Talking Startups with Point Nine Capital

We haven’t chatted with Point Nine Capital, so we decided to catch up with Mathias Ockenfels.

Mathias joined Point Nine as an Investment Associate in the summer of 2013 and is currenty a principal at the firm. He comes from Naspers, where he worked as an M&A Manager for the ricardo Group in Zurich. Previously Mathias was an Investment Manager at Mountain Partners.

Talking Startups with Point Nine Capital

Point Nine Capital recently won Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year (2015) at the Europas, what is unique about its approach?

Our investment thesis is centered around 2 business models: SaaS and (digital) marketplaces. Having such a focus allows us to offer value-add to our portfolio companies independently of their geographic presence. We are based in Berlin but we are investing everywhere in Europe and North America. Some companies appreciate the fact that we are active on 2 continents and can help to cross the pond in both directions.

What is an Angel VC?

We call ourselves “The Angel VC” because we strive to unite the best of both worlds: Business Angels and Venture Capitalists. We try to be as hands-on as an Angel while having the financial “firepower” of VC-fund. In that sense, you may also call us a “Micro VC”.

In terms of stage we are often the first “institutional” investor coming in or, we even invest in the first seed round together with other angels.

How many deals are in your portfolio? What are some exciting prospects from that field?

We now have a portfolio of roughly 55 companies across 3 funds.

We are excited about every company that we are invested in but, by the nature of things, some are obviously a bit older and at a more mature stage which makes it easier to predict promising outcomes. Among the companies that have recently raised larger follow-on fundings are startups such as Delivery Hero, Algolia, docplanner, Shiftplanning/Humanity, brainly, Vend, Kreditech, Helpling or Westwing.

How many cold call presentations do you get? And do you respond to unsolicited pitch decks?

In total we see around 2,500 to 3.000 opportunities per year which includes all kind of different sources of deal flow. We try to send an answer to everyone who submits a serious funding request. In general, we follow the following principle: if you (as a founder or startup) spend time on trying to understand what we do and what we look for and subsequently submit your business plan because you think there is a fit, we will spend time on trying to understand what you are up to and send you our feedback in due time.

What’s the best way to be introduced to Point Nine?

The best way to get in touch is through another founder preferably from the Point Nine Family (i.e. our portfolio). This means an additional layer of “vetting” for us and makes it easier to filter considering that someone else that we know and trust is willing to put in a good word for you.

What advice would you offer an entrepreneur trying to raise capital?

Spend time on understanding the investment focus and approach of prospective investors and make sure whether there is a potential fit with the angel or fund in terms of stage, theme and investment size! Otherwise you might risk to burn a lot of relationships early on and you will waste your own, precious time.

What do you look for in an entrepreneur?

First and foremost an entrepreneur needs to be a good salesperson:

  1. He needs to know how to sell the product to customers.
  2. He needs to know how to “sell” the company as an attractive place to work to potential employees.
  3. He needs to know how to sell the company and its vision to potential investors.

Besides, persistence is an important character trait.

We also tend to prefer teams over single founders where the team members have a complimentary skill-set.

Do you co-invest with other angels?

Yes, we often invest together with angels or bring in other angel-investors alongside ourselves as part of the same round.

Berlin Startup Scene – hot or hype?

The hype in Berlin has definitely solidified over the last 2-3 years so that it has become a real movement and is not just a “trend” anymore. The startup scene is an integral part of the Berlin economy as the city never had any economic basis like e.g. Southern Germany with all the car manufacturers and their suppliers.

What are your thoughts on Crowdfunding as a source of equity?

For a startup, it’s a valid alternative to regular VC or Angel funding. It is highly regulated in Germany as well as in the rest of Europe which makes it hard to raise straight forward equity in a crowdfunding campaign. Also, we as Point Nine would probably not invest into a startup as a part of a crowdfunding campaign. Of course, that does not mean that we would not invest afterwards. The industry is still very immature and it has yet to be seen how the performance of crowd-funded startups will pan out.

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