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Industrifonden, leading venture capital firm in Sweden

This interview was held by Burak Buyukdemir and the article is written by Nardine B. M’barek, contributor author at Startup Turkey

An interview with Mr. John Sjolander

John Sjolander is an investment manager. He graduated from the Göteborg University in 2005. Since then, he occupied various important positions among different companies including working with Adfenix since 2017, a Board Observer with Soundtrap AB since 2017, as well as a member of the Board of Directors with Fast Travel Games since 2017 too. He joined Industrifonden in 2015. This interview was conducted by Mr. Burak Buyukdemir, a VC, and the CEO of Etohum, a Turkish accelerator program.

Mr. John Sjolander is a Sweden-based Investment Manager who had and still has various important positions among many companies. We had the wonderful opportunity to interview Mr. Sjolander, and get some pieces of information regarding what he is doing currently and about his future projects. Mr. Sjolander was very welcoming and accepted our interview request quickly enough for us to prepare certain questions.

He has been working at Industrifonden as an Investor Manager for the last three years with a team composed of eight wonderful members including himself. They divided themselves into two teams; a 4-people team who invests in technology, and the other team invests in life sciences. The company’s focus are mainly Swedish companie and they do not invest in Europe or any other part of the world, that is why 95% of their total investments are in Swedish companies. The other 5% of their investment is reserved to Nordic, non-Swedish companies who usually have a strong connection with Sweden, or Swedish companies as a whole.

Industrifonden is a leading venture capital firm based in Stockholm. They back ambitious teams with bold visions and a drive to make a real difference. It is an evergreen fund of € 650 Million, and invest around € 40 to € 50 Million annually in four to six companies. When it comes to the technology team, they invest between € 1 and € 4 Million, while the life science team does fewer investments but has larger tickets. They think more about the stage and the ticket size since the fact that they are Evergreen allows them to not have a specific allocation, and to rather be a late seeds or an early series A. As a team, they have got no mandate about stage although they have got a limited budget and a reduced team size, that is why they are late seed to early series A investors. However, their mandate is to specifically promote Swedish interest and companies as well as entrepreneurship through mainly investing in Swedish companies.

When being asked about what he thinks of his job as an entrepreneur and investor, Mr. John Sjolander thinks that this job is the hardest he has ever had, however, it is the most fun one as well. He admitted that he made mistakes, like everyone does. But, the hard part is to understand quick enough that it is a mistake and make sure to amend it as soon as possible which makes learning easier. When it comes to their Startups’ selection process, everyone is welcome to contact Industrifonden, especially if they are a B2B company based in Sweden since, as we said, their main goal is to promote Swedish companies.

Industrifonden today could be considered as Sweden’s oldest and largest VC, and the estimated number of companies that they have invested in could be higher than a thousand company since 1979, which makes them have a very extensive network of people and startups. The best way to contact them is to talk to someone of their network and make them introduce you to Industrifonden. However, before trying to contact them, you should make sure that you have the criteria they look for in startups they would invest in. You will also need to be not only smart, but have a good business idea and a lot of potential to execute that idea.

They also look for entrepreneurs with whom they will most likely have a long term relationship of 7 to 10 years, or even more. According to Mr. Sjolander, you need to be a humble and good person, who is willing to do a good job and who is curious about the world. Mr. Sjolander told us that their favorite companies to invest in are B2B companies who have early traction and who have things to prove. They currently have nearly 9 investments in B2B companies alone. They also like deep and nanotechnology. Mr. John looks specifically for Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain, although he has not done any investment in these two fields yet, but he thinks that they are highly interesting and have a lot of potential.

Compared to the last five years, the European Ecosystem has changed. Especially in Stockholm, it has been really exciting and crazy in the last few years. However, Mr. Sjolander does not think that this is going to last. The major difference according to him is that internet is ten times bigger now than it used to be before. Nonetheless, this will not continue, it will shift later on, and also thinks that startups should raise as much money as they could right now because a year from now, the world’s funding is going to collapse and not all startups will be able to survive.

11 March 2019

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