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Interview Aurore Belfrage
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Aurore Belfrage

How did you get your business idea?

That wasn’t the hardest part, the challenge in many types of startups is not finding your idea, it is to start talking about it, to have the courage to communicate it and formulate it. It is also combining the vision of where you want it to go and at the same time being very humble and transparent about it.

As an investor, I like to focus on the people who are ready and have the ability to take their ideas to the next level.

What was the main drive that pushed you to start your business?

It is the fact of not having an option, the opportunity was so exciting and so interesting. I was so curious to find out where this will go and take me. I took a risk, but I had to find out how big this could be so in reality, you just got to take a decision. And jump.

I used to have a strong sense of what you should or are supposed to do, so as a teenager I did everything by the book and then I realized that if you don’t take charge of what you want to do and play to your strengths and joy and curiosity, you can’t create much.

What was your biggest fear before starting up?  How did you overcome it?

We live in a society of storytelling and it makes life easier if your story can be told and understood in your environment. The example at hand is “Entrepreneurs are Heroes” vs a world where “Entrepreneurs are just between real jobs”

My biggest fear has not been around ‘will I succeed?’ but how will I manage to focus enough to get enough things done in a very short period of time. There is so much to do and so many exciting things to do.

I have learned in the last six years how to prioritize.

May of this year we announced a fund of 566 million Euros, we’ll be multistage, focusing on European software enabled global winners across verticals.

How do you describe your core business activity and what’s the key value you offer to your customer?

Currently I am in an investor space, meeting and discussing scale up and growth with amazing entrepreneurs and founding teams across Europe. We have a great team of operators that have recently build businesses. You could say we are half VC and half startup…. Our aim is to be the VC we would have wanted when we were raising capital.

What’s your perception for businesses on the “web”?

The size and the scope of opportunity are huge. Every sector is going through digital transformation. The amount of opportunities is tremendous (Government, education, health, etc.). By 2020, 30 billion items will be connecting by what we call “Internet of things”.

Many companies need to take the next step and understand the risks and opportunity of technology and digitalization. In the same time, the innovative startup ecosystem needs to jack in and connect with the transformation in the sectors in order to find new digital partners or new ways of doing business.

Innovation is borderless, not necessarily in Silicon Valley; the opportunity exists in Stockholm, in Beirut, in Amman. It is important to have the infrastructure right and it is important to pull the resources and have the courage and drive to rethink sectors using digitalization.

What are the key strategies you use to expand your business over the web?

From a business point of view, it’s about finding efficiencies in distribution, in addressing your clients, managing data as well as creating new services and new products within this context and artificial intelligence and machine learning. It’s hard to tell how big this is but it is there!

What do you look when recruiting an employee?

Identifying a talent is realizing who has the ideas, who has the ability to push the boundaries and continue, having the strength to carry on. Vision and Execution, and a whole lot of perseverance and patience. Building a business from scratch is the most exhilarating thing you can do and the scariest thing ever. The team is the key in the startup ecosystem, it continues to be true because it is the composition of the people and what they are made of that determines success.

How many employees do you currently have? And how do you describe your management style?

We are a team of 22. Given the previous statement, you need to give freedom to build so setting a vision of where we want to go and what is the outcome in terms of emotional and digital impact that are quite different. The emotional impact is why and how we are here, everyone needs to buy in and be empowered by everyone in the team, to be energized by the ‘why’ of the company. Communication is more around that. It’s to create a joint direction that everyone believes into.

How do you describe yourself with 3 keywords?

Curious, stubborn and positive

What’s your favorite part of your business, and why?

The favorite part of my business right now is that we have launched something we truly believe in, we have created a venture capital fund exactly the way we have wanted it when we first started our businesses.

A team that genuinely understands tech and how to build businesses!

A misconception in the industry is that the capital is the stronger party in the ecosystem, but the reality is that the strong founding teams that are on their way to being global winners, they chose the capital, not the other way around.

As a VC we take pride in pitching our services to founders and hope to find a partnership.

What made you choose this type of business?

It’s the combination of an existing team with an ambitious goal and a huge opportunity. And back to the first question where we started, I could not, not do it!

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

The combination of realizing where your strengths and challenges are and find something that generally excite you and builds it with people smarter than you and who you respect and built in a strong foundation.

My advice is ‘do it’ and solve a problem you understand and excites you.

My general statement here is finding people in a similar state of mind pushes you. Any type of contact where you see similar energies is good.

The challenge with startup hubs is that they can create a overreliance and there are modules for x,y,z, makes it feels like school. I am seeing more, people relaxing in the sheltered environment of hubs and incubators and that is dangerous and doesn’t reflect reality. A startup entails doing a lot of work; you have to build your business, you have to understand the target audience, you have to recruit the people, you have to build your vision, you have to live with your fears, you have to manage your excitement and you’ll learn so many things that you never thought you’ll learn. And you ARE the motor. Never think that an accelerator or an incubator will do that for you.

I would like to add that there are so many things left to do in our space. The power of tech, the opportunities that lies ahead of us means that there’s a lot of value to be created, a lot of fun to have and I am proud if I can contribute in any way in that.