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Olaf Jacobi on the 3 T’s of startup success

Olaf Jacobi: “This is one of the most important questions since I have been in the startup ecosystem: What is more important – a good business idea or the team? When I was younger and running my own company, I thought an idea and the business model was more important. I completely changed my mind on this. The team is the most important ingredient of a startup. When looking at some case studies, it is normally the team with the best spirit and dynamics, not the best technology or strategy, that will make it in the end.”

From Corporate Manager to Entrepreneur & VC

Olaf Jacobi is a textbook example of a VC. In the 1990’s, he first started his career in the corporate world when working for Minolta for seven years and holding a management position. He entered the startup world in 1999 and built a successful track record of working for and founding own startups in the following years, which led to several successful exits. In 2007, Olaf switched sides and became a VC. For eight years, he was a partner and co-owner of Munich-based venture capital firm Target Partners before he went on to join Capnamic Ventures in 2015 with the mission to build up the firm’s Berlin office.

Capnamic Ventures is a leading German early-stage VC. The company’s goal is to be the first institutional investor, trusted partner and companion of top entrepreneurs. Portfolio companies get supported through the Capnamic partners’ company-building backgrounds and network of corporate investors. Capnamic invests in markets and industries characterized by high growth and technological innovation as it believes that disruption is driven by digital transformation. Besides its Berlin office, the venture capital firm also resides in Cologne where it was originally founded in 2013. Well-known startups like Adjust, DocMorris, Lieferando and Mister Spex belong to its investment portfolio.

Olaf Jacobi on Startup Notes

In this episode, Olaf Jacobi talks about the key learnings of his career in the startup scene, assesses Berlin’s development as a startup hub, emphasizes on the importance of great teams to turn an idea into a success, and describes the most important factors that Capnamic Ventures considers when investing into companies.

In our conversation, Olaf especially stresses the importance of the “3 T’s” of startup success – team, timing, and technology.

He admits that when he started his career as an entrepreneur, he believed that a good idea is more important than the team. Over the years, his view on this has completely changed though and like many other entrepreneurs and VCs he underlines that a strong complementary team is a company’s most important asset and usually the single biggest reason for success. Moreover, Olaf states that the right timing influences a startup’s chances for success tremendously. He explains that if a company starts too early, the possibility is high that it will waste a lot of funding because the product or market is not ready yet. Sometimes it would be necessary to wait until the time is right to get out of the blocks. On the contrary, if a startup ships its product too late, then other companies might already have a competitive advantage that can be hard to catch up with. Lastly, good technology that is reliable and scalable in the long run adds huge value to a startup. According to Olaf, technology has to be built to last.

These are all the topics that we cover in our episode with Olaf Jacobi of Capnamic Ventures who has lots of insights to share with more than 20 years of experience as a manager, entrepreneur and investor in the online sector:

[00:58 – 03:58] Olaf’s professional background and track of his career
[03:59 – 09:13]  The 3 T’s of startup success and what Capnamic looks for in companies
[09:14 – 10:16]   On the composition of a great team
[10:17 – 15:25]    The development of Berlin as a startup hub
[15:26 – 18:26]   On the German startup scene’s evolution of going from ‘copy cats’ to own tech innovation
[18:27 – 22:07]   The collaboration between corporate investors and Capnamic Ventures
[22:08 – 24:06]  Olaf’s view on corporate accelerator programs
[24:07 – 25:48]  The best investment he ever made
[25:49 – 27:04]  The best professional advice that he ever received

Podcast Host: Thomas

If you want to get more insights and entrepreneurial advice from top-notch VCs, make sure to also listen to our podcasts with Christian Miele (e.Ventures)Jasper Masemann (Holtzbrinck Ventures) and Uwe Horstmann (Project A Ventures).

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