Inventure’s dedication to Talent and the next wave of Nordic ventures
Mar 29th, 2021 – Our Co-founder and Managing Partner Sami Lampinen writes about the next wave of Nordic ventures obsessed with Talent and Expansion, and how Inventure is investing more and more into Talent and our own Expansion team.
I’ve now spent almost a quarter of a century working in Nordic venture capital. At first in Capman and then from 2005 onwards in Inventure, each new wave of entrepreneurs and each portfolio company have impressed me and taught me more than the previous one. The early operating models of the late 90s software startups are a millennium away from the playbooks of hyper-growth scaleups of 2021. As the speed of change accelerates it is super exciting to work with the next wave of Nordic and Baltic ventures and drive Inventure through the 2020s.
The common denominators that differentiate the next wave of Nordic ventures
There have been two especially important common denominators between the biggest success stories we’ve worked with in the most recent years: Expansion and Talent. The best companies of today aren’t only passionate about building a lovable product for a huge market and solving a problem they deeply care about. They are at least as obsessed when it comes to iterating on and perfecting the right model to scale the team to capture new markets rapidly.
Take Wolt as an example. Wolt launched in 2015 in Helsinki with 10 restaurants, when many would have judged it too late to the market. When Wolt announced its record-breaking funding round earlier this year, it had expanded to 23 countries and 129 cities, including many markets where competitors hadn’t succeeded in. In just five years the headcount grew to over 2,200. Or Swappie. From a team of two and a single home market of Finland in 2017, the company has expanded into 10+ countries and racked up a revenue of 98 million euros in 2020, with a headcount of 500.
Being able to build and ship the first or best product in the market is not enough if your competitors beat you to building more scalable organizations that win the race over the long-term in the remaining markets. Whether it’s a neat country-level competition driven heavily from the HQ-country, or a more local rivalry fought and won street by street, the founders and Expansion teams from our portfolio will tell you that finding the initial product/market fit is definitely just Day 1. The teams poised for the 1000s don’t just have a brilliant founding team that keeps attracting and compounding brilliant people around them, but they also start shifting focus on and investing heavily into Talent in a structured way. They also do it earlier than their competitors who will sooner or later struggle with not having the focus and foundations in place early enough for rapid scaling later.
Inventure’s dedication to Talent
Since the launch of our Fund III, one of our key goals has been to build and strengthen a dedicated team to help our portfolio companies on the things that truly matter, with a growing focus on Talent and Expansion. We’ve also termed it the Expansion team since they work together with the investment manager to help the company execute an Expansion plan needed to take the company from the previous round of funding to the next one.
The strong results from our Expansion team and the feedback from our entrepreneurs have made it clear that Andrea has been focusing on the right things these past three years. Thus there couldn’t be a better example of why and how we’ve decided to invest more into Talent and Expansion, than our recent addition to the Expansion team – our Head of Talent Ryan Savage.
Ryan has almost 20 years of experience in HR and recruiting from the US and the Nordics. In the US, Ryan worked for giants like JP Morgan Chase and IPG Mediabrands, and since his tenure in the Nordics, he’s focused exclusively on hyper-growth technology startups. It was actually his work at the before-mentioned Wolt and Swappie, that caught our eye.
As Wolt’s Head of Talent, he helped scale the hiring and lead the talent expansion into the Nordic and Baltic countries and built out the initial HR and recruiting foundations. At Swappie, Ryan advised the founders on how to build out a talent department, recruited key personnel for it, and trained them on the best practices for scaling recruiting and HR. In addition to Wolt and Swappie, Ryan has served as a talent executive and consultant to other high-growth companies like Yousician and Compensate.
Data from our portfolio operations, frequent conversations and in-depth interviews with our entrepreneurs have confirmed that talent is the biggest and most common issue of early-stage companies. Whether it’s ‘talent debt’ stacking up in the form of smaller practices that nobody has the experience to set up, low ownership and focus on scaling company culture, or cracking under the social pressure of having the hard conversations, people issues are often the issues that keep entrepreneurs up at night.
“…people issues are often the issues that keep entrepreneurs up at night.”
Rarely do you have a talent executive as experienced as Ryan being an early employee or a member of the founding team, and too often do startups look for the advice of one too late in the game. The work that Ryan has already pulled off – helping portfolio companies like Insurello, Material Exchange and Stealth Black, on topics ranging from recruiting to ESOP or how to organize a product team – has only strengthened our conviction and dedication. Talent and Expansion will differentiate the crest of the next wave of Nordic ventures, and the learnings and expertise from our existing portfolio and Expansion team position Inventure to ride that wave through the 2020s.
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive Insights and best practices on Talent and Expansion from our Expansion team members like Ryan or from our portfolio companies like Wolt and Swappie. If you’re interested in 1on1 sparring on talent issues with Ryan, apply for a slot in our Talent Office Hours.