Trond Arne Undheim (00:00:01):

Futurized goes beneath the trends to track the underlying forces of disruption in tech, policy, business models, social dynamics, and the environment. I’m your host, Trond Arne Undheim, futurist and author. In episode 15 of the podcast, the topic is the future of pre-seed investing. Our guest is Magnus Grimeland, CEO, and founder of Antler, the early stage VC. We talk about trigger points to achieve greatness, promising startups, the globalization of venture capital, the importance of finding founders with drive, spike and grit. We also discuss the future of work.


Trond Arne Undheim (00:00:45):

Magnus. How are you today?

Magnus Grimeland (00:00:48):

Very good. Very good, great to talk. Excellent. To be on your podcast. I appreciate the invitation.


Magnus Grimeland is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Antler, founded in 2017, (, an early-stage VC company headquartered in Singapore. Norwegian entrepreneur. McKinsey & Company alum. Ex-Navy Seal. Harvard BA (Economics). Also, co-founder of ZALORA, an e-commerce platform and website that provides fashion and footwear products, the biggest in Southeast Asia.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:00:55):

Sure. So Magnus I’m, I’m happy to have you here today. We are fellow Norwegians, but it wouldn’t seem like that from, from your background because you have a, been a lot of places in your career from Norwegian farm lands, which we’ll talk about to McKinsey to Harvard and now to Southeast Asia, I wanted to unpack some of your background just for starters. What job or educational experience has taught you the most?


Magnus Grimeland (00:01:33):

It’s hard to say. I think I learned different things in, in different parts of my life and different experiences. Obviously they’re quite varied, right from you know, the military to working in consulting and now being in venture capital. I think that the, where I learned the most, I think was it was probably a building Building a company from scratch and scaling it to a couple of thousand people is an experience where you learn a lot about yourself other people you know, a lot of other things on the way. So so I’d say that’s probably where I learned the most.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:02:11):

Tell us a little bit about Zalora what kind of company is it and what were some of the salient moments in that experience?

Magnus Grimeland (00:02:21):

So is the biggest fashion eCommerce company in Southeast Asia. And you know, obviously building an eCommerce company you know, from the outside in actually can look rather straightforward. I mean, you need a website and then you need to be able to take orders. You need to have something to sell, and then you need to find a way to market that, then they need to be able to deliver it. But I think the very interesting thing with the, you know, the way we do e-commerce in Southeast Asia when we started it, is that you know, first of all, obviously when you’re building it for scale, you know, in Southeast Asia, there’s about 600 million people in our target markets, it was Southeast Asia plus Taiwan and Hong Kong. The technology stack you need to build, this is obviously rather large. Also, the products you need to put on there are a bit more than you would otherwise do. But I think the biggest challenge was literally around building the infrastructure. So when we were building this up you know, for example, in markets like Indonesia with, you know, 250 million plus people, 250, 300 million people only about 2%, I think of the population when we started had the credit card that they were able to pay with online.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:03:41):

Wow, how did you solve that problem?

Magnus Grimeland (00:03:43):

Yeah, exactly. Yes. So you know, you need to find a new way to take payments and we started off your name, link bank transfer, which literally means that everyone would have bank account could pay online, but that was a very cumbersome process, meaning, we needed to make the order on our site. Then you go to reference code, then you had to go to the bank and provide a reference code, pay, come back with a new code, enter onto our website, and then you had to pay it, right? So obviously, you know, you lose a lot of customers throughout that process. So we ended up launching cash on delivery which is a very interesting you know, concept to launch in, in such a wide country where we’d, you know, send the package from our warehouse to another warehouse and they would go with plain somewhere. Then we’d go on the truck. Then the truck would go to some harbor and on the boat, the boat, we go to an island, then another motorbike to be delivered to the customer and that customer would pay $10 and then obviously you need to sort at that 10, $10, make it back throughout that whole network back to you. So that was a, that was an interesting challenge. And when we first launched it, I think we had more than a hundred days. It took us more than a hundred days to get that money back from when the payment was made. And we had to really bring that down quite considerably, right. To bring down the working capital requirements.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:05:05):

That’s crazy. You, you also told me another thing about Zalora, you had some rather curious problems related to, to the warehouses. Can you tell me that, that little anecdote, there was a fascinating story?


Magnus Grimeland (00:05:17):

Yeah. So obviously when you start a company and you expect kind of challenges that you can’t foresee, but but this one was special. It was, we had opened a new warehouse in Jakarta and you know, our, our warehouse workers refused to go in there and, and work one day because apparently ghosts had been spotted in the warehouse. So there was little footsteps on the, on the top of the roof which you know, we, we you know, later, you know, the, the, the workers felt that this, this was obviously ghosts. So we needed to clear that warehouse of ghosts before we could open it again

Trond Arne Undheim (00:06:03):

And how, how do you do that? Cause it’s not something I I’ve heard, heard very often, but I mean, you took it seriously. I mean, so we’re, we’re laughing about it a little bit, but, but you took it seriously and you did clear it up.

Magnus Grimeland (00:06:15):

You actually, you gotta call the Ghostbusters, you know, they’re not like the movie version of Ghostbusters, but it’s you know, local spiritual leaders that that you pay to go and declare to warehouse for ghosts. And yeah, it took a few hours, but once we’re done that and, and paid for the ghostbusting service, we could open the warehouse again and start delivering packages.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:06:39):

It tells you a little bit about you know, cultural sensitivities and, and I, and I guess, you know, this one was particularly curious, but but I mean, it’s not unlike any of you know, any other cultural constraints and challenges. I mean, these are concerns that people have in, any concern that your workers have, it, has to be taken seriously. I, I just love that story. It’s a little bit, yeah, out of the ordinary, you could say,

Magnus Grimeland (00:07:08):

Yeah, it’s, it’s a very good point, right. Then you know, there’s a lot of these, these points where, and it’s different from market to market, right. We had another situation where we were going to move offices because our office was starting to be a little bit run down. And we had identified this amazing new office which was much better, much better facilities, beautiful view. Amazing. And you know, just before we were about to kind of sign the contract, a few employee said, Hey, we would prefer not to move there. Why don’t you do a survey? And we did the survey in the whole organization, and I’m about 95% or so said they didn’t want to move to this much nicer office, which was, you know, not that far away from where we were before. So it was not about location.

Magnus Grimeland (00:07:52):

And then we found out that you know, they, there was a as suicide that happened in this office a few years earlier and also the company that was there before us had gone bankrupt. So, it was a tainted space. So we chose not to then sign this office, which was actually two and a half times as expensive. And we told our employees, we’re going to listen to you and stay here. And the employees got incredibly, incredibly excited, right? So, we actually achieved, you know, the, the spiritual uplift of having a better office by not moving at all

Trond Arne Undheim (00:08:28):

That is a fantastic story. I love that it’s a win win for all around, a win-win.

Magnus Grimeland (00:08:33):

Basically, right? So we just refurnished that office for about $20,000. So, we stayed.


Trond Arne Undheim (00:08:39):

Magnus. I want to go back and peel off some, some more layers on your background. There are a few things that not, not everybody knows about you. I mean, you know, Antler and we’ll, we’ll get to Antler is you know, is becoming a very important force in pre-seed innovation. But let’s go back to when you were really young, because you, you grew up in Norwegian farm country, which I guess in Norway is pretty normal because most people actually grow up in farm country. Tell us about your parents. So I understand one is a communist and one’s a hippie, how does one become a venture capitalist from that background?

Norway: Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing

Magnus Grimeland (00:09:20):

Yeah, so some more or less so, so we, I grew up in a, in a small place called Holm, which is a few hundred people it’s kind of outside of another small place called Sande which is in Vestfold in Norway. And you know, it was about seven, eight kilometers to the, to the closest store you know, reduce to bike to school. This is the same, same distance. And they, you know, just a lot of farms around, you know, the water on one side, and then the mountains on the other, which you, typically see in Norway and you know, growing up obviously you know my, my father yeah he was a communist and, and truly believe them in you know, the, the power to the people. And I think a lot of obviously what he, what he believes in them and believed in, is very valid, and I think, you know, in, in Norway, socialism has worked incredibly well.

Holm, Vestford, Norway

Magnus Grimeland (00:10:13):

My mother only, I was more on the spiritual side. And which led to, I think very interesting discussions as we grew up. I think also very interesting in my, my father was very into dog sledding, which obviously you know, in, in Norway, it’s not that uncommon either, but in the rest of the world is kind of a niche sport. So we, we had about 26 huskies in our backyard. And you know, we spent a lot of time you know, initially in the summer, driving them in front of the, you know, to an old car where we had taken out the engine and everything up through the woods. And then in the winter on the snow and you know, this just a tremendous upbringing with a lot of activities, literally being outside the entire time when you were not in school or sleeping.

Dog sledding in Norway

Trond Arne Undheim (00:11:01):

I actually also grew up with Huskies, but they were my neighbor’s Huskies. Then they were right outside my bedroom window. I know all about huskies. They whine a lot in the, in the early morning hours. So anyway, huskies are an interesting species,

Magnus Grimeland (00:11:17):

They require some attention.


Trond Arne Undheim (00:11:20):

They do well. Let’s let’s maybe move a move into Antler for a little bit. Basically you are, you have started something quite unique with Antler. Can you give us a sense of first of all, this space pre-seed investing, what is this space to you? Why is it attractive? What’s happening generally in this space, and then let’s get to what you then chose to do.

Magnus Grimeland (00:11:54):

Yeah, so I think, uh, it’s, it’s probably one of the fast, fastest growing parts of the global Economy, right? It’s, it’s more and more truly exceptional individuals that choose to spend their time and really all their time solving important problems and opportunities. And, you know, it, it is the best time ever for people to do that, right. I mean, we’re really seeing true globalization for the first time ever. You know, it took the airline industry, I think 68 years to get 50 million customers. It took Pokemon Go 14 days to get 50 million customers. So that kind of globalization is on a different scale than it ever has. And it’s not only B2C it’s also for B2B through new, new Wells for sale selling you know, scaling businesses is cheaper than ever through SaaS platforms, the cloud hardware prototyping even deep tech businesses and research and access to labs and all of these really advanced stuff that they otherwise had to build, you formerly had to build on their own.

Pokemon Go

Magnus Grimeland (00:12:51):

You can now access much more cheaply. So the cost of building is cheaper than ever. Disruption is fast happening faster than ever. You know if you look at S&P 500, the average age on that index used to be 50 years, if you only go half a century back, and now it’s down to 12 years. So the biggest companies in the world are getting disrupted faster than ever. And you also see kind of all the maturation of all these technologies happening at the same time. While in the past, you’d see over a hundred years can be defined by one technological advance. We now see kind of 10 to 20, very kind of promising new technology is going from the lab and science fiction to affecting and disrupting your system businesses and solving your problems at the same time. Right then.

Why you will probably live longer than most big companies

Magnus Grimeland (00:13:35):

And you’re in the middle of all of this always look out of MIT is a big hub of all of that. So you know, so it’s, it’s just from from a structural macroeconomic perspective, it really makes sense from that our generation and the upcoming generation is, is, is, is excited about and passionate about this really creating new things, having a real impact. And that also really you know, helps that, that the most, the smartest people in the world choose to do this instead of going to Wall Street and crunching numbers or working in consulting as I did before, or working for large corporates. So all these things are kind of coming in at the same time. And then if you look at the traditional or how asset management has developed, and the investment has developed, it really started off with you know, you can buy into large corporates and buy a share of large corporates. Then you know, you have the private equity coming where you could buy big companies or a share of big companies and then leverage them up. And then you have venture capital coming, and then you had accelerators coming and, and obviously where we operate is really working with exceptional individuals from day one. So I really just believe that what we’re doing is, is, is, is just a new way to, to, to invest and a new way to support the ecosystem. That really is, is timely versus where the role is today.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:14:57):

So, so in specific terms, what would you now characterize the pre-seed stage to be because you operate internationally, which is interesting because in the US pre-seed had a meaning, and then it kind of changed the amounts are slightly changing with the series A rounds going up, how do you define pre-seed investing in terms of the stage the teams are, and the amounts that people generally are investing?

Magnus Grimeland (00:15:27):

I think it depends from market to market, right? So also, also in Antler, we’ve adapted a little bit, the amount that we invest, depending on which location you’re in. If you look at, for example, seed valuations you know I don’t have the exact numbers, but it used to be a little bit like you know, you’d be at 10 to $12 million valuation in the US and Europe you’d be at, you know, seven to $8 million valuation, in Asia, you’d be around five. China was living more, more like Europe, the U S than the rest of Asia. And you know, you see a little bit the same on the, on the preset level. So you know, we, we invest somewhere between the one to $2 million valuation but there’s also a lot of angel deals and pre-seed deals that are tied evaluations done that then obviously also lower valuations, but that’s, kind of the range where we’re where we operate with our first investment. We also invested in Seed, Series A, Series B, in series C. But for the preset investment, that’s, that’s where we operate. And you know, it’s, it’s, it’s either, it’s the first round into the company, actually, mostly for us, we always lead typically the first round and all the companies we invest in at that time for other investors, pre-seed, it could also follow along on the, on the small angel round, but there’s typically the first money that goes into any new business.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:16:50):

The Magnus, when, when you and I talked about this over a year ago, it looks slightly different. You have also grown at an astonishing speed and you have changed a little bit, your business model. Tell me what your initial vision for Antler was. What was your hunch early on? What kind of model were you going to go for? And then how did you then morph into becoming a little bit more of a traditional venture firm, although you’re, you know, the specifics of your model, which we’ll get to, you know, the, the operational dynamics are a little different, but what were you thinking early on and why did you change? Was it just because people said, Magnus, this is fantastic. You know, you, you can actually have bigger plans or did you learn something along the way that made you adapt the model?

Magnus Grimeland (00:17:32):

Well, so at the core of what we do, we still do what we set out to do, right then we’re still doing that. And we’re doing that about two to 300 times a year now which is really working with exceptional founders from day one and, and supporting their business from the very beginning, supporting, putting together the cofounding team, validating the business model and really investing almost pre incorporation. And and that’s, that’s, that’s at the core of what we’re doing and the way it works and the way, you know, we got excited about this is for example, when I was part of building Zalora, a number of our great people who’d come in and worked with us for a bit, they left to set up their own business. So out of Zalora came for example, Gojek, which is now a $15 billion company, Shopee which is also a plus $10 billion company.

Magnus Grimeland (00:18:23):

Chris Fang has started that he used to work with us in Zalora, and Kevin, and and Nadim, and you kind of see this everywhere that people have been part of building fast growing tech company, but we’re not the founders, the founders as well. Sometimes we’ll become serial founders and launch more businesses, but the level below they are exceptional exceptionally placed to build the next great thing. And yeah, so, so we, we, that was the initial thesis. So let’s work with them to kind of build the next big thing around solving important problems. And the other thing that came to mind is like people who know business and operations really well, they might not know product builders and technologists, all that well, and people who are deep, you know, PhDs, postdocs in AI or machine learning, they might not know great operators who’ve been part of building Spotify and scaling Spotify. So why don’t we create a path,

Trond Arne Undheim (00:19:25):

The heart it’s a networking, a very, very precise kind of matching platform. Also like you’re matching one type of exceptional talent with another type of talent and creating these power teams.

Magnus Grimeland (00:19:38):

Yeah. So, so I mean, obviously matching in a certain sense, but literally what we’re doing is we’re just selecting exceptional individuals. So we get about 50,000 applicants per year now, and we’re also had headhunting people ourselves I, we select the top 3% of them who are ex they’re all excited about building their, their next great business and we select them and some of them will already have a cofounder, or some of them will have a very advanced view on what they’re going to build. Others have just decided that, okay, now I’m going to go out there and build the next great thing. And then some of them will, will we’ll partner. If one is a great operator and the other is a great product builder, they will partner and build a very, even stronger co-founding team. And then we focused a lot then on the business model validation early on, because I got really irritates me as I it’s. One of the things that irritates me the most is if I see an exceptional team I’m working on something that really doesn’t make sense, and they’re wasting three to four or five years of their life to do that, that’s, that’s just a waste of tremendous talent and a waste of a lot of other people’s money. Right.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:20:43):

How do you tell? People that Magnus, how do you tell people that? Literally that’s a big responsibility also to, to make that claim though you know, do you literally drag people out of the dead end projects and put them on more productive ideas?

Magnus Grimeland (00:20:58):

Oh, so the way we did like, so a great example is, you know, we have this exceptional company they’re just closing a huge round now. So, so, so can’t disclose the name, but there was this tremendous co-founding team, like three people, a woman, and two guys will not been part of building one of the greatest, fast growing tech companies here in Southeast Asia. The other came from a very well known brand. The other is an amazing product builder. And they came to us and wanted to build a travel tech site. Right. And there’s a lot of travel tech companies out there. There are some great ones as well, but this particular area kind of makes sense to do, but, you know, I, I’d probably personally seen like 20 or 30 pitches of people who were building the same thing.

Magnus Grimeland (00:21:41):

And we did the little bit more research because now we have offices in the US and Europe in Africa and Asia and Sydney. And so we just looked at all these ecosystems, and said, how many people have tried to build this? I mean, it came up with like, here’s 120 teams that tried to be able to do are doing. And by the way, the most successful one has been in operation for four years and they raised $5 million and most of them have died. So please, please, just kind of, you know, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t build this because sometimes, you know, past performance is not sometimes a predictor of the future, but at least look at what all of these people did and learn from them, and call plenty of them, like call 20 of the teams and talk about what they’re doing and then convince yourself, and convince yourself that you should still do it.

Magnus Grimeland (00:22:29):

And they did that came back and said, okay, all right, w we want to look at something else. And then we start looking at, okay, where are great opportunities that are somewhat adjacent, that they’re passionate about them. And now they build this tremendous company, which is, you know, the leader in their field and growing incredibly fast. So, you know, that, that’s how you don’t go into anyone and say, Hey, you shouldn’t do this. Even if they can call 20 experts and they can all disagree that they should do it, but if they do, they just need to convince themselves that, you know, they didn’t make it happen because we are going to do it differently. And this is why we’re going to succeed. Right. For example, like Facebook was such an example, you know, there was hundreds of social networks before they came on board and, you know, they just had the magic formula and made it happen. And I don’t think anyone could have gone to Zuckerberg and told them that wouldn’t work –he would have done it anyways.


Trond Arne Undheim (00:23:18):

That’s true. So Magnus you’ve, you’ve done something right. Obviously, because Crunchbase says that you’re their number one VC firm right now. And you’ve raised, I guess, a total of 78 million was the last number I saw them have, you know, maybe you have a better number for me, you’ve made according to them, 122 investments, you’ve led 59 rounds. And as you pointed out, you have offices in New York, London, Singapore, Sydney, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Nairobi, and Oslo. And I think there some more that you told me that you can’t disclose, but there are in planning, for instance, you’re currently notably absent from Silicon Valley. Just explain all of this. I mean, certainly Silicon Valley, wasn’t your first thought? Where are you expanding and why?

Magnus Grimeland (00:24:01):

So we, we fundamentally believe that the kind of technology ecosystem is quite connected, right? So you know, literally for example, Indonesia, which is a market, I know quite well since we were part of building things there, a lot of the models that were built there you know, was a few years earlier launched in China and, and a few years prior to that in the US and so you can learn a lot from other ecosystems on, on what works and what doesn’t also for kind of more, real innovation, so where you’re not adapting a proven model to a location, but where you’re kind of innovating from scratch you know, a number of the world’s most, you know, if you’re building a new battery technology, per se you rely on actually on getting access to the world’s best experts within that field.

Magnus Grimeland (00:24:54):

And, you know, they, they can be anywhere, right. They can, they could be in Japan or they can be in Boston, or they can be in in Sydney. You just don’t know. So we want to, to ensure that we have access to all of those ecosystems and all of those access in terms of kind of supporting our founders from the get go. So a great example of that is we just put this company a couple of years ago in Stockholm called Skycraft, which is a tremendous you know, drone, an AI company, which flies over infrastructure. And for example, with a wildfire fire for wildfires, you had them on the West coast, in the US they will fly over the power lines and see where trees that fall lower or, or where you had to do maintenance. And they will discover that automatically and alert people so they can go out and cut it off. And, and, you know, they they’re, their customers are utility companies. So they, if they were just building this out of Stockholm, they would have one customer they could talk to, or two customers they could talk to, but through our network, we could put them in contact with utility companies. And I think we put them in contact in the first week with utility companies in 20 markets. And that’s the best way to truly validate your business models, right? So there’s a lot of effects of this global platform for there’s a lot for founders in the early stage.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:26:09):

But you’re also slightly crazy. Aren’t you? I mean, scaling something in so many places, Magnus, I mean, it’s a little bit like a deck of cards. How are you so confident that you can pull all that off? I’m assuming some of these offices, aren’t hundreds of people with the Silicon Valley style, you know, oxygen tanks and you know, all of the bells and whistles. I mean, these are moderately sized offices and where are you splurging on, you know, fantastic mahogany chairs for all these people?

Magnus Grimeland (00:26:38):

No, so we, we you know, our cost is real estate, so we needed an office for a hundred to 150 people in each location and then people, right. And we have eight to 10 people in each location. And then we have a, you know, about eight, eight venture partners. So they’re part time we don’t pay them a salary, but they get some carry upside. And then we have typically about 40 to 50 advisors that we bring in. And that ecosystems, that’s kind of how it looks like in each location. And it looks the same in each location and those partners to lead that are in almost all circumstances, stronger or better than I am I personally think. And that’s how this, this works. Right. So if you look at, for example, take Sydney as an example, like Bead Moore, he was part of building LaSalla, which was acquired by Alibaba for 6 billion.

Magnus Grimeland (00:27:31):

You know, Anthony Millet built the biggest sports eCommerce company in, in England and sold it to JD sports. Then they built Brick X, which is one of the biggest FinTech companies out of Australia. And they are the people leading that location, right? So they’re very successful entrepreneurs who you know, ultimately run that, but then we benefit from all of their learnings for the rest of the platform globally. And they benefit from all of the learning from, from the other countries. And also the network that they put in place will benefit founders in Sweden and the other way around. So there are all of these network effects. So what we’re doing that enables us to be stronger as we grow, but that wouldn’t have happened if I was the focal point. And then everyone below was more junior, right? It’s, it’s so important to build this as a partnership and not as a top down hierarchical organization.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:28:24):

Is that your Norwegian background or your McKinsey brain speaking? Because it sounds a little bit like the consulting model for VC, which, you know, there are a lot of people who say that the VC is an outdated model, like old boys network, this, that, or the other, I wanted to sort of tackle that question from a couple of angles. One is, I mean, it takes a certain amount of humility to do what you’re doing, because the reason why CEOs want to be the focal point of their companies is they have this notion,, t one that they know the best decisions, you know, no matter what, two, it becomes an ego thing and a, you know, as power grows, they, you know, most people enjoy that. How did you adopt this? Why did you adopt this approach? And, and how does it feel to be in an organization? And, you know, you may or may not be right. That they’re all smarter than you, probably not, but at least you have this attitude that you’re not going to just hire underlings that just do your job. I have had mixed experiences looking around in workplaces with you know, bosses that are not so comfortable once you start doing good things. Well, what’s your comment on that?

Magnus Grimeland (00:29:29):

Yeah. So, so I think if fundamentally what we do, that, that is a requirement, right? Otherwise it just, it just wouldn’t work. So, so you have to build it that way, and that means that when you set it you have to give a lot of way, right? That means that whoever comes in and is leading a new location should have a similar type upside, the, the variable that came in and built locations earlier, right? So you need to structure it up in this way and you need to bring on board people who feel that we get stronger as we add new locations. And one of the ways we did that is obviously through technology and our, you know, the way we set up our technology network. We have a global playbook, which everyone contributes to. We have gamification on knowledge sharing. We have a shared global network and all those things.

Magnus Grimeland (00:30:14):

And then we have on the incentive side, we also have a pool. So literally all the partners, when we add the new locations, 10% of the upside of that goes into this common pool, which means that as we add new locations, new things, existing partners, benefit from that. Whether you sit in Nairobi or you sit in New York, or you sit in Silicon Valley, which by the way, we actually you know, I’m not sure if we actually announced it, but we just did hire our first partner in, in, in San Francisco. And in Silicon Valley, I’m very excited to have a presence there. And, you know, we’ll, we’ll, we’re going to share more publicly about this as we move forward

Trond Arne Undheim (00:30:53):

I’m glad for Silicon Valley that you’re actually going there. I was starting to get worried for those guys. You know, they think they’re the center of the world and, you know, arguably they still are for some things, but they think everything is happening there. And I think, I guess they’re going to get surprised fairly soon that it’s I think luckily for the world, there’s a lot of innovation going on also outside the Valley, but you, you are coming there now at w w what are you thinking about your presence there? Because it is, you know, obviously such a center, even for you guys with such success, it must be a little challenging particularly to establish yourself in the Valley, just because there’s so much going on, what’s your thinking there on how to make that a successful from the get go?

Magnus Grimeland (00:31:36):

Yeah. So the interesting thing there is, so, so when we set this up, we thought, Hey, you know, it’s probably going to be easier to build this where we come in and we are the only one doing what we’re doing in the application.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:31:48):

Um and that would be the case in Nairobi and other places where There are many venture firms,

Magnus Grimeland (00:31:55):

You know, it, to a certain extent in the Nordics and a couple of other locations, right, where you come in and you capture a space, and you’re the first mover now that advanced or doing that is obviously you have you have a lot of access to, to kind of all the talent or are excited about doing and building their next business, and you can support them in doing that. And that, that has been working incredibly well because you, you really you know, for example, in, in, in Singapore, we have about 3000 applicants per cohort now, and we only selected about kind of 70-80 of them. So you have that advantage. And there obviousl disadvantages of being in the location, which is, which is smaller in terms of the size of the ecosystem, is that the support network for these portfolio companies as they grow is smaller. So the amazing thing, for example, London and in New York and in San Francisco is, is that you know, the, the, the rest of the preseed layers, the seed layers and the seriies A layers and the mentorship and the amount of founders that have built great companies, and now spend time giving back to the ecosystem. There’s just so much of it that there’s just a tremendous of support for these founders, as they’re moving from kind of having worked with us and get our investment into the next space. So

Trond Arne Undheim (00:33:16):

You have to agree that there are already a lot of different models in the Valley. So I was just saying it is challenging for anybody to establish themselves in the Valley, because you’re not going to be the first incubator. You’re not going to be the first sort of talent network. And you’re certainly not the first one who comes along with you know, with their Rolodex and says you know, I’ve got the names for you.

Magnus Grimeland (00:33:36):

Yeah, yeah, no, for sure not, but it is an advantage that the ecosystem is so strong. So if the ecosystem is that strong, then you know, that the only thing you need to do is you need to be compelling for enough exceptional people. Right. And what is compelling about what we are doing? I think, first of all you know, there aren’t, there are a lot of various types of early stage players there, but there aren’t that many that is truly focused on supporting you as an individual as you take your first step. And if you look at, for example, what happened with Y Combinator is that in the early days of Y Combinator, obviously they were in the kind of Boston area first, but then they moved there. And when in the early days, when they were there, they were kind of a landing pad for all of the teams outside of the Valley that wanted that access.

Magnus Grimeland (00:34:19):

And they would come there and then get that access. And Y Combinator would plug them in, and then other VC saw that there were amazing teams coming from other parts of the U S to make this you know, literally make this their headquarter and build out their business and starting investing in them. And, you know, then they became a success. And I think, you know, we can provide a little bit of that there which is literally as supporting not only a, kind of a number of our portfolio companies globally, but also founders from the rest of the U S and the rest of the world who are excited about you know, pursuing the opportunity there. I mean, it’s, it’s yes, obviously you can, you can just fly there and do do it yourself. But, you know, with, with the support of our platform, you obviously have you know, not only access to you know, other great co-founders and the whole network of people that are there, but on top of that, you also have access to this global platform if you want to grow out from there into the rest of the world.

Magnus Grimeland (00:35:11):

So we believe that the value proposition is strong enough to secure some of the exceptional people that are excited about pursuing their next big thing. And then you just need to work with them and be the go to place. Right. Which we become, I think in, in, in most of the locations we’ve been in for a year or two, and, you know, we hope we can do that there as well. And you know, I’m very excited about it. So it’s not only about kind supporting great founders to build things from scratch there, but also supporting the rest of our portfolio to tap into the ecosystem there. Right. But it’s, it’s, I think our other locations are as important as this one,

Trond Arne Undheim (00:35:50):

If I understand your model correctly you start with the talent, you then validate the idea around the talent. You then supplement the individual or their little kind of embryonic team with some, with others that are, you know, exceptional, you work with them for two months, and then you make your first decision. Is that right?

Magnus Grimeland (00:36:11):

Yes, that’s correct. So,


Trond Arne Undheim (00:36:14):

And how much, your investment is, is, is pretty classic. So you said around a hundred thousand us for, for 10% equity, I think that’s posted on your website somewhere, or at least a it’s it’s written somewhere it’s a public number. Is that a rough estimate or is it, that’s what it is?

Magnus Grimeland (00:36:32):

Yeah. So if we invested in the preseed round of your companies, basically we make the first investment we invest somewhere between a hundred to $200,000. So it depends a bit by location in the U S it’s it’s $200,000 for, for 10% equity. So that’s the first round. So you end up somewhere, I think, for example, a Y Combinator now changed the terms to $125K for 7%. So it’s, it’s, it’s so more similar in that, in the end to kind of what is done then in the rest of the market. Now we do also invest in, in seed, series A, series B, series C, where obviously we do invest quite a bit more. And we do also support companies that are already formed, but are in the early stages that believe they can benefit from a platform like ours. So we don’t only do that, but it’s how we started. And that, you know, we obviously are continuing to do that as well. And it’s, it’s, you know, a big part of what we’re doing.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:37:29):

Could you hit on two or three companies that embody really the style of investing you do and where you feel like you’ve been able to make, make it a little bit of difference. You and I talked about a couple, I think, Airalo but, you know, feel free to just riff over a couple of companies that you feel you’ve done some valuable things for, and that they are compelling businesses that are easy to explain you know, in a few minutes.

Magnus Grimeland (00:37:51):

Yeah. So I Airalo it’s it’s, it’s now I think the world’s largest easy marketplace, amazing combination, check it out, out there alone. They, the founder of that he used to sell physical SIM cards and and these prepaid cards where you had, let’s say 10,000 minutes to code for free for India. That was a very successful business. He grew that very quickly. So an amazing operator but obviously WhatsApp and so on was starting to disrupt that business. So he wanted to build something new utilizing technology to enable scaling, but it didn’t know much about technology. So, you know, we spent time with him. He met this amazing CTO in our cohort. They formed this amazing team based on his experience. We wanted do something within the, in the communication space. And we realized that, you know, these phones, now they have e-SIM capability.

Magnus Grimeland (00:38:41):

I think 500 million phones were sold with that capability last year. And you don’t have to buy a physical SIM card, but you can go into that and buy that, that subscription. And it’s most helpful when you, when you travel right, then you want to instead of using your local SIM card, and when you land in, let’s say Bali and pay, you know, hundreds of dollars you buy a local SIM card and that then you used to have to take out the SIM card go and buy a new one, put it in you, might’ve lost her other SIM card. And it was quite cumbersome process, but now we can just click on an app and do it. And they have grown incredibly fast and through our offices across the globe, we help them, you know, launch more than a hundred markets. And it’s just a great example of one of the things we do.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:39:29):

Yeah. Yeah. And it’s a great example of how the you know, the vision of a lot of markets. It’s not just a theoretical one in that one. I mean, they literally, their business model is exponentially more valuable. The quicker they can go to many markets and the entire business is, is about operating in many markets. And the friction you’re solving has to do with many markets. That’s a, that’s a sounds to me like a great example. Do you have one or two others?

Magnus Grimeland (00:39:53):

Yeah. So I think another one, that’s the one I spoke about earlier. Skyqraft so, you know, this amazing our, aeronautics engineer came into the court. We had this guy who’d been in utilities, his entire life, and then the machine learning expert PhD in machine learning and AI who, who didn’t know each other from before, but they met each other, really liked each other. And that got quite excited about building something together. And we spent time kind of thinking through, okay, what what’s interesting here. And, you know you know, ended up being kind of drones, utilizing AI to improve infrastructure and do maintenance of infrastructure, because actually up until, up until now, actually most countries, the way you do maintenance of this type of power lines and, and train tracks and all that type stuff, you fly helicopters over them with a camera, which is crazy.

Magnus Grimeland (00:40:53):

And, you know and then they spot things and obviously this can all be solved by image analysis and machine learning and cheap drones. And now they, you know, so we thought, okay, this is interesting. We put them in contact with John, I think about 20 drone experts all across the globe. We put them in contact with a bunch of utility companies, as I mentioned earlier we you know, more try to validate this business model as much as we could put in the first bit of money. And then we started introducing them to customers that they can talk to. And there, I think another power of our platform is that you know, in most countries you only have in the US you have probably 40 or 50 of these type of players, but then in Europe you probably only have two per country. So, yeah. And it’s a six month sales cycle, right? So if you could, if you only, if you’re only in one market with such a business it takes you a long time to scale. But if through our platform we can get to,into 40 or 50 or 60 conversations at the same time, you can scale much faster. And it’s just incredible how fast they’ve grown out of, out of Stockholm. So that’s another example,


Trond Arne Undheim (00:42:06):

Magnus you and I had a little conversation earlier about the founder’s mindset and, and you said something that I was, I stopped that, and I thought about it for a second because you, you I, and we talked about this in a second, or you, you, you, you feel like you have to sometimes tell teams and individuals that they need to adjust, but what are some of the mindsets that you’re looking for in people that you select? So what makes for a successful founder, and to what extent can you learn to become a founder or to what extent is it innate? I mean, you know, you were a Navy seal and that’s partly because you chose to undergo a tough training, but I mean, I’m assuming you would never have been selected unless you had a certain mindset. And you can explain more about that, but to some extent, these things are related and you, you were talking about relentlessness. Can you explain to what extent is that something you inherit and, to what extent is this something you would just decide to?

Magnus Grimeland (00:43:10):

Yes. So, you know, there are city things we looked at when we look to find great founders, we look at having a tremendous spike, something you are just amazing at, we look at the drive, you have as an individual, like the ability to make things happen. And then we look at grit. And I think, you know, those three things are just incredibly important and they actually will see it and most great founders that you either know publicly, or, you know, in person that they’re quite quirky characters that they inhabit, you know, a lot of these three areas.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:43:39):

You said, founders are quite boring.

Magnus Grimeland (00:43:42):

I don’t think they’re boring,. Quirky

Trond Arne Undheim (00:43:47):

Alright, but just said that they’re chronically talking about their business all the time. So you have to be, so that’s actually one of the indicators that, that, you know, if you, you said, if you, if you go over to some of your founders, you will expect to only talk about their business for three hours and you may not even, I don’t know, mention anything else. So there’s this one track mindset.

Magnus Grimeland (00:44:08):

Yeah. This, this, this, this I think is a great point. So one of the things we do tell all the founders are, I personally say to all the founders of we’re working with is you know, it’s incredibly important to front load. Now, when you’re building your business like the most the most valuable time you have for yourself in, in the, in the career that you’re now going through and through building this business is the time you have right now, because now it’s only you. So you have a hundred hours available to yourself. And those a hundred hours is everything that will determine the success of your business. Now, in two to three years from now, you might have a thousand employees and your hundred hours shouldn’t be as impactful as they are now, because then you made a lot of wrong hiring decisions.

Magnus Grimeland (00:44:50):

So you need to front load and you should literally call up all your friends and all your family and tell them the only thing I’m going to talk to you about for the next couple of years. If you want to spend time with me, it’s my business. And the only time I’ll spend time to you, if you want to help my business be successful, unless you have children, which you should spend some time with all other people in your life, you should really just talk about you’re chilling about, and there’s this kind of relentless focus that the most powerful and most exciting and most successful founders have. And, and, and you can experience that. They probably experienced yourself Trond, it’s like when you meet people are building their own businesses, they are so passionate and so excited about it, that they can not be in a conversation for more than like four or five minutes before they start talking about it.


Magnus Grimeland (00:45:34):

Right. Then you can see the same with, with almost all very successful founders that I know. And, and I think they have that mindset from the get go, but it’s not something that I think you’re born with. I think it’s something that you develop through kind of being incredibly focused and passionate about what you’re doing. And then the other thing that we really wanna focus on, which, which I started talking about earlier is his grit, right? This, this mindset of not failing. Like, so one of the things that we love talking about our founders is, you know, a lot of founders talk about it all. It’s I started building this business on a failed, but I learned a lot. And, you know, worse case scenario is a great learning journey. You know, if I fail, at least I learned a tremendous amount.

Magnus Grimeland (00:46:22):

And if you go with, with that type of mindset, as an entrepreneur, you’re just going to fail. Like for sure, it’s just no way you really succeed. You know, you need to go in as a founder with the mindset, that failure is not an option. You need to, it’ll be the person who, you know, if, if, if things are incredibly hard you, you pursue all avenues, all different directions to make it a success. And you need to have that mindset from day one, because if you think there’s a chance you will fail, you will most likely fail because even the best businesses out there, have had tremendous difficulty getting where they were. It’s a,

Trond Arne Undheim (00:46:57):

It’s great that you’re saying this, and I’m saying this from a person that I just, you know, wrote a book about failure. But I think the failure that is fruitful is different from the one that these coffee, drinking failures P you know, people talk about and you and I had this conversation. And I, unfortunately, I have met a lot of those founders too, who are sort of like drinking a lot of coffee and being there, they like to talk about the fact that they’re working on a company and that they have a company, and they are kind of like, you know, it’s because, you know, there’s this whole idea about being a, you know, having a leisure business basically, right? There’s the, there’s a lot of cachet around saying that you, I’m kind of in the innovation environment, and that’s kind of what you’re talking about.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:47:38):

Isn’t it, because failing in the sense that you’re like, okay, I need to do a pivot. And then taking some of the elements that you did learn and transferring it. That’s not, I mean, that is more of a productive, it may not even be a failure if it’s a true pivot, but where you were saying is the kind of idea that it doesn’t really matter if I fail. These are not the real stakes. This is the kind of, I guess, discussion that you, as a VC, you don’t want to hear, I am going to give your money and yeah. You know, I’m going to drink some coffee. We’re going to learn a lot and worst case it fails. That’s not how you want to spend your a hundred thousand dollars. Right.

Magnus Grimeland (00:48:15):

So, so there’s two aspects that we’ll do talking about now, which I think is, is, is incredibly important. So, so obviously it’s okay to have failed in the past. I mean, I failed in the past and I did learn a lot from it. But if you go in there in the new thing that you’re building with the mindset that you might fail, then you will likely fail, right. So it’s just, you need to take all that doubt out of you out of your mind, then the other aspect that I want to address, what you’re talking about there, which, which I enjoy talking about is there is this, you know, tremendous you know, trend out there. And now that the entrepreneurship is cool and you know, it’s, it’s kind of fun to be a founder. And you know, it’s, it’s just, it’s just a great thing to do.


Magnus Grimeland (00:49:02):

And all in workplaces, all across the globe, you see lifestyle entrepreneurs sitting there drinking coffee, they go to like, you know, I don’t know, 20 meetups a week and, you know, eat free pizza every day and all that. And, you know, they, might’ve raised kind of three, four, 500,000 or sometimes even more from their friends and family. And somehow they’re pushing something forward and it might be like the sixth or seventh startup. They did the last five or six years. You know, those are what I call lifestyle entrepreneurs and they will never, ever succeed. And, and the reason why, like 93 or 94% of startups fail is that, you know, a big portion of that failure rate are these people that are not really serious about what they’re doing, you know, and being an entrepreneur. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a lot of fun and it’s incredibly rewarding as you go through that journey, but it’s really hard work.

Magnus Grimeland (00:49:56):

No, I mean, it’s like, you know, if you want to ask, as I say, you know, if you want to if you want to get free massages on Fridays or you know eat sushi for, for lunch, having early afternoon beers and these types of things, you know, go work for corporate or go work for Google or Facebook or something like that. If you want to build a business from scratch, you gotta be ready to live in a tent. And, you know clean up the dirt in front of your office door and stay up late lights, and it’ll really kind of get into the grit of things. So,uand that’s, that’s, I literally think that the people who do that and the people who spend time, putting together great teams and spend time validating the business models and have that type of mindset,uyou know, they, they probably remove most of that systematic risk. And the chance of failure is probably reduced to like 20, 30% instead of being 93%,


Trond Arne Undheim (00:50:56):

As we’re riding up this conversation, let’s talk about something important. Let’s talk about the future. The future just got more serious, right? We have COVID-19 around. But also there are these long term trends that we’ve talked about in some of them, very positive in venture and others but also very disruptive, right? Because these startups that you are funding and others will, will drastically reshape industries as we know them. So for some people, this future is very threatening because there are, like you pointed out with the S&P 500 many of the companies that are big today won’t even exist tomorrow. And by tomorrow, we’re not even talking about the next decade. We’re talking about the next three years, next five years, what are, where are we going in the next decade?

Magnus Grimeland (00:51:46):

I think that you know, if what we were doing and what we’re talking about right now, what’s important in December. Now it’s incredibly important right. And I think the founders that are out there now working on building their business and working on truly making a difference you know, they, it was important what they did in the past. But now they have an obligation to succeed, right? Because, you know, we’ve seen hundreds of hundreds of millions of people lose their jobs. And the, you know, a lot of these traditional industries, as we see them will not come back in the, in, in the same form. So exceptional people, like the ones we’re talking about need to create that new value, create those new employment opportunities and you know, drive, drive the economy forward. And you know, therefore I think it’s just, you know, for anyone who’s considering kind of building something or considered pursuing this, like now it’s the right time. Like, I think all, all of us in the early stage venture capital space and all founders out there, like reading out of an obligation to be part of the path to recovery. And it’s probably the best time

Trond Arne Undheim (00:52:58):

It’s one of the best times, but I guess what I was going with is also is you are founding a lot of different types of businesses and stereotypically, for instance, in Asia, there are a lot of sort of copycat businesses. And historically also a lot of consumer based businesses, is this really the right time to launch the next TikTok, or, or do you also as a funder of companies and as a founder of companies have the responsibility to, I don’t know, constrain yourself, but just think a little bit about what kind of company you want to you want to start and what kinds of services you want to deliver. Not that everybody is going to create a vaccine business. That’s not what I’m trying to say, but have you had any thinking at all around whether you could at least stimulate ideas in certain directions or, or is that the wrong path to go?

Magnus Grimeland (00:53:48):

No. No. I, I think, I think most definitely. Right. So one of the things that we did is we launched a COVID-19 initiative, which was focused in, on, on things you can do in terms of the, the the vaccine, which probably, you know, a company is being built right now, probably won’t affect that much, but in the future, the next pandemic they can to support, but also things in terms of care, telehealth, you know, everything within the healthcare space we looked at the educational space. There’s obviously a lot of students out there and young people now suffering from pretty bad edtech platforms and, and parents as well, struggling because they have to deal with these kids that are now home and that otherwise would have been in school.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:54:30):

Yes, the ed tech market, we can’t cover this now, possibly, but that’s a major discussion and we’re going to be covering it extensively on this podcast cause ed tech, well, yeah, let’s not even get started, but

Magnus Grimeland (00:54:43):

So, so we got about 1500 people and teams approaching us from a, you know, more than a hundred countries in, in, in less than a week who were excited about addressing these types of issues. And we started investing in some of them. We also bolstered up the type of advisors that we have in these spaces, in these, these areas. And you know, I think that as a philosophy, we won’t invest in companies that have a net positive impact on the world. We still think that it’s important to create these models that makes people’s lives easier. It makes people life more exciting and ensure that businesses become more efficient. So all those traditional businesses that, that, that are also building and scaling incredibly fast are also very important because they’re creating new jobs and they’re adding value to GDP.

Magnus Grimeland (00:55:33):

And you know, they’re, they’re making a little more efficient, but at the same time, I obviously say, think that, you know, we have, since we have such a broad portfolio and we’re working with so many people, we can also spend a lot of time on a number of those zero to one problems. So, you know, we,uuI think about 20, 30% of our portfolio are these kind of more,uutruly kind of impactful in the way that they’re solving really big problems, whether that is bringing healthcare to the next, you know, three, 400 million people who don’t have access to healthcare or insurance to, to the same people, or, you know, developing the new types of genome and biotech technology to solve problems related to health. So, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s incredibly important, but we shouldn’t forget that other category as well because,uit is, it is continuing to be very, important for the world.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:56:24):

No, I get that. And, and maybe, maybe you can comment on this, but you and I had a discussion about diversity. Maybe it’s a little similar to that because I, I guess I pointed out that you put somewhere on your slides that 40% of Antler’s portfolio companies happen to have a female cofounder and 78% of the, of those have a female CEO. So my question to you then was, you know, did this happen by, by chance? So was it basically affirmative action? And I guess it’s a little bit related to this idea of COVID you can so tell me, you know, diversity just cover that for a few seconds. That’s what rounding up, w did this happen by chance, or did you actually mandate as a Norwegian, you know, 50% female founders,

Magnus Grimeland (00:57:05):

We have an open application process. The criteria is the same for everyone. We just select the very, very best people that we find headhunt or or applied to us. So there is no affirmative action whatsoever. What we do though, is we do spend two to three or four months with, with our founders initially, before we invest to put together a great to help them put together a great co-founding teams validate the business models. And then throughout that process, you end up kind of getting to know people incredibly well, and you end up investing, I think, much more based on, on the intrinsics or the cofounding team and less on a one hour, two hour, three hour or seven meetings of pitches and and, you know, we said we have zero affirmative action, but we, you know, we, we do have one of the most diverse portfolios out there for a company, which is not, you know fully focused on that.

Magnus Grimeland (00:57:59):

Not only from agenda perspective, but we also build companies with people from 71 nations and all types of ethnicities. And I think, you know, it much more truly represents the global talent pool right. And you know, that, that I think is an advantage because, you know, it’s hard when you’re a later stage VC and there is limited type of deal flow with, with, with the right type of diversity metrics. I think all VCs out there right now, truly care about diversity. They also truly care about the creating equal opportunities for everyone based on what ethnicity they come from or what background they come from. But it’s just like, it’s, it starts with the talent, right? It starts with the real talent. And if the deal flow already, if the seed funds and the seed funds, don’t have a diverse portfolio of founders, then it’s very hard as a series B and series C firm to have a diverse portfolio company founders, but we started top of the funnel.

Magnus Grimeland (00:58:59):

So we can through doing things the way that we’re doing it can much more to represent the global talent pool. And obviously we’re not there yet, right? We can, we can also become much better. But we just want to ensure that, and we believe that as long as we create an equal opportunity for everyone, we’ll get closer and closer to representing the, the global available talent pool. And and that should probably be kind of equally represented from for most ethnicities and genders as we move forward. Right. Obviously there are some inherent in the inequalities in the system that takes some time to root out.

Trond Arne Undheim (00:59:36):

Magnus. This is it’s fascinating to hear your chart, the next chapter with Antler and the next chapter in pre-seed investment. Thank you so much for spending time with me.

Magnus Grimeland (00:59:47):

Thanks a lot, Trond. Really appreciate it.

Outro (00:59:50):

You have just listened to episode 15 of the Futurized podcast with host Trond Arne Undheim, futurist, and author. The topic was the future of pre-seed investing. Our guest was Magnus Grimeland, CEO and founder of Antler, the early stage VC. My takeaway is that the future or pre-seed investing is changing by globalizing and moving beyond the old startup hotspots and into places like Amsterdam, Oslo, Sydney, and Nairobi. VC is also maturing and moving away from the US concept of an elevator pitch and seeks a deeper understanding of the founder validating the startup idea and building a product by bringing in talent and networks, across markets. Thanks for listening. If you liked the show, subscribe at or in your preferred podcast player and rate us with five stars. Futurized–Preparing you to deal with disruption.