Capital On Stage returns to Amsterdam during Amsterdam Capital Week. A conversation with its founder Arjen Strijker on what makes a great investor; things that all startups on the hunt for capital need to know and a culture change in the Netherlands.
Capital On Stage
Capital On Stage is the unique global conference series about funding, where investors pitch to growth stage startup founders. A conference on a mission: to demystify venture capitalism and pollinate emerging startup communities with international investments. Since Amsterdam hosted the first edition in 2011, Capital On Stage has gone global; in the next year alone the conference will be held in ten cities around the world. Amsterdam Capital Week is proud to bring back Capital On Stage to its mother city. Founder Arjen Strijker elaborates: “We are slowly transforming Capital On Stage into a deal making machine: a long term quality broker between investors and company founders. In Amsterdam, on the 24th of September, we will bring together the biggest VCs in the scene. It’s extra special to me (NB: Arjen is Dutch) to be realizing such an amazing event on Dutch soil.”
Spotlight on investors
As Arjen explains in a Forbes interview, Capital On Stage is designed to be a conference in which investors get the spotlight; to elaborate on what they have to offer startups in terms of non-financial means, and to help lift the anonymity and mystery surrounding VCs. Arjen refers to startups as (growth) companies, which does justice to the serious business that all parties are involved in. During Capital On Stage these young companies get exclusive insights into investors’ personal views and experiences. A supreme conference is crafted by selecting a high-quality audience and paying close attention to the conference experience with hosts such as Goodwin Procter, Norton Rose, Hengeler Mueller, Herzog Fox & Neeman, and Google.
Top 3 characteristics that make a great investor
It’s not just handing out money that makes for a great investor. Three things that Arjen believes are top qualities for an investor to have:
Ability to listen.
People skills. “An investor needs the skill to find the right investment. It’s the investor’s people skills that will guide him in finding the right, personal, match with a startup founder or team.”
Ability to build bridges. “The investor needs to build bridges between the company and other worthwhile connections to establish top-of-class advisory boards or adding additional investors to the next investment round.”
Top advice for founders
When he was a head hunter for private and investment bankers, Arjen realized his clients were often describing a copy of themselves when describing their ideal candidate. The same often applies for VCs that are looking for their next big investment: they are on the look out for a founder who resembles them in terms of skill-set and character. Arjen advises:
Make sure to let personality and character shine through in your pitch.
“The tech scene is a cowboy market. Be clear what you want when talking to investors, and make sure you share your vision in a chronological way..” Another piece of advice Arjen emphasizes:
Have a tight, talented team that can deliver on the product.
“It’s the team that needs to be the investor’s opportunity. When you meet with an investor you need to have a confident attitude, don’t just tell him what he wants to hear, but make sure you can deliver on your promise. For that, having a great team in place is crucial.”
Stop the startup thinking
Arjen is clear about what all companies attending Capital On Stage should do:
“Stop thinking like a startup!”
“It’s not about building some website or about being in the scene. As a startup founder you’re building a company. That desire should be motivated by two reasons: the first being that you want to make a dent in the universe; passionately changing something for the better. The second is that you see a great model for financial success.” Arjen underlines that any self-respecting company founder should put their money where their mouth is. “Stop talking, start doing. Have a USP, immediately, and don’t think you’ve made it once you have launched in the Netherlands. Set yourself goals: in two years we’ll be there. When pitching at Capital On Stage you need to demonstrate an amazing product and show you have a global vision. If you have traction but are only aiming at the Benelux, a VC might invest once but not again.
- For some concrete preparation check out the more than three hundred videos of VCs pitching at Capital On Stage here.
Be ready for funding
“At Capital On Stage we call startup founders ‘founders of growth companies’. To get invited you need to prove your company is actively ready to receive funding between € 500.000 and €10 million. We want to see a neat pitch deck, a tight team, and an innovative, disruptive product. It’s up to the VCs if they want to invest in that. Young companies may be risky business but the chance to make that 60 times return is irresistible.”
Amsterdam: sexy brand of the Netherlands
Arjen sees great opportunity for Amsterdam’s development as startup hub: “The city has an amazing sexiness to it. “‘Amsterdam’ is the no. 1 brand of the Netherlands. So many places want to be the next Silicon Valley, but we can evolve from that: I believe in new names for new things.” Not all is rosy in Amsterdam, however. “It’s lacking a culture of venture capital: Dutch investors tend to talk but not give (much). We need to encourage them with a dash of internationality. Bring international investors to the Netherlands to set the right example. Boost the investment climate: both parties, company founders and investors, should think bigger.” Amsterdam Capital Week is part of that boost: “Bringing together influential Dutch people with international investors is a great way to initiate a change of culture. Amsterdam Capital Week can make the difference, and must retain to that effort on a long-term basis.”
Amsterdam Capital Week is an initiative by StartupAmsterdam. For tickets and application to Capital On Stage Amsterdam visit the website. To stay up to date about Amsterdam Capital Week follow @startup_adam and @CapitalWeekAMS on Twitter.