HBH Investor Talks:
Filip Petersson says it’s about timely matchmaking
Filip Petersson had his own startup that developed devices for open heart surgery back in 2001. By then he already had PhD in microtechnology from the University of Lund in Sweden and aimed to apply his knowledge in practice. Now as the investment manager of SEB Venture Capital, he is passionate about exploring technology startups.
Being a part of a small research team Filip struggled with finding the right investors and was constantly looking for funding. When researcher turned into an entrepreneur, he had to learn fast on how to explain his technology in business terms. That’s when he realized how important it is for an investor to understand the technology behind the business.
“There should be a good match with the right investor in the right time,” says Filip.
His thought back then was that his knowledge of science and experience in business would be a good combo should he start to invest himself. But it still took a while before he joined SEB Venture Capital in 2014. The thoughts that he had years ago have been amply burned out – deep technological understanding of the project is crucial.
“It is my job as an investor to help companies to build a viable business,” says Filip.
And why not? Right now about 50% of companies in SEB portfolio come as a spin off from the universities. Approaching an investor is not an easy task, especially for a startup at its early stage. They simply may not have enough people to handle the funding process.
Filip admits, he has seen many good ideas being buried because of the lack of funding.
Unfortunately, excellent product is not a magic pill for success. Successful business is a combination of both – great ideas and people working on them.
“When you go to the US-based VCs, they want to see the large numbers and people who have a lot of value. Personally I prefer to deal with people that are realistic, natural and frank,” says Filip.
“I appreciate the sanity factor and want to keep it real. I want to work with someone who can be honest about the company’s problems and challenges. Business may face some challenges on the way, and I want to be sure that the team would be able to handle them. Plus, I need to have confidence in founders and management because in the end, we’ll be working on the business together,” he says.
“If you want to get me excited about your business, show me a great technology behind it.”
FILIP PETERSSON, Investment Manager of SEB Venture Capital
Techie at heart, Filip emphasizes that as an investor he’s tempting to see great technology behind any business he invests. He adds that at SEB they keep track on the latest technologies, and usually those are not something consumers usually think about.
“We need to think 2 or 3 steps ahead, e.g. what would be an interesting tech in the next couple of years. For example, VR is something that’s becoming available to consumers now but for us this is the technology we’ve been looking at a few years ago. Same goes to IoT – we invested in the IoT projects in the past and seeing the boom for it only now.”
Seeing great ideas turning into profitable businesses, investing in something that builds GDP and takes technology and people forward – that’s where Filip gets his biggest motivation at work.
“The ability to focus attention on important things is a defining characteristic of intelligence,” Filip quotes Robert J. Shiller, the author ofIrrational Exuberance, the book he just finished reading, and proceeds: “You can do a lot of things in the society to make it prosper. What could be a better way to achieve it than building new companies? Or helping small companies evolve in larger ones? That is what really builds the GDP and what really means prosperity in its purest form.”
At the moment Filip focuses on companies that develop applications and services for financial institutions – banks and their partners.
Until recently SEB VC has been investing in pretty much everything but fintech, from life science to telecommunication technology.
“We haven’t invested in projects that were in direct competition with banks, but this year we changed that.”