The 10-Minute Interview – Business Angel Stefan Glaenzer

Stefan Glaenzer Entrepreneur turned Business Angel

Stefan Glaenzer Entrepreneur turned Business Angel

Stefan is London-based entrepreneur and angel investor from Germany. He is the co-founder of companions.de, companionsTV, ricardo.de and myblog.de.

He is also the founding investor and executive Chairman of Mendeley.com and RjDj.me and has been in the same role at Last.fm.

After deciding to invest ‘a few hundred thousand’ in Last.fm this turned into a £22 million profit following its sale to CBS in 2007.  Stefan is a firm believer in European entrepreneurship and remains an active business angel. Outside of his business interests he holds a PhD in foreign exchange risk management and was a professional DJ for 15 years.

How long have you been a business angel?
My first experience as an angel investor was from 2000-2004. In 2005 I stopped investing to focus the vast majority of my time to helping build Last.fm. When we sold it in 2007, I became a full time angel again.

What attracted you towards becoming an angel investor?
It’s a function of age I’m afraid – pretty much the same reason why a football player evolves into a manager position. I love working on innovative ideas, and being an angel gives you more of an portfolio approach instead of putting all your eggs in one basket.

How has your background as an entrepreneur helped you in becoming a successful angel investor?
Even though I’m acting as an investor, my heart still is on the entrepreneurial side. Having been so long on the other side of the table gives a lot of insight in to what these companies are trying to achieve.

What types of business do you invest in?

As long as it is digital and has the potential to change the world I’m up for it. I love to invest early stage and like marketplaces, databases, music…..and revolutionary ideas

Have you made any mistakes along the way?
Any? Plenty! More than I can think of actually. I have passed on some hugely successful companies, invested in really bad companies, invested too early … just to name a few.

We are led to believe that angel investors invest close to home, so what made you travel all the way from Germany and become a business angel in the UK?

Home is where your heart is – and my heart is in Europe. London (even though it’s not on the continent) is certainly the best place to start a digital business in Europe, given the diversity of people, the access to capital and the international culture.

The business angel community in the UK is small compared to the US how does it compare to the size of the business angel community in Germany?
We are a couple of decades behind the US when it comes to successful venture investing, regardless of whether you are comparing it to the UK, Germany, France or Scandinavia. The main difference with Germany is certainly the decentral structure of doing business compared to other countries. You do have a lot of business angels in Germany, but they are distributed over the whole country.

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  • Neil Lewis
    Stefan is a fascinating example of how an entrepreneur becomes a business angel – and, at the same time, can add huge value to younger or less experienced entrepreneurs…
  • Neil Lewis
    Stefan is a great example of an entrerpeneur turned business angel. It is really interesting to see how a successful venture then leads to an portfolio approach to investing.

    I wonder, given that it is inevitable that business angels pass up on great opportunities and sometimes pick losers – what does an ex-entrepreneur need to learn to make it as an angel investor?

  • sarah
    Really interesting interview, thanks. Particularly interesting to see Stefan’s comments on London being the best place to start a digital business.
  • Brett
    Thanks Sarah/Neil. It was also interesting to find a business angel prepared to invest and take a risk on businesses outside of his home country. According to Nesta’s report on angel investing in the UK only 25% of British angels were prepared to invest outside the UK.

    http://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/reports/assets/features/siding_with_the_angels

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