As we celebrate our 3-year anniversary, we find ourselves in a reflective state of mind. Our journey so far has, no doubt, been adventurous and filled with success and learnings. We can’t wait to see where we go next but, before we rocket into 2021, we want to thank and acknowledge our team players.
You see, people often ask us what it is that makes byFounders unique and the simple and obvious answer is ‘our incredibly strong community.’
Once a humble idea, byFounders has become a full-fledged, independent organism — a venture fund by founders, for founders — and that wouldn’t’ve been possible without our players: our community: our secret sauce.
Let us introduce you to them 👇
Over the past ten years, the Nordic startup ecosystem has truly flourished and, alongside the booming startup scene, venture capital investments have reached record levels across all stages. In turn, the funds are shaking things up as well, to ensure they keep relevant, unique, and valuable.
This has not always been the case. When unicorns such as Zendesk, Skype, and Unity were still nascent and looking for a ‘partner-in-crime’ to invest and provide them with guidance, their pickings were slim. Frankly, investors lacked the entrepreneurial experience and the global ambition of their founders.
This imbalance — between investors and founders — ignited the spark that led to the establishment of byFounders.
Founded on three pillars, our community offers operational expertise, a global network, and founder friendliness. To us, this is the only way we can truly act as trusted partners to our founders.
At the core of our community is the byFounders Collective, which consists of 65+ of the most prominent entrepreneurs and operators from the Nordics and Baltics — those who’ve been in the trenches themselves — like Karl Munthe-Kaas (Kolonial.no), Josefin Landgård (Kry, Mantle), and Jeppe Rindom (Pleo).
Their interest in supporting the next generation of founders aligns with ours. “I joined the byFounders Collective to help tech founders on their personal journeys, and to enable their businesses to thrive,” Morten Primdahl, co-founder of Zendesk, explains.
Camilla Ley Valentin, co-founder and CCO of Queue-it, seconds that:
"Paying it forward has always been important to me and the individuals and purpose behind byFounders combine this with solid funding options in a very meaningful way."
Given their embeddedness in various ecosystems, they introduce us to brilliant founders and companies that we should know about and track. They also offer their unique competencies — some are highly skilled in B2B SaaS while others know company culture and performance management — to help us evaluate companies, products, and teams. To date, we’ve invested in 28 of the brightest stars on the Nordic and Baltic startup scenes, largely thanks to the input of our byFounders Collective.
To our portfolio companies, our members of the byFounders Collective share their operational expertise by running workshops and sparring on branding, positioning, go-to-market, building sales functions, growth hacking, and much more. This can also stretch into long-term collaborations when relevant and viable.
Take our portfolio company, Garden, for example. The founders behind the automation platform for cloud-native applications are all highly-skilled engineers, but they have limited commercial experience.
So, they worked closely with our Collective member, Henrik Rosendahl — who has years of experience building and scaling B2B software companies — and have benefited tremendously from having someone on their side with knowledge of building a B2B sales organization.
We also connected the founders of Garden with one of our other Collective members: the co-founder of Realm, Bjarne Christiansen, who is now a member of their board.
Because, in addition to knowledge-sharing, our Collective members will sometimes take board seats on our behalf when it makes sense. For example, if they’re closer to the product, market, or founders than we are, and they can contribute more value than we can.
Furthermore, at times, they also invest alongside us as Angels. This was the case for one of our more recent portfolio companies, Outfunnel: a sales-centric marketing automation platform.
Our Collective member, Robin Daniels, is a seasoned CMO with an impressive track record, having led marketing teams at WeWork, LinkedIn, Salesforce, and Box, currently at Matterport. He believed in Outfunnel’s vision and made the decision to invest alongside us as an Angel.
You can now, hopefully, see the limitless potential and benefits of our Collective. But the community, if you can believe it, is even stronger than that.
In house, we’re a core team of hands-on investors who provide broad guidance and unique access. Therefore, we are always on the lookout for strong, friendly, and passionate teams to invest in.
We’ve all worked actively within the Nordic and Baltic startup ecosystem for years, and our identity as founders and operators allows us to see eye-to-eye with entrepreneurs. We have a deep sense of respect for the challenges and opportunities our founders face daily.
Our long-term presence on the startup scene has provided us with an expansive network of Collective members, friendly VCs, and Angels. As such, we’ve constructed a stable bridge between the Nordics and the Bay Area.
When they’re ready for it, we like to walk our founders across that bridge: to provide them with the connections and support they need to scale across the pond. This is immensely valuable to many of our portfolio companies.
One of them is InsurTech company SafetyWing, led by co-founder and CEO, Sondre L. Rasch: "With one foot in the Nordics and one in Silicon Valley, byFounders was the perfect investor for us. Their network provides a great value for us we couldn’t get elsewhere."
This resonates with Andreas Cleve, CEO of the health tech startup Corti, as well: "byFounders introduced us to interesting people and sparred us on the journey, from being Copenhagen-based to a global company with offices on both sides of the Atlantic."
We mentioned earlier that the Collective is at the core of our community. Well, the founders behind our impactful portfolio companies are at the heart.
Our founders face similar challenges and opportunities but, at times, find themselves in a space that can be tough, lonely, and (frankly) confusing.
This is where our third pillar — founder friendliness — shines the brightest.
When we invest in a company, we don’t only open the door to some of the top VCs across Europe and the United States. We also connect founders with each other and experienced members from the Collective, so you can share your experiences, empathize, and feel a sense of belonging.
As Andreas Cleve said at the byFounders Summit in 2019:
"Being a part of a community where everybody has been through setting up a company and have had their own challenges on the way, creates a certain bond where you can talk more freely, and you actually feel like you can share your challenges and journeys, which is something that really builds since you often end up being quite alone as a founder."
Jakob Hansen, Co-Founder & CEO of Cobalt, a platform for pentesting-as-a-service, has also found comfort and value in the community, especially when navigating their growth trajectory: "As the leader of a fast-growing company, my role is constantly changing. I have to be able to scale myself along with the company. Every member of the byFounders Collective has faced the same challenges you eventually will so tapping into that knowledge is priceless."
But the benefits of being part of the byFounders community goes both ways.
As the serial entrepreneur and Collective member, Johan Brand, says: "It’s a way for me to stay relevant. It’s actually my education to make sure that, as I’m starting my new ventures, I’m part of the ecosystem."
In addition to what people tell us to our face, we recently partnered with Landscape — Glassdoor for VC’s — and we’ve been so humbled by the heartwarming reviews our community has left us. We won’t shower you with the reviews here, but if you’re looking for a read that’s guaranteed to tug on the heartstrings, then this is a link for you:
So, there you have it. The collaboration between our successful Nordic and Baltic entrepreneurs in our Collective, with our passionate in-house team, and the hard-working founders behind our portfolio companies, are the ingredients we mix to make our not-so-secret-anymore secret sauce. It is what we believe is needed to establish long-term trust-based partnerships, and a successful venture fund.
As you can tell, for the past three years, we’ve been on an incredible journey, and we continue to rocket forward. But where to?
In terms of our Collective, we’ve successfully brought together a strong team of Nordic and Baltic entrepreneurs. Still, we need to work on balancing the scales.
In the next while, we want to welcome more members from Sweden, Finland, and the Baltics while increasing the number of women in our community.
Furthermore, we’ve learned that our community would benefit from having access to members that don’t only have founder experience but are operators as well. One of our pillars is, after all, operational expertise, and we want to provide value to teams as a whole.
Another way of translating our core values into everything we do has been to work on formalizing our internal processes, including how we screen deals and the terms we propose when we invest. More on that later, so stay tuned!