Britt Schuurs – Ascending the Investment Spectrum
Britt and I met for breakfast at The Berkeley (highly recommend for a fancy quiet breakfast!) to talk about how she ended up in finance, her move from banking to growth investing and what makes an exceptional entrepreneur. She is an associate at Summit Partners, a leading growth equity firm who has backed the likes of Darktrace, vente-privee and UBER.
Current Job Associate at Summit Partners
First Job Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs focusing on European software and internet companies
Go to meeting spot Ace Hotel in Shoreditch
Favourite podcast The Economist
Necessary extravagance I have an extremely short commute to work – a 20 minute walk and I grab a coffee on my way. No tube for me!
Favourite place in London Marlyebone
Top networking tip Be comfortable, confident and open about meeting new people
How and why did you enter the investment paradigm?
I studied in Amsterdam and there it’s natural for people to start their own businesses. I started my own consulting company at the age of 21, whilst I was still studying. But it was when I joined Goldman Sachs and started working with a lot of investors and tech firms that I really got interested and decided I wanted to work on the investment side with companies who offer disruptive technology.
What has been your biggest challenge?
I think the biggest challenge in this industry is to be patient. VC or private equity is a long term career. You learn a lot in your first years but after that it takes a lot of time and experience to develop the skills to identify good companies and become an all-round investor. It’s important to see companies through the entire investment cycle, including an exit, which in some cases can take up to 10+ years. Also in terms of communication with the entrepreneur – one becomes more considered with time.
What are your future ambitions?
I have found an industry that I really like and in which I plan to stay. I like the financial side and love working with entrepreneurs. So probably staying in growth/venture investing, or perhaps starting my own business one day.
Tell us about Summit Partners
Summit was founded in the 80s which makes us one of the longest established growth capital investors. We are currently investing more than $7.2 billion in capital, invested in over 430 companies, and have offices in Boston, London and Menlo Park. Our focus is to partner with visionary entrepreneurs to help them accelerate their growth, either as a minority or majority shareholder. We offer a bunch of on-demand value-add services including recruitment and operations teams to help entrepreneurs effectively scale their business. We tend to invest at a later stage compared to VCs – our target investment range is $10 million to $500 million.
Could you elaborate on your investment thesis and what stands out to you when assessing early stage companies?
We are focused on backing exceptional entrepreneurs building exciting companies. We are interested in a growth industry with a sizeable market opportunity, and best-in-class unit economics. We are often minority investors, so whether we feel comfortable backing the team is very important to us. We also need to have great conviction about the technology and its ability to disrupt an industry.
What techniques, mindsets or skills do entrepreneurs have that result in a large part of their success?
The best entrepreneurs are adaptive and always willing to change. They respond to situations quickly and are happy to let go of an idea if necessary.
What technology trends excite you right now?
Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are going to disrupt the world (and are already doing so!). For example, in the field of cyber security, one of our UK-based portfolio companies called Darktrace uses artificial intelligence to analyse network activity and detect abnormal threat behaviours inside enterprise networks. When we initially invested in July 2015, the company had around 80 employees. We have supported them in scaling up to over 270 globally since then to meet the huge demand for their technology.
Women in Tech
What tips would you share with female founders looking to raise finance?
It’s really sad, but I rarely speak with female founders! When I do I find women usually very honest and considerate – it’s a great quality. If women are raising funding, they tend to be much more precise than men and consider in more detail what is required. They shoot from the hip less!! My advice to female founders raising financing would be “believe in yourself and your business, and go for it!”. And be critical when choosing an investor.
What business support networks do you value
I go to a lot of network events – I particularly like Level 20. It’s a group of 12 women who work in VC and private equity. Their goal is to increase the number of women in senior positions to 20% by 2020. The investment community is still very male dominated and that needs to change. Investing is a great industry for women and we need more women in more senior positions to act as role models. I’m convinced better diversity will ultimately lead to better investment performance!
The views expressed herein are those of Britt Schuurs and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Summit Partners, L.P. or its affiliates.