Read the Dutch version on Emerce.
In this How I invest, I interviewed Jeroen Thijs from the brand new Dutch VC fund Secondstage Ventures. They have already made their first investment and have only been running for a few weeks. Founders Jeroen and Remco are top entrepreneurs themselves and specialize in (high) tech, data science and SaaS, among others. In this interview, the passion and skill of the founders splashed out.
Hi Jeroen, who are the people behind Secondstage Ventures?
That’s Remco van Blitterswijk and me, both experienced entrepreneurs. I have participated in several tech companies in aerospace, data science, energy and sourcing. Remco has made his mark as an entrepreneur in software development, SAAS and sourcing. And we have just started Secondstage Ventures. Remco and I were once colleagues, but we know each other mainly as good friends, and from the countless motorcycle trips in recent years.
How did you guys get started with Secondstage Ventures?
We had a hundred thousand ideas since the beginning of our friendship, but it was never “the right time”. Either Remco had just started a new venture or I was working on a new company. But last January, it all fit together perfectly.
We both have an extensive track record as entrepreneurial investors -or investing entrepreneurs if you like. Remco kickstarted several innovative IT ventures in a highly competitive playing field and sold them to private equity after an exponential scaling phase. He also mentored and invested in startups along the way. Together with an associate in the tech and high tech domain, I have made multiple acquisitions, developed and sold them again. We also founded an incubator, from which a successful scaleup emerged.
This experience pays off in our discussions with founders. We can immediately respond to challenges and think along with crucial choices.
How is Secondstage ventures different from regular investment funds?
The phase we step in falls exactly between the informals and the larger funds. It’s really a sweet spot where the rough diamonds can be found. In this phase, only a hands-on fund with experienced entrepreneurs can add value. So, Secondstage fills the gap perfectly!
Of course, we like to think along in strategic plans, but sparring on operational choices, helping with tech challenges and hiring staff is just as important. We like to help with all kinds of things using our experience and network.
We are in the middle of our fundraising and notice that this story resonates with informals, who have previously invested directly themselves. Through us, they are still involved, but with less risk and hassle. It’s the best of both worlds really: you get the fun and upside, but no hassle and less risk.
The phase we step in falls exactly between the informals and the larger funds.
Recently you made your first investment, in startup Cuurios (found on Fundsup!). What was decisive to invest in them?
The instant gut feeling (laugh)! That’s a very important one. In a general sense, Remco and I trigger on three factors: business case, team and tech. As crazy as it sounds, we have a preference for “boring” propositions. Process improvement doesn’t sound sexy, neither does B2B, but we love it. A founder team for us ideally has the necessary work and life experience, is open-minded (this is a hard condition!) and preferably one of the founders has a strong tech profile. Cuurios scored 10 out of 10.
How do you work with startups?
We operate primarily as a sparring partner, helping out operationally where it is needed. It is our goal to push the commercial side. Strategically, but also practically.
In recent years, Remco and I have spoken to dozens of startups – some of them more intensively than others. We’ve seen the maturity and quality of the startup landscape increase dramatically in recent years.
What are you looking to invest in now?
We look at all startups that can prove post-product, post-revenue, or post-profitability. This requires an urgent business case, an experienced founder team, a strong technology core, and a clean cap table.
When has success been achieved for you guys?
When our joint exit is so successful that the entrepreneurs we invest in can start a fund themselves! So that they can share their experience with the next generation. That seems like a great payoff to us.