Niklas founded Atomico in 2006. He works daily with founders and sits on the boards of Lilium, Infarm, Rekki, and Varjo.
Contrarians and outsiders.
I have always thought of myself as an outsider. Since I was a kid I did things differently, and that never really went away. When I saw monopolies, I wanted to disrupt them. I will always challenge the status quo, and it’s this that has helped me as a founder and investor to ask the question “what if?” when others ask “what are the risks?”
I founded Atomico because there were not enough investors who had been founders. Back in 2006, when I was a founder travelling the world scaling Skype, I kept seeing the same thing time and time again. Investors who had never been in the shoes of a founder. And that’s when I realised that the next industry to disrupt was venture capital.
People told me, you can’t build a global tech company from Europe. When I was starting out as an entrepreneur there was no ecosystem at that time encouraging and helping founders to build great companies other than in one place. The team at Skype and I broke that mould, proving that great companies can come from anywhere and no one place has a monopoly on entrepreneurial talent. This became our founding vision for Atomico.
Great companies can come from anywhere.
With this at our heart, our initial mission was to build a robust European tech ecosystem, and put Europe on the technology map. A lot has happened since then. Europe is consistently producing world class tech companies to be reckoned with, but we want to go further. Now our mission and ambition has expanded to shape European tech to be the most prosperous, inclusive, diverse ecosystem, with considerations for all stakeholders where companies are scaling consciously.
My bet is that entrepreneurs using technology to solve the world’s biggest problems will build the defining companies of our lifetime.
The next 15 years will define the next hundreds of years of the planet and humanity. Some of the biggest and most successful companies of tomorrow will be those addressing some of our greatest global challenges. And they’ll do it by turning problems into opportunities. That’s what gets me going every day -- the opportunity to work with founders who are using technology to transform industries and take on big challenges and big problems for the sake of a more sustainable and inclusive future.
People used to ask me if I would be bored of being an investor and want to become an entrepreneur again.
Atomico is my most ambitious entrepreneurial undertaking. My job is to build a lasting technology investment firm at scale, a firm that continues to help shape the technology ecosystem to be more prosperous for all, more inclusive and an ecosystem that creates a positive future for all.
Freedom from perfectionism.
Realising that failure is ok is such a relief. Failure is a learning experience that gives you feedback and experience. Not being afraid of risk makes it possible to answer the “what if” questions and make it real. Leaving my career and starting kazaa was that moment for me. Surely there were lots of risks involved, but Skype would not have happened without it.
What am I looking for in a founder?
This is the billion dollar question all investors try to figure out. Sometimes I get it when I spend time with founders, sometimes I misjudge. There is no secret formula (if there is, please email it to me), that's the beauty so I keep on learning. The one thing I know, and something we as a firm subscribe to, is that our investments are in the founders more so than in the companies. We bet on the founders’ ability to execute their vision, and my job is to help them to think bigger. There is no straight line to success.
Relationships and paying it forward wins the long-game.
I have learned that long-term trusted relationships are the most valuable and rewarding currency. Life is about doing meaningful things with interesting, passionate people. It’s a mistake to be myopic -- broaden the scope of your network and you’ll be surprised by who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn!
You can be the best punk rock band only knowing three guitar chords.
You don't have to be a perfectionist. Grit, determination and motivation takes you far.