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« Marketing and networking web 2.0 to club or not to club | Main | Serial entrepreneur Nicolas Berg in Switzerland »
Thursday
Nov272008

Wisequeen Interview with Nicolas Berg- Swiss tech Guru

Well I promised you an interview with Nicolas Berg from Redalpine venture partners who has been behind many successful startups in Switzerland and is now widening his start up net. So here goes. 1. Where is your home town? Gstaad, Switzerland 2. Where are you living now? In Solothurn, Switzerland. 2b. What are you doing now? I co-founded Redalpine Venture Partners with partners in August 2007 to invest in highly scalable European start-ups. It’s one of the few venture funds that focuses on the finance gap («valley of death») of investments in the range of €200k to €2m. 3. What were you doing before this? Since 1984 I have been a serial entrepreneur. I initiated eight start-ups, among others the financial platform borsalino.ch in 1998 and sold it to Switzerland’s leading publisher Ringier in 2000. Since that trade-sale I spent seven years as a full-time angel investor investing in 16 start-ups such as Genevalogic or XING, the leading European platform for business networking that went public 2006. 3b. So you have been an entrepreneur from the start? No, in between I checked out how it is to work as an employee: 1986-87 I was working as a sales coach in Norway, 1989-90 as a part-time human resources lecturer at the University of Berne, 1992-98 as an editor for a daily newspaper. 4.What did you study after school? 1980-85 I studied law and business administration in Berne. At the same time I competed in alpine ski races with the Swiss university team, travelled for three months in the USA, supported political activities of social democrats and a green party, and I started my first company that sold PCs, software and networks. 5. What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to become an architect, a painter, a writer of screenplays or a theatre director. 6. Tell me how your present company came about? After seven years as a full time business angel I searched for a better business model to fill the European early-stage finance gap. Together with my closest co-investors we had several successful exits with half a dozen «disruptive» companies but we were stressed due to no regular income, and we often lost time for syndicating with other investors. By starting Redalpine we wanted to create a new mix by combining best practices of professional angels (speed & gut feeling) and VC funds (investment power & coherent investment process). 7. Explain Redalpine Venture Partners to me? As serial entrepreneurs and investors Redalpine’s partners have a strong network. It provides a deal-flow of more than 1000 early-stage business plans annually. We select about 20-30 truly talented entrepreneurs with a disruptive and scalable business model that seem to fit best in our pro-active investment strategy. Then we discuss how we might achieve success together. We end up with about eight investments p.a. – some as a lead investor – negotiating deal terms & active member of the board –, some as a co-investor –leveraging our network by door opening. The investment goal is always to sell the company within two to five years and realising a two-digit valuation multiple. 7b. Who invested in Redalpine? We are three full-time investment managers and at the same time General Partners (GP) of the fund. The GP is the biggest investor, but we also raised funds from three dozen successful entrepreneurs and financiers in six European countries. These Limited Partners add a lot of value by leveraging our capital and network. 8. What is your vision for it? We want to be the most successful European early-stage high-tech fund by 2014. If we achieve a high profit we will also have continued to contribute to the creation of thousands of new jobs. And the disruptive technologies of our portfolio will improve the health of the over-all economy. 9. What would you like to do next? Redalpine II. Maybe it will again finance ICT and science based companies, maybe we will go for green technologies. Personally I would like to do more sports or become what I originally wanted to be: a screenplay writer or director. 10. What does your family think of your job? My kids (9 and 11) tell friends that Nicolas is working in the Internet and that he «buys» companies cheap and sells expensive. They like that I now am more often at home than during my days as a dotcom founder. When I say no to some of the «investments» they propose they suggest: «You better go and find a job with a real salary, man!» 11. What are you most proud of professionally? I am most proud of a few good stories as a journalist. And I am proud of some of my start-ups that changed the way of doing things such as social networking, recruitment fairs, speed executive search, super-learning or premedical coaching. The top exit with borsalino.ch was nice as well because I suddenly had enough money to build a house and to learn the profession of a full-time venture investor. 12. Which book are you reading at the moment? On my bedside locker you will find half a dozen Norwegian, Swedish and Danish detective novels, a biography on German-Sicilian Emperor Frederick II von Staufen (1208-1250) and a book from last year that predicts the financial crisis. 13. What other profession would you like to try. To become a professional athlete I should be a little younger. So I have to go for actor, movie director, novel writer or painter. Interview copyright Wisequeen - link to it yes, Digg it here steal copy? No. Donna Jackson Social Communications Specialist. So what do you think ? Do the Swiss Tech start-ups rival Silicon valley? Is Switzerland the new Silicon valley? Let's debate this with intense debate. Tell us what you think - comment above .

Reader Comments (9)

some of the comments so far on twitter about the interview On Nicolas Berg @wisequeen:

"great post on serial entrepreneur in Switzerland"@PinkOliveFamily

" nice interview on Nic Berg" @strijker

Nice:) @gsalami

@phogenkamp" I do know Nic Berg. :-)"

Thank you for the interesting interview of Nicholas Berg (and also the videos and pics of twitterdinner Zurich) @ralphbassfeld.

excellent Donna I'll contact @davidavdavid

@wisequeen do Swiss debate? I hope so - but I am only 25% of Swiss blood - and have also found Swiss to be too esoterically nice @magganpice

dig yr blog... had a look at it yesterday @mathewbuckland

November 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwisequeen

the idea of the angel investor sounds new (and great) to me. Does it mean that Redalpine will select some companies, sharing investment and profit with them?

November 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commenternicola

yeah start up capital or venture capital, is used as a way to give the kick start or birth to companies with finance, that traditional banks may see as more risky or unknown risk profile. perhaps Nicolas can jump in and give his definition.

November 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwisequeen

[...] Wisequeen did an interview with me  Link to wisequeen interview: Here [...]

Thanks Nicolas for that succinct definition of the term VC

November 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwisequeen

Angel investors invest their own money in shares of privately held companies, usually at an early stage. If the company grows as expected the angel investor expects to sell his shares after a few years. The most common exit path is a trade-sale to a larger company, more seldom is an Initial Public Offering (IPO). Besides the potential financial upside angels may have an extre-financial motivation as well: e.g. re-use of their knowledge and network, fun, adrenalin, or just being helpful to young entrepreneurs. Angels finance about 90% of all start-ups.

A venture capital fund (VC) is owned by the General Partners (investment managers) and by additional Limited Partners (external private or institutional investors, e.g. pension funds, fund-of-funds). Because the investment manager manages other peoples money he has to focus on profitability (high scalability) and risk managment (diversification of risks by sub-sectors, stage, etc.). Shareholders of a venture fund hope to achieve a high profit of >20% annualy in return for the high risk and low liquidity of this asset class.

Most banks don't finance hightech start-ups because start-ups can't offer any bankable securities. But some banks have set up special venture activities. In Switzerland the Zurich State Bank ZKB is the most active one in the early-stage hightech sector.

November 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNicolas_Berg

heres another twitter comment about the interview on Nicolas Berg -
@wisequeen Nice Interview. Gotta love it, when people are able to call themselves serial entrepreneurs. @Juanromero

November 30, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwisequeen

heres another twitter comment about the interview on Nicolas Berg -RT @wisequeen interesting interview of a swiss VC http://bit.ly/8EVP " target="_blank">http://bit.ly/8EVP Chewie33

November 30, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwisequeen

[...] I first met Wuala and one of the founding partners Dominik Grolimund ( shown here talking to Scoble) at a Techcrunch Bluewin startup event in Zurich that I was blogging live at.(Yes I can do that, have Swisscom roaming and it works well).I have since written about and interviewed many Swisstech successes [...]

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