Every year General Partner Lars Andersen and his team meet approximately 500 hopeful entrepreneurs. Lars has been in venture capital for the last 10 years and has been fortunate to join companies like Fullrate, Libratone and Endomondo on their way to successful exit. He is also on the board of Vivino and Trustpilot. However, once Lars was on the other side of the table struggling as a young entrepreneur. Lars looks back on the choices he made and try to pass on some of the most important lessons he learned running his own company.
For me, being a great investor, boils down to guts and experience. With that said, I have not met anyone who, single-handedly, is smart or talented enough to sort winners from losers. We work as a team and combine our abilities in pursuit of the good idea and the right people.
After completing my Master’s, I joined hardware company Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Meanwhile I met Michael Gaardboe, who wanted me to join him as a co-founder. I remember everyone – especially my dad – telling me not to leave DEC to work for a small company with only 10 employees.
Luckily, I didn't listen. The Columbus team was amazing and I felt that I could make a real difference here. Michael and I decided that I would set up the Copenhagen office. In the beginning, it was just me and a coffee maker, but within five years I was CEO and we grew the company from 10 to 1000 employees and in 1998 Columbus IT went public.
"I don’t believe in a gene for entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur is about wanting to make a difference and having confidence in yourself. It’s about hard work. Anyone who is willing to work hard for their dreams, can be an entrepreneur."
After the IPO, I was CEO for another 3 years and then I left to become a business angel. I get my rush from building and growing companies – not from having 1000 employees under me.
Having been on the other side of the table, my best advice to entrepreneurs is to focus your energy on recruiting the right people from the beginning. Many startups make the same mistake, they hire based on who they know, instead of who they need. Don't employ your cousin if he’s not the best programmer, you can find. The first hires are crucial to your startup, so work on getting the first ones right.
Meeting over 100 startups every year has provided me with a solid foundation, when it comes to building something from the ground up. I have seen thousands of pitches having been part of the VC-community for the past 11 years. I have made many right decisions, and some wrong ones as well.
What I bring is operational experience both from a company perspective and a VC perspective. My strong suit is the last part of the journey from series A to exit. I love being a part of the journey and have been so lucky to have joined companies like Fullrate, Libratone and Endomondo on their way to successful exit.
There is no clear formula when it comes to what makes up a good entrepreneur or a great startup. Nevertheless, if you can execute and you are enthusiastic, you are on the right track. Successful entrepreneurs dare to set ambitious goals and achieve them - no matter what. They can drive their employees forward and motivate them to work as hard as they are themselves and can excite employees, customers and investors.
As an entrepreneur, it is so important that you can tell a story. That you can communicate your vision and generate excitement around your company. Attracting top talent from high-paid positions to a job that pays less, involves more hours and a higher risk requires convincing. Tell a story that convinces them to take that journey with you.
I don’t believe in a gene for entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur is about wanting to make a difference and having confidence in yourself. It’s about hard work. Anyone who is willing to work hard for their dreams, can be an entrepreneur.
Are you pitching to investors? It might be a good idea to download our pitch deck template below!