Joe Schorge, founder and managing partner of London-based Isomer Capital, with a strong portfolio in 37 countries and a total of 1,500 companies, spoke exclusively to Fortune Greece Network members about the prospects and investment opportunities offered by the European startup scene, as well as the elements that investors look for in order to invest new capital in companies active in technology and other sectors.
In a discussion with Fortune Greece’s editor-in-chief, Tasos Zachos, Joe Schorge explained that his firm’s investments in 60 funds managed by nearly 35 VC firms across Europe stem from a common starting point: technology today is everywhere. “Every place where there’s a couple of people and a big idea, you can create something interesting. So, back in 2013 and 2014, I thought, how can you be really a smart investor in Southern Europe, in Eastern Europe, in Northern Europe, everywhere, all the time. So, we created the Fund of Funds concept”.
Watch highlights from Joe Schorge’s presentation to Fortune Greece Network members:
Asked by Tasos Zachos on how he would describe a startup as a winner, Joe Schorge, based on his 25 years of experience in the industry, stressed that he looks for investment opportunities through the Isomer Opportunities fund. This fund, he explained, is an early stage investment vehicle that seeks those companies that manage to achieve their first major milestone: annual revenues of 10 million euros, or monthly revenues of 1 million euros. “Then we can see that the product-market fit has been achieved”, he said.
Another factor that plays a role in the final selection of a winning company is the team. And Joe Schorge’s questions to which that team must provide convincing answers are simple. “What’s your vision? How are you executing that? And by giving you capital at that point in time, can we help you move to the next stage?”.
Then there is the question of growth. How can it be achieved and what does a business need to look for? There is no single answer to this question, Joe Schorge tells Fortune Greece’s editor-in-chief. “Every journey is different. What I would say is that when you’re starting to scale up, get some experience around the table of people who have lived through that kind of hyper growth that you’re looking for”.
Based on his extensive experience of the European market, Joe Schorge observes that the trend in Europe is changing, with the fintech and blockchain sectors registering a particularly significant boom. “Europe always had tech. That never was the question. But the commercializing of that tech into businesses wasn’t very good in the earlier years. And that all changed approximately around the financial crisis time, around 2009 and 2010. And what changed? The means of building a tech company have become very inexpensive and kind of free and available to everyone. So, you can start a company cheaply, you can build it cheaply and quickly, and then you can address your customer even faster than ever before”.
“In Europe now we have many VCs for example, and also money from the European Union” noted Tasos Zachos. “That’s correct. Money matters. You need money. And it is there more than ever. But you see generally entrepreneurs having bigger ambition than ever before. They really want to build companies for the world market. And that is what I want to be part of” Joe Schorge responded.
Finally, while referring to the Greek ecosystem, the founder and managing partner of Isomer Capital stressed two important things: first, that great technology comes from everywhere, and second, that what needs to be understood in Greece too is that technology building and technology investment are not a national sport. “If you’re going to build a big company, you need to address other markets as quickly as possible and build products in a way that there’s a much larger customer group than your country, whatever your home country is”.
Who is Who
Joe Schorge is the Founder and Managing Partner of Isomer Capital, based in London and focused exclusively on European venture capital. Isomer accesses high-potential opportunities in European technology through limited partner investments in early-stage funds, company co-investments, and secondary purchases of both funds and company positions. Joe has over 25 years experience as an LP, GP and technology operations executive, previously at Pomona Capital, a leading global secondaries firm, and at Cambridge Associates responsible for advising institutional investors on private equity investments. Joe began his career in information technology operating roles at Invensys plc (now Schneider Electric) in the US and Europe. He received a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth and an MBA from London Business School.