Oct 21, 2013 Reetta Heiskanen
In November 2010 one of the world’s top angel investors, Aydin Senkut travelled to Helsinki to attend to Slush. One of the companies present at Slush was Rovio that had launched Angry Birds just a year before.
Senkut is the Founder and Managing Partner of Felicis Ventures. Recently he has been named as one of the top 25 tech angels by Businessweek. In the last five years, more than 46 Felicis backed start-ups have been acquired by firms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.
While in Helsinki, Senkut noticed that Slush is a great opportunity to network with companies and investors. It was at the Cable Factory where he also met up with one of the owners and chairman at Rovio Kaj Hed and CMO Peter Vesterbacka.
From slushy Helsinki, the collaboration sparked off well. By March 2011, Rovio had raised $ 42 million in venture capital funding from Accel Partners and Atomico and one more company – Felicis Ventures.
Senkut saw a huge potential in Rovio. He is not underestimating the importance of Slush on his investment: ”The contacts I made during Slush 2010 proved critical for the Felicis Ventures investment in Rovio”, he tells in October 2013.
Slush got the opportunity to interview Aydin Senkut before he is coming to Slush again this November. Following his investment in Rovio which came together at Slush, let’s find out what he is looking for this time.
Aydin, why do you keep coming to Slush and Helsinki?
“I’m very impressed with the quality of Scandinavian founders and also feel that Slush presents awesome networking opportunities.”
What kind of startups are you interested in at Slush this year?
“I’m interested in three key areas this year: mobile (cloud) enterprise, marketplaces and any technology that feels like it came straight from Star Trek but is real today, so that we can see or use a prototype at least. While Finnish startups Rovio and Supercell are current stars, I’m coming to see if there is a new hero on the block.”
Why did you invest in Rovio after Slush 2010?
“We knew beforehand that if one was serious about mobile as we were in 2010, gaming was the most important segment within mobile. Rovio was at the time a very special and unique gaming company that was topping the mobile charts, but more importantly the team had a big vision and they made really challenging things look trivial – like making the game run on six mobile platforms, which very few companies were capable of at the time.”
How many companies do you invest in per year?
“15-25 per year.”
What is it that you look for in a company? Why did you invest on Brightroll, Shopify, Practice Fusion for example?
“The company must have an awesome, compelling product vision and the raw horsepower to become an iconic company in their field. I look for founders that are simply obsessed with building an amazing product and will shatter any obstacle on their way to do so.”
In the history of Felicis Ventures, your biggest exit was when Cisco bought Meraki for $ 1.2 billion. What was it that made Meraki so interesting at the time?
“The founders worked at Google and I had off the chart references on them and found them incredibly smart. While I didn’t have as much experience in hardware, I could immediately get the value of the product they were building and how they used technology to solve a really critical problem that mattered to a very large number of people.”
Before Felicis Ventures you worked as Senior Manager at Google. What did you learn when working there?
“The importance of saying no often to save time to do few things well. Thinking in 10x terms, meaning that you should always be striving to do things an order of magnitude better, faster and cheaper.
Our own minds can be our worst enemy sometimes, we need to think and dream bigger, out of the box.”
Have you ever invested on an absolutely crazy idea?
“Yes, we invested as a team in a drone operating system company as well as a company that can print synthetic DNA on demand.”
What inspires you at the moment?
“If we already are able to shatter the disbelief that a private start-up like SpaceX can build a re-usable rocket or a focused team can produce a self driving car than what else is out there we should be backing now that will be transformative?
I’m convinced that the level of technological breakthroughs coming soon will be orders of magnitude higher in number.”
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