Jun 27 • 42M

EUVC #188: Sabina Wizander, Partner at Creandum on the VC - Founder relationship.

Join us as we navigate different perspectives from being on the board vs being down in the trenches, uncovering valuable insights.

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Today we're happy to welcome Sabina Wizander, Partner at Creandum, one of Europe’s leading European early-stage VC firms with a portfolio counting the likes of Spotify, Klarna, KRY, Epidemic Sound, and Small Giant Games.

Sabina is a fearless, hands-on, go-getter.

Before joining Creandum, she worked in the C-level team of Kry, one of the fund’s portfolio companies, and as a Consultant at McKinsey in San Francisco. Sabina brings quite a strong operational and analytical background that’s a perfect match for her personality.

Completing her perspective as a VC, Sabina is also a devoted angel investor with a keen passion for Digital Health and Climate Tech companies and a beautiful passion for social change. She’s always up for the challenge and loves to work with social-oriented startups as an advisor.

Today, on the eu.vc podcast, we are joined by Sabina to have a powerful chat.
Here is what’s on our table:

  • Sabina’s journey from founder to angel investor to partner at Creandum

  • Europe & late-stage capital

  • Startup funding — a marathon, not a sprint

  • VC & Founder relationship misconceptions

Now, let’s start getting to know Sabina and get straight to the essence of our discussion.

“Start-up founders are some of the most driven, passionate, and interesting people to me; it's a luxury to get to work with them.”

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A serendipitous journey into VC.

Sabina Wizander's journey into venture capital was serendipitous, far from a predetermined path.

With a background in engineering and math, she initially leaned toward academia before finding herself at McKinsey. There, amidst collaboration and global travels, Sabina's eyes were opened to the transformative power of the tech industry.

Eager to be a part of this world, she ventured into VC.

I didn't know anyone in VC.

I barely knew what VC was, but it felt like a very good mix of getting in touch with this amazing industry of tech.

Although her entry into the field lacked extensive planning, Sabina's stint in VC was short-lived, driven by an undeniable urge to exercise her operational prowess.

However, fate had other plans in store.

So, then I left VC for half a decade only to be drawn back. Back without this grand plan of things.

It was more about the right people telling me the right things at the right time to pull me back into VC.

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Are there too few European growth-stage funds?

That’s our question for today.

Drawing from her firsthand experience as part of the leadership team in a prominent health tech company, Sabina argues that growth is inherently a global market.

For me, as an early-stage investor, I know growth and growth in investing from having been on the other side of the table.

Growth is a global market and most of the companies raising rounds of 50 to 200M EUR, are already operating on it. So, growth doesn’t relate to regional.

Sabina views the scarcity of European growth stage funds as an odd problem, given the abundance of growth stage capital worldwide. While acknowledging that European tech may still be perceived as less mature than American, Sabina believes that the attention on Europe has steadily increased over the past several years.

I think there’s a lot of growth stage capital in the world in general.

I think Europe has a lot of attention, especially right now.

I think the trends are even stronger, both upwards and downwards in.

The ebb and flow of tech cycles may fluctuate, but the trends in the US and Europe reveal contrasting patterns. Ultimately, the later stages of the European ecosystem naturally lag behind their US counterparts as the overall ecosystem continues to evolve.

However, I can see why people think that European growth is more immature, because European venture is more immature than the US equivalent.

European tech is more immature.

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VC — Founder Relationship Misconceptions

I see it as a privilege to be on the fundraising equations. So, I try to remind myself all the time about what the process looks like from the other side.

The biggest gap in the world between an investor and a founder is how and how much the VC can provide actual value to the company.

  • Contrasting Perspectives: VCs and founders often hold different views on the value VCs bring to companies. While investors may believe they have a significant impact, founders may remain skeptical.

  • Truths and Fallacies: Sabina highlights that both investors and founders have valid points and misconceptions about VC's influence. There are truths to the value investors can provide, but there are also limitations to their understanding of the business compared to the founders.

  • Value of Investors: Even without extensive operational experience, investors can offer valuable insights by asking pertinent questions and providing timely advice. Their pattern recognition abilities and broader view of multiple businesses can contribute to strategic decision-making.

  • Founder Support: VCs play a crucial role in supporting founders during prosperous and challenging times. Rather than taking over operations, investors should guide founders towards relevant expertise and trusted advisors.

  • Input Diversity: The presence of multiple perspectives within the board is beneficial. VCs should encourage founders to consider various viewpoints while maintaining their autonomy in decision-making. Diversity in opinions shapes a more comprehensive business strategy.

  • Managing Expectations: VCs need to manage expectations with founders and provide unwavering support, understanding that business growth involves fluctuations. It is essential to offer guidance and empower founders to make informed choices aligned with their vision and values.

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Sabina’s shout-out 💌

A fresh new segment in all of our episodes is the shout-out section, where we ask our guests to send their love to someone in the ecosystem ♥

I would love to give a shout out to a woman named Gloria Barline.

She is a succesful solo GP running Beyond Capital an early-stage fund with 20M EUR in Berlin. It’s been a truly pleasure of seeing her develop as a great operator, taking the best qualities and becoming an even better angel investor.

Sabina knows Gloria from their time together at Clay and has witnessed her progression from an operator to an angel investor and now a successful solo GP.

Gloria is a strong cookie.

She had the guts to embark on the journey to become a solo GP. I think her superpower is obviously being super smary, and has a very intuitive way of seeing which way to go and how business value is created regardless of industries and business models.

She’s The Grand Master.

She sees the company chess board being played out years in advance, and has a strong view whether is a good business.

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Sabina’s Three Core Learnings.

Every episode from now on, we ask our guests to share their three core learnings in venture and life.

1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

It took Sabina years to grasp this concept, but it’s painfully obvious once burned out. She highlights how impatience and ambition can drive one to fill up their time and energy at 150% capacity.

The relentless pursuit of leveling up and reaching the next milestone can take a toll on health and dampen the sense of passion.

Very early in my career, it started to take a toll on my health to run at this true speed. I kept pushing for a very long time.

Although I'm a very passionate person, I think that if you're always running at 150% of your capacity, you'll lose that sense of passion regardless of what you have in your dream job.

2. Crisis makes you the most productive you can be.

A little crisis-induced focus now and then might not be such a bad thing.

Crises force companies to prioritize ruthlessly and make tough decisions. Even though the process may be challenging and have consequences for those affected, Sabina attests that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

3. You need to be human to lead

Parenthood brings a clear top priority that competes with work, and realizing how quickly time flies adds pressure to seize the moment.

Sabina believes that being a good leader requires finding the right balance between infinite opportunism and brutal prioritization.

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🔫 The Quickfire Round 🔫

It wouldn’t be an eu.vc episode without the quickfire round.

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, what book, music album, and luxury item would you bring?

I think in today's digital age, albums have become less prominent unless you're a true music enthusiast. However, if I were stranded on an island, I'd definitely want some uplifting folk music to keep my spirits high in the midst of complete isolation.

Perhaps First Aid Kit's tunes would be perfect for that purpose. As for a book, I'd opt for a hefty historical novel — preferably a meticulously researched 1200-page tome. It would provide both entertainment and intellectual stimulation to keep me engaged for a long time.

Of course, I wouldn't forget to bring along a trusty notebook and pen for journaling. When thoughts become chaotic, I find solace in organizing them on paper, so having these tools would be essential for me on this solitary adventure.

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Q: What advice would you give your 10 year younger self?

If I thought I would be able to internalize it 10 years ago, it would definitely be that your career is a maratho, not a sprint. Don’t sweat on the small stuff.

My younger self was awake at night for so many small thing, that in the end didn’t made a difference. The sooner you internalize this, the fewew gray hairs you’ll have.

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Q: What are your top tips for emerging VCs across Europe who are fundraising?

It’s an extra difficult time.

Not only for founders, but VCs also face a period of time with big corrections coming in. Unfortunately, I think it will have an impact on especially some of the younger funds out in Europe long term.

Both entrepreneur to VC and VC to LP is one thing and that is just do what you said you would, you were gonna do.

That's all. You don't need to over-deliver on your promises. If you consistently deliver on what you said you would do, that's worth everything for someone putting their money on you.

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Q: What’s the most counterintuitive thing you’ve learned in VC?

We’re an industry full of impatient people. Everything is urgent.

Right now, especially, there are so many early-stage investors in Europe. There are always gonna be more and greater investors that want to do what you currently do.

While it’s a job, remember it’s also a long-term game, and here comes the difficult balance. As VC, you need to run on urgent thing, but also back-off to check your perspective for long-term. It’s gonna take years before you get feedback on whether you've taken the right decisions or not.

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