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....