This year The Daily Telegraph listed their top 100 most influential tech investors in Europe. Coming in at number three was Michael A. Jackson, ‘an American Entrepreneur turned investor living in Europe, who is “currently travelling around the European startup ecosystem, looking for his next awesome opportunity”.’
We caught up with Michael to find out just how to make it as a VC. He says you “should have startup experience and then build up a relationship with investors and then join a team. In Europe they look at business profiles which is why VC in Europe is not good. VC in Europe only five or six positions become available a year. In the UK all VCs went to Oxbridge and in France they are went to École Polytechnique or HEC.”
When Michael looks at an investment, it is “90% team”. He is currently looking at investing in an e-commerce market place for designer home goods and a social platform for services for immigrants, “anything not dependent on one country in the EU. I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. Platforms or marketplaces are incredibly frictionless as you are just providing the point of transaction.”
So why is this American VC in Europe and not in the U.S.? Michael explains that Europe is incredibly underfunded and valuations are cheap compared to the U.S. Innovation is also heavily undervalued. “There is a great deal of opportunity in the Baltic regions, in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Berlin is the hottest spot for startups in Europe which you have to see as a whole continent.”
Having been an entrepreneur back in the U.S. and completing his undergrad at NYU he set up a back-end e-commerce startup website in New York at the end of the last internet bubble and sold his company to a VC firm.
He then became Entrepreneur in Residence at this VC firm before launching another start-up and joining Draper Fisher Jurvetson (one of the biggest VC firms) on their early stage investment team. Here he was involved with investments into Skype.
Michael was by now “approaching 30 and getting bored of America. I have family in UK and France so thought I would come to Europe for a three months sabbatical. Three months became six months and whilst I was in Paris I thought I might as well learn something.”
Michael enrolled on the MBA at HEC Paris, “a major benefit of an MBA in Europe is the network it provides you with.” Michael says his two MBA years were a blast and that being older you get to appreciate the experience of being a student.
But his key advice is “if you want to get into VC is set up a startup and know the startup scene inside out. You have to know a space entirely, with domain expertise in certain areas.”
After graduating from his HEC Paris in 2009 Michael moved to London to work at Advent Venture Partners but has since left the fund and is now angel investing and sitting on board seats. Who knows where his next investments will be....
I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.
Internationality and diversity of opportunities
About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.
Great selection of people
While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.
Best in France for Grande ecole
A prestigious business school. Languages are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.
Diversity and quality of fellow students
Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.
The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs
The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.
HEC Paris awaits you
HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.
A dream institute
Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!