What’s the Mindset of a Backable Entrepreneur?

 In 42 Questions, Blog

“Look me in the eye and say you realize just how deep this puddle is that you’re about to step in here.”

That’s the gauntlet thrown down by venture capitalist Chris Horn for any entrepreneur hoping to secure funding from Atlantic Bridge, one of the largest venture funds in Europe.

Dublin-based Atlantic Bridge’s €650M global fund includes a Main fund, a China Fund and a University Fund, all backing businesses with global potential. Atlantic Bridge’s name comes from their original investment thesis, seeking to literally “bridge” the pond for investors and businesses across Europe intent on expanding into the United States. As the firm grew, Asia and most recently the Middle East fell under Atlantic Bridge’s domain, becoming truly a global bridge.

Certainly, Horn needs to see that the bases are covered (“is there a product?”) and (“Could this be a 100-million-revenue company?”)  But in the end, what seems to engage him most is the mindset.

“Are you in this for the long haul?” he elaborates. “You’re going to be giving some of the best years of your career — of your life — to this, and it’s going to be all-consuming.”

Horn has been happily “all-consumed” by many things over many years. As an electronics engineer and Computer Science faculty member at Trinity College Dublin, he spun out of the Irish University system, personally co-founding IONA Technologies in 1991. When IONA went public in 1997, it was the fifth largest Nasdaq IPO in history, and the 10th largest software company by revenue in the world.

As mentioned in the 42 Questions interview with SOSV, most of Atlantic Bridge’s capital is geared toward hefty expansion rounds in a small number of later-stage companies. But Horn co-manages their new €60M University Fund, which funds a larger volume of startups with seed capital, often without revenue and some still in basic research stages.

Now, Horn is consumed by curiosity. “I’m learning all about peptide and plastics and nanomaterials and wind energy,” Horn enthuses, by way of describing the “broad education” he is still undergoing. “That’s one of the exciting things about working in Atlantic Bridge now: how broad the team has become.”

Due to his own journey as an engineer and a founder, Horn firmly believes that founders need to have at least one business partner to share the ups and downs of startup life. He also values the operational experience he and his associates bring to their roles as mentors, because “people who have seen the movie before know how it plays out.”

All the same, Horn clearly knows there are parts of every entrepreneur’s movie that no one can predict — and that those are the best parts of all.

“Have fun,” he advises. “Hide the terror in your eyes, and have fun.”

To see the full interview between Chris Horn of Atlantic Bridge and Sean O’Sullivan of SOSV, click here.

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