Sending out an SOS: €70 million to 150 start-UPS to help save the world

  • Sending out an SOS: €70 million to 150 start-UPS to help save the world
    Independent.t. E.
    Sean O’sullivan has a limited amount of sympathy for Elon Musk. Irish-American tech investor who is sitting on top of one of the most active venture capital firms in the world from the perspective of the startups covered, talking to me the day after Musk the financial world went mad a tweet about “taking Tesla Private”.
    https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/sending-out-an-sos-70m-for-150-startups-to-help-save-the-world-37220408.html
    https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/article37220406.ece/b23aa/AUTOCROP/h342/2018-08-16_bus_43255706_I1.JPG

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Sean O’sullivan has a limited amount of sympathy for Elon Musk. Irish-American tech investor who is sitting on top of one of the most active venture capital firms in the world from the perspective of the startups covered, talking to me the day after Musk the financial world went mad a tweet about “taking Tesla Private”.

“I think he’s worried about all these players that try to humiliate and attack a company for their purposes,” says 54-year-old, who divides his time between cork, London and new Jersey.

“He seems a little arrogant like he was going to do it, but I have a huge admiration for what he’s doing from the point of view of the transformation in global warming.”

O’sullivan, ‘Dragons’ Den’ TV judge who made his first real chunk of money 20 years ago, growing the street-mapping company mapinfo in public 200 million Euro firm, was worthy of himself to work in recent months.

His Fund of €300m SOSV just committed murder on an American bike-sharing startup jump, bikes.

In April, uber bought the jump for 200 million euros. SOSV belongs 20pcs startup, taking part in a round of angel funding of 1 million euros four years ago and the subsequent series a round of €8 million in January this year (where he was one of nine investors).


‘Dragons’ Den’ entrepreneurs

“We received a huge return from it,” says O’sullivan. “The jump was bought by uber for a couple of hundred million dollars. This is an example where we’ve invested a lot of money and even more money”.

He also made the crypto-currency, though it’s not a major investment sector for your Fund. SOSV is a supporter of Bitmex, the largest Bitcoin exchange in the world.

“We have not made that many bets in the area, but it does extremely well,” he says.

“I think that all three of the founder Arthur Hayes, Ben Dolo and Samuel reed] are now billionaires. Bitmex is the number one trading Platform crypto, regular trades five to 10 times more than its competitors”.

Indeed, Bitmex has surpassed the trading volume of one million Bitcoin in 24 hours earlier this month, estimated at about 6 billion euros. The cost of the company is estimated at just under €4 billion.

“In some lists, we’re the fourth most active investor in blockchain, so we are pretty active in this. But that is a small proportion of our investments may be, 3pcs,” he says.

Consolidation cash number of personal O’sullivan fit for those who care, is elusive.

Rival rich lists published by the national Irish Newspapers have estimated it in the range of 100 million Euro and 250 million Euro over the past five years. But O’sullivan argues that it is not the money that motivates them.

“I really wasn’t supposed to work since my first company became known many decades ago,” he says.

“Now it’s really a chance for us to help form a new industry, to try to create new opportunities for people on the planet.”

A personal impulse that informs this motivation, especially in biotechnology and natural Sciences.

“My son is autistic, and my mother died from Alzheimer’s,” he says. “We have this area to create new opportunities on the equipment side of the life Sciences, where we could have new medicines and mechanisms to diagnose.

“We do a lot of investments in those areas that we believe can make a difference. So Yes, there is a personal tinge to it now.”

One of the side effects backing, so many startups with a relatively small amount of backing is that O’sullivan seems to be inclined to stretch his horizons beyond the predictable software and FINTECH plays that most Irish investors limited.

“We have supported all new industries,” he says. “Take the cell of agriculture. We helped pioneer. For example, a company we launched in Ireland, Moofree [now called perfect day, producing milk without a cow. Is synthetic biology to produce animal products without animals. “We’ve done quite a lot of companies in this area.”

SOSV referred to by analysts and the specialized press (for example, the journal nature biotechnology’) as one of the most active investors in such alternative biotechnological industries.

One of its recently created funds IndieBio, and EUR 25 million pot set up to look for promising young companies in the form of Moofree.

O’sullivan also reserves a small additional investment funds for unusually promising bets that he identificeret.

One such bet Synthex, a San Francisco startup biotechnology that O’sullivan believes could significantly advance medical science in some types of cancer.

“This is a very promising cancer therapeutic that came out of our program Indie Bio,” he says. “She has shown positive results in early stage studies for pancreatic cancer, and there are some very good signs for other usually fatal cancers. We took the external bet on it, they raise a new round of $30m [€26.4 m]”.

In addition to personal reasons, O’sullivan and other ethical considerations, he argues that it does not matter.

“We are a big leader on gender issues, often takes number one or two in the venture capital industry from the point of view of the number of companies we are again with a female founder.

“Between 36pcs and 38pc of our team have at least one founder is a woman, which is better than the industry average”.

To be fair, it is. Recently the Irish Independent, the study showed that the 15pcs companies in obtaining venture capital in Ireland in the past year had one or more female co-founder.

The study also revealed that only 3pc of venture funding allocated to Irish technology start-UPS went to women-founded firm.

O’sullivan was an interesting path to where he is now. He grew up in a poor family in new York, one of nine children. He ate in school and College, before graduating with an electrical engineering degree to focus on programming.

In the end, he has founded and built a street-mapping company called MapInfo, which went to make it nearly $20 million $200 million public offering in mid-1990-ies.

Since then, he has created a huge career as a business angel, backing companies such as Japanese (‘guitar hero’) and Netflix.

Rules SOSV relations with a focus on small, early stage companies. This, O’sullivan believes, is more natural than the Union of EUR 100 million in an advanced technology company that is a large share of the market. It is also SOSV in Hyper-active categories, the extent to which the volume of portfolio companies goes.

“What we do to launch global network of accelerators, which attract about 4000 or more applications from budding startups, as a rule, in deep high-tech industries,” he says. “We then sifted through these applications and try to identify the 150 the rising stars of the new Millennium, giving them some capital and dedicating some staff to them.”

On average, this amounts to about €300 000 for each firm.

“Each year, we invest about 50 million euros,” he says. “Saying that the new Fund will grow to approximately EUR 70 million, even if we keep the same number of startups.”

The industries that SOSV focuses mainly around medical devices, robotics, life science, and other equipment.

“It’s usually around €150,000 for a first investment to a maximum of approximately EUR 5 million,” says O’sullivan.

One of the reasons why he focused on angel-stage investments of larger venture capital rounds that he didn’t believe in a lot of B series and events really more about venture capital.

“The gate is not passed completely,” he says. “You see the big players of private capital in already established companies, which should not be considered startups at all. They are more than 10 000 people. In a normal Universe, You don’t believe that to be the VC at all.

“I think that the normal investment portfolio is 20 to 40 companies. But the industry is now awash with capital. You now have Control of HQs € 2 billion, where the average check size should be 40 million to 50 million euros.

“Now that you’re not backing early stage startups, you only get a part of a company that already makes millions in income and you private capital player.”

Regrets? It has a few. He was an early supporter of Netflix and Apple. But when it seemed that they were doing well, he took the win.

“Financially I would be a multi-billionaire if I had just stayed still a few shares,” he says with a smile.

“I had a reasonable position in Amazon too. I still have significant positions in those companies.

“I’m not nervous about Netflix because of the price gap and earnings, but the value they produce is so strategic, it is certainly one of the most important companies for entertainment.”

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