Q -Niki Lauda also joined the Mary Bendet Foundation events. You both knew him very well obviously. What is the most important lesson you got from him?
AG -Kudos to the losers — and never give up. Winning is easy, it is from the defeats you learn the most. I knew Niki through Toto. Niki and Toto had a very special relationship, he was sort of a father for him. Niki was a hero, a fighter, legendary. It’s sad that he is not around anymore.
Q -Where do you see the differences in the startup ecosystems in the Nordics, the UK, Germany or any other country in Europe, and how do you see Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and such?
AG -Well to start with one, people should build a statue for the Samwer brothers in Berlin! They have mobilised so much there and have been incredibly successful. In Europe in general there are more and more tech hubs emerging, also in Eastern Europe. I’m sure we will see big, successful companies arise because there are good universities that can equip people with the right skills and an entrepreneurial mindset, in countries where the outlook is more global. Israel is a great example of this successful combination. Romania and Bulgaria, for instance, also have to take a more global approach because their own markets are just too small. And when you combine such a mindset with an environment where “it’s ok to fail” — where it’s accepted that not all ventures succeed and one learns from this — this makes for a setting where innovation can happen.
In Germany and Switzerland, unfortunately, it’s not as accepted that it’s ok to fail. I believe that Switzerland could be much better at producing startups — in theory, we have all the necessary resources. But there’s just not enough hunger, not enough bite. We take our circumstances more for granted whereas people in other areas of Europe are still motivated to capitalise on the freedom they have inherited.
Q -What in investment banking is science, experience and what is art?
AG -It is the combination of psychology, emotional awareness, financial know-how and process. And above all: Do not take yourself too seriously. Listen to what the client wants and execute to achieve his dreams.
Q -What have you learned as private investor along the way that you’d love to share with your fellow btov investors and the wider community?
AG -You always invest in the jockey and not in the horse! Good Management Teams make out of bad ideas great companies while great ideas can become mediocre if executed by the wrong people. This and a bit of mentoring, coaching and door opening make great companies even better.
Q -Thank you for this interview and everything we do together, Alex!
AG -You're welcome!