He has the visible confidence of a man who’s seen the European tech scene evolve from much before start-ups became fashionable and cool. As a veteran entrepreneur and angel investor in many of Europe’s leading ventures since the early 2000s like vpod.tv, Rodrigo Sepúlveda Schulz (INSEAD MBA ‘02J) also has the intuition of a hawk when it comes to picking out the right people, apart from using an exhaustive methodology for stress testing a business plan’s viability.
“I have seen over 3000 entrepreneurs so far. It’s like going to the gym. If you do it every single day, you start getting better. When you see an entrepreneur and you spot them, some have it and some don’t have it. I can’t describe it… Some can be shy tech founders, others can be super sellers.”
From INSEAD to Expon Capital
Rodrigo started his entrepreneurial journey in INSEAD during the popular Realizing Entrepreneurial Potential class, which led his team to bid for an actual porcelain company based in Limoges, France. Following INSEAD, among the highlights of Rodrigo’s entrepreneurial journey includes heading up (and successfully exiting) one of the leading video-on-demand companies in Europe of its time, Glowria.
Currently Rodrigo is the Founding Partner of Expon Capital (‘Expon’ being short for exponential), a prominent Luxembourg based VC firm. They just closed their second fund (Expon 1; $80M+) about two months ago and have 3 companies in their current portfolio.
Expon Capital and Exponentiality
Expon prefer to invest in early stage ventures (post-MVP, pre-Series A) and have a worldwide scope (“We believe innovation can come from anywhere, be it Chennai or Tallinn”). However, apart from using a typical, rigorous 12-step VC analysis to size up a business plan, central to Expon Capital’s criteria for the kind of technology they invest in is the potential for exponential growth. Based on Moore’s law and developed as a concept by Singularity University, exponentiality was popularized in Salim Ismail’s book Exponential Organizations.
“We decided to use Salim’s framework to analyse businesses and only bet on exponentially growing companies, hence we’re called Expon Capital. With exponentially growing companies we should shorten the time we have. to sell these companies on the market”
Listen to Rodrigo talking about the concept of Exponential Organizations here!
As someone who sees a very large number of pitches, Rodrigo also had some pro-tips for those with entrepreneurial ambitions:
- Send everything to VCs in one go when you contact them: Executive Summaries, decks and other materials. You want to maximize impact
- Do your homework rigorously and make sure you have all the holes plugged in your business plan. VCs have very limited time and are looking to say NO
- Be ready to sweat and not be in it for the money. Many founders don’t pay themselves much for many years until they make it big
- Tone down the arrogance about your elite MBA – while it will help you in the longer run, but many people from other lesser known schools/non-B-school students are doing great things, while being more humble, more tech savvy and less expensive
- Lack of integrity is perhaps the biggest red flag – if VCs smell that you’re hiding something, you’re out
We sincerely thank Rodrigo for his time and inspiration! Follow him on Twitter here!