accel Partners?
Treskow: The same way I’d suggest preparing for a meeting with every potential investor. Practice your pitch, know your numbers, and be open-minded to feedback.
VENTUREVILLAGE: Fill out the blanks:
– Startups & excitement
– London & funny accent (for someone who lived in the US)
– Coffee & I don’t drink it
– Berlin & teenage years + this interview
– Sundays & sleep
– Money & fun ways to spend it
VENTUREVILLAGE: What are you looking for to doing in Berlin during your stay – Other than business?
Treskow: Spending time with my high school friends, constantly feeling over-dressed, and of course a good Doner!
VENTUREVILLAGE: Thank you for your time and insights!
Startups can apply to meet Accel Partners in Berlin by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The startup overview should be an approximately 10-page or 10-slide presentation, that includes the team's background, the idea, the size of the opportunity, accomplishments, and near- and longer-term goals (including a financial forecast, if available).
Image: Accel Partners