Interview with Marie-Helene Ametsreiter (Speedinvest)

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We just had the chance to interview Marie-Helene Ametsreiter, Partner at the Vienna-based venture capital firm Speedinvest. Marie-Helene is not only a successful business women and mother of two little kids – most recently she also became a TV personality beeing part of an Austrian TV show for startups. “2 Minuten 2 Millionen“, the Austrian version of Shark Tank, is really worth watching – if you speak German. Marie-Helene is part of the eminent jury.

In our interview, we spoke about her career, the TV show, the investment focus of Speedinvest, mompreneurs, female entrepreneurs and some other exciting topics. Enjoy the interview:

Please give us a short summary of your professional backround and the journey which led you to your current position as Partner at Speedinvest.

I studied Business Administration in Vienna and California, US. Working for sixteen years with Telekom Austria Group in different Marketing and General Management positions gave me the opportunity to obtain deep experience in the very dynamic Telecoms field. During that time I was the President of the management board of VIPnet, the first private mobile operator in Croatia, heading a team of c. 1100 employees. After the assignment in Croatia I moved back to the Austrian Headquarter, was appointed to several supervisory board functions and signed responsible for the commercial sector of 8 countries. From March 2011, I was heading the corporate sustainability department at OMV AG, one of Austria’s largest listed industrial companies. In summer 2014 I joined Speedinvest. Being a partner of the largest venture capital fund in the CEE region is definitely one of the most exciting positions in my career. To work for and with startups in the digital field is a daily challenge and lots of fun.

Being part of the Austrian TV show for startups (2 Minuten 2 Millionen), have you already invested in one of the statups that presented their idea there? If so – which one and why?

Yes indeed. For Speedinvest I did invest in Wuggl. Wuggl is a mobile measurement tool (app + 3D camera) that enables the weighing of pigs in an easy way without any mechanical scale. To know the exact weight is economically extremely important in pig breeding. We believe that the technology can be used in widespread areas and therefore believe in this innovative software and its potential to scale. Privately I invested in Scoot and Ride – a start-up developing and producing scooters that are as well trainer-bikes.

What kind of startups are most interesting for Speedinvest. Do you have a main focus on specific industries?

Speedinvest is investing exclusively in startups in the digital field. We focus primarily on companies in the field of e-commerce/new media, deep tech and fin-tech. More and more we are also looking into emerging technologies such as robotics, industry 4.0 or agriculture. From the geographical point of view we are especially looking for talents in the CEE-region.

How many investments is Speedinvest doing per year and what is the usual deal size of those investments?

We primarily focus on seedstage-investments with ticket sizes around 300k to 500k. In that area we invest in approximately 10 companies p.a. On top we will invest in some early-stage companies and have some funds for opportunity investments (series A).

What else than just money are you providing to your portfolio companies. Can you give us an actual example of other services, know how or connections provided by Speedinvest that made a difference for one of your portfolio companies?

We are basically never investing solely money – but always work side-by-side with the founders. Some examples are the support in business-development, fundraising or developing the optimal product/marketing fit with the help of a roadshow in the US to better understand the customer need. All our partners at Speedinvest are entrepreneurs with lots of experience in different fields of expertise. We love to co-work with the founders and help them and us to succeed.

Speedinvest recently closed Speedinvest II (1st closing: €58 million). Your investors seem to have a huge amount of trust in Speedinvest. Has Speedinvest already had some profitable exits?

Fortunately Speedinvest 1 is developing very well up until now with already 3 profitable exits.

Beeing a mother and at the same time a successful business women, do you have any practical tips for Mompreneurs? How do you balance your family and work life?

It is a daily struggle and it is exhausting – thats a fact and everything else is simply a lie. But the tip is to be proud and convinced to work and not feeling guilty. We have to be a role model for our kids. I really believe that living a successful and conscious work life makes a better me. And a better me is also a better mum and is important for a great family life.

Unfortunately, female entrepreneurs are still a minority – especially in tech startups. Did Speedinvest invest in a female led startup yet? How could we (Investors, Media, Governmental Organisation) empower and motivate more women in Europe to become entrepreneurs?

Shpock is one of Speedinvest most successful investments and female lead by Katharina Klausberger. „Shpock“ is a the boot sale app for beautiful things nearby. In August 2013 Shibsted came in as an investor, since then they have been on a roll across Europe! In order to push the female quota up we need to develop the self-conception of working mums. That needs changes in politics, educational system and how our society behaves. Is a process that needs time and effort.

Could you recommend our readers one or two books that helped you during your professional career and entrepreneurial endeavors?

I have two small kids – so currently I read a lot of picture books before I fall sleep. But three of my favorite books: “Funky Business – Talent makes Capital dance” by Kjell Nordström, “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Prof Chan Kim and “The second Machine Age” by MIT Professor McAffee.