by Philipp Schroeder – Partner at Active Venture Partners
“Why don’t you join the meeting”, my VC buddy Jojo (Jörg Binnenbrücker of Capnamic Ventures) asked me, when I was visiting him in Cologne in summer 2012.
I still had some time to catch my flight back to Hamburg and was curious to get to know the CouchCommerce founders, so I joined in.
In general, Jojo and me liked the founder and CEO Alexander Ringsdorff and his team. They were up to something big in the mobile commerce industry and had some valid experience in building web apps for merchants. However, this deal was very early, pre-shipping and we still had some doubts if the team had sufficient expertise in building up a mobile SaaS business.
We both decided to monitor their development and try to help them to find a suitable seed investor – we liked them a lot and wanted them to succeed.
A couple of months later, ACTIVE (ACTIVE Venture Partners) organized the 10th summit of their non-for-profit organisation, the Venturepreneurs’ Organisation, where European serial entrepreneurs meet biannually to exchange experiences in early stage tech investing.
Amongst the Venturepreneurs we had always discussed the desire to have a common investment, the “Venturepreneurs’ Baby”, so we decided to run a competition to find the first Venturepreneurs’ Baby, with the three finalists to present in Mallorca where the summit was to be held.
CouchCommerce joined the competition, made it to the final and ultimately was selected as the pitch contest’s winner by the Venturepreneurs. At the end of 2012 the Venturepreneurs, together with the ACTIVE management team, invested in a seed round.
During the past three years CouchCommerce lived the typical start-up life, involving many ups and downs, funding rounds, mini-pivots, euphoria and disappointments. Nevertheless, even during the hardest times the founders always generated interest from many great investors that analysed the market and saw the potential of their technology and team. They were just waiting on some more validation before investing and then scaling up the company.
In late 2014 I had the feeling that the company had found its sweet-spot and had started to gain traction. Shortly after, in early 2015, various players approached the company to discuss funding rounds or M&A opportunities. One of the opportunities was NEWSTORE, a very comprehensive mobile retail platform, founded by serial entrepreneur Stephan Schambach. Prior companies he founded were e-commerce success stories such as Intershop and Demandware, which both IPOed.
I remember the numerous calls with Alexander about the pros and cons of joining Stephan’s huge venture and owning a rather small piece of potentially a huge cake instead of a big piece of a small cake.
I was reflecting on the situation and tried to put myself into Alexander’s shoes. While I am 40 with a family and 3 kids – Alexander, Nadine and Kai-Thomas (the three co-founders) were still at the early stages of their professional careers with no strings whatsoever attached. With all the opportunities in their life ahead of them, we entered into a conversation. I recall myself saying: “Alexander, you are still young, this won’t be your last venture. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with one of the most successful entrepreneurs from Germany. You will learn a lot about big visions, managing huge engineering teams, global sales, building equity stories, and potentially an IPO. It will be an academy for all of you with a potentially huge monetary upside that one day might help you to create more world leading companies in the future.
Given the opportunities that CouchCommerce had, in my view the team took the right decision and joined NEWSTORE, a venture with vast engineering power rarely experienced in Europe.
We, the Venturepreneurs and ACTIVE, are extremely proud to be part of NEWSTORE and we are really looking forward to use their products as end consumers, e.g. buying a product with our mobile and get same day delivery from a local retail store.
P.S. Alexander posted on his own personal blog a really nice video on the CouchCommerce story and their move to join NEWSTORE. Watch it here.