Madeline, way more than a million dollar girl!
Who runs the world? It doesn’t matter if your answer is Beyonce, girls, or Angela Merkel, the fact is that women are gaining more and more momentum. Even in the financial industry. To prove this we introduce Madeline Lawrence, currently a board member of ASIF Ventures, the first venture capital fund in Europe solely run by students! This rising star will become huge in the industry of funding and finance, so keep a close eye! At the moment she is very busy recruiting a new board for the next academic year, but she has some time for a little chat with us.
Are you ready?
I was born ready.
Nice! Let’s go! Who is Madeline?
I am Madeline!
I’m a horrible speller and an even worse time-teller (fun fact: I never learned how to read a clock). I’ve got a fluffy cat named Bourgeois.
I’m 21, the youngest member of the ASIF board, and I’m originally from Philadelphia, like the cheese. I graduated last July from the Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics (PPLE) program at the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA) with a degree in law.
How did you end up studying in Amsterdam?
I grew up in Barcelona, went to international school, and, like many international school kids, I planned on going to London for my degree. As the deadline for accepting my offer to London grew closer and closer, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to Amsterdam and the program especially. Right around that time, I got my acceptance from the UvA. I made the decision to come here and never looked back.
For the (few) unknown, what is ASIF Ventures?
ASIF Ventures is two things.
First, ASIF Ventures is a venture capital fund. We do high risk investment in early stage companies. We have €1 million to invest in companies founded by students and recent graduates.
Second, ASIF is an entrepreneurial community. We want to support young or aspiring entrepreneurs in more ways that just financially. We believe that everyone (should have the chance to) learn about entrepreneurship, so we organize events to inspire, educate, and provide a platform on which to connect with like-minded students.
What was/is the ASIF goal for this year?
Overall, ASIF’s goal this year, and for the years ahead, is to make Amsterdam’s students more entrepreneurial.
To be more concrete about this year, I think our main goals are making 2 more investments, making a solid follow-on investment in one of our portfolio companies from our private fund, and increasing ASIF’s brand awareness.
Currently, you are on the search for a new board 2019-2020. Which profiles do you prefer?
We’re on the hunt for people with an affinity for entrepreneurship- people who love big ideas, small details, and the founders that make them a reality. People who are into startups, that are passionate about tech and societal trends. These sorts of things. It’s not all finance and crunching numbers all day.
A board year at ASIF is not your average. It is being thrown right into the deep end, and learning how to swim (or else, sink). It’s real responsibility, real money, and real risk. If you know anyone who’s up for the task, send ‘em over!
How are the roles divided in the current board?
Well, for starters all five board members share the responsibility of running the investment side of the fund. This includes: finding the most interesting student startups, meeting founders and listening to their pitches, analyzing business plans, negotiating terms, and, most importantly, making investment decisions.
That being said, we do have specific roles! Right now we have four, but we’re adding on a fifth one for next year. Shall I explain a bit about them?
Alright! First, we have the President- the bald eagle. Dominik holds this position right now. The President, the face of ASIF, supports the other directors in their roles, sets the long term strategy of the fund, and is the first contact point for investors in our private fund. The president is also (unofficially) the commander and chief of all things podcast related ;).
My colleague, Saskia, is our Finance and Operations Director currently. The F&O Director is in charge of stakeholder reporting, portfolio management, and all things money (cha-ching). She also oversees the company processes and operations. Without the F&O director, we’d be a broke mess.
Next, of course you know Bas. Bas is our thunder from down under, and by that I mean (UC) Utrecht. He is currently our Marketing Director. The Marketing Director is about creativity and strategy. In this role, you’ve got to create and execute an online and offline marketing strategy to make ASIF’s name ubiquitous in the student community. You’ve got to own ASIF’s branding, build external collaborations, and find unique ways to (growth-)hack our way to the top.
I, myself, am ASIF’s Investment and Dealflow Director. I’m all about the #dealsdealsdeals. I structure and oversee all of our sourcing channels, acquire new dealflow partners, actively find startups, and quantify every step of it. My role heavily overlaps with the Marketing Director, in that I have to ensure we are positioned correctly to find the best entrepreneurs, and for them to find us. The Investment Director also oversees the investment funnel and process, and allocates resources accordingly.
Next, we’re excited to introduce a new role (drum roll, please): the Community Director! This position is all about the social side of ASIF and Amsterdam’s wider entrepreneurial ecosystem. ASIF Ventures plays a very unique and niche part in the startup scene here, the Community Director owns that. They manage four different teams, with 25+ students in total, to organize the hottest events, and acquire new partnerships- strategic, creative, financial or otherwise- to ensure we make an even bigger splash in the ecosystem.
Haha very cool! What are the main things you learned this year?
I learned how to spell “entrepreneurship”.
This is not a joke. As I am also ASIF’s Brand Director and Designer, I create all of our visual content (flyers, posters, banners, website, etc.). Earlier this year, we printed around 1k posters and flyers, and I misspelt entrepreneuership not once, not twice, but three different times on the material- IN TWO DIFFERENT WAYS! We decided not to correct and re-print the materials for environmental reasons… so I just wrote a little note saying “I don’t know how to spell entrepreneurship sorry” to make it better.
My fellow board members got so sick of me spelling it correctly, so I wrote myself a note on how to spell entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial, and entrepreneur (and restaurant, that word is also hard for me) to hang above my desk as reference. The best part? I even managed to misspell entrepreneurial in the note.
The worst part is, I did read through it and spell check it. I think that I’ve spelt it so wrong for so long, that my computer spell check has sort of learnt my incorrect spelling and doesn’t even flag it as incorrect.
Anyways, learning how to spell entrepreneurship may be a small accomplishment for the rest of the world, but it’s a huge accomplishment for me.
Running a 1 million fund is very scary and exciting! Do you get a lot of support from your ASIF partners?
Wary of sounding cliche, ASIF wouldn’t be anywhere without our partners.
When it comes to investment matters, we get a lot of guidance and advice various VCs in the Netherlands. A big shout out to Slingshot Capital, INKEF, and Peak Capital, who’s teams have been so helpful and insightful in sitting down with us to discuss more detailed VC strategy, always being available for advice, answering questions, enriching our investment decisions, etc.
The UvA and VU are our main limited partners in the public fund. They’ve help us out alot, the same goes to IXA, and parties like ACE, etc.
In addition, we have a large network of experts, successful entrepreneurs, investors, and more that are always behind us, pushing us forward, and helping us make ASIF’s vision a reality- be it by giving masterclasses, advising our investments, mentoring student startups, connecting us to other potential LPs, and beyond.
Our Advisory board is also absolutely critical to our success. We’ve got a board of 3 shart, dedicated, patient, and above all, kick-ass advisors. Thank you Ruben Nieuwenhuis, Stephanie Harmsen, and Steven Durloo.
I’ll cut the rambling and shout-out spree short now with one thank you to all of our advisors and partners! …also to my mom for being ASIF’s #1 fan.
Do you recommend students to become an entrepreneur or first to gain work experience?
Honestly I think there is benefit to both. Most people would say it’s best to first gain work experience, and I can totally understand this point. Work experience gives you skills, insight, so on and so forth. Entrepreneur magazine argues you should have not one but five different jobs before starting a business (read more on this here).
That being said, I’d like to change the script a bit- and be one of the few that recommends striking out as an entrepreneur during your studies. As a student, I believe you’re in the perfect stage of life to take risk. Students are young, they’ve got little to lose, and they have the support of the university and other communities (family, associations, programs, etc). Financially, students are often financially subsidized or supplemented, so they’re not (necessarily) living paycheck to paycheck.
On top of this, previous research has found that repeat entrepreneurs (second time or serial) are more likely to succeed in his or her next venture. So, if you try and fail young, without much to loose, you’ve got a lot more to work on for next time. If you want to learn more about this, check out “Why Repeat Entrepreneurs Succeed” by Kathryn Shaw, a Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business or “Performance Persistence in Entrepreneurs” from the some researchers at Harvard Business School.
You are also really into design? Do you wish to combine your love for numbers and creativity in a future profession?
Hahahah, yes. I love design. Designing and rebranding ASIF Ventures has been my personal project (read: obsession) this year. If my colleagues hear me say “aesthetics matter” one more time, there will be consequences.
In terms of combining my love of design in a future profession, I’m not sure quite what’s next for me, but I’m sure my aesthetic obsession will seep into it one way or another.
The next big thing(s) in the startup scene will be the Internet of Things! Do you agree?
Nope. IoT is great and all, but it’s not the “next” big thing. (I’d argue that) It’s already quite big in the startup scene, and definitely still has a ways to go. The same goes for AI application in healthcare, blockchain anything, micromobility solutions (hello, scooters everywhere), and agri/food tech startups.
I think what’s somewhat happening already but not totally blown up yet, will be innovation in the legal sphere – “lawtech” or however they’re calling it. Coming from a background in law, I think it’s one domain that has relevance to everything, yet has remained relatively the same for years- that being inefficient, expensive, and often monotonous. I won’t get into too much detail here, but mark my words: Lawyers, watch your back. The techies are coming.
Which Dutch startup will make it to a unicorn-status?
Let me be cheeky here and say Dyme. Dyme is our first and currently only portfolio company (stay tuned, though!), they’re a fintech startup that helps people manage their finances and easily switch or cancel subscription services- all with just a single click! Check em out here.
The Dyme team is smart, witty, dedicated, and in it for the long run. They’re also our neighbors at the startup village, they’re working when I arrive in the morning, and they’re just as at it when I leave to go home in the evening.
Funny story actually… When we finalized the investment, we gave them this tackly little porcelain unicorn piggy bank as a sort of pun. I accidently dropped the unicorn right as I handed it to them and it shattered… what a bad omen. But, in true Dyme fashion, they picked up the pieces, glued it together, and made it even better. That’s the unicorn spirit.
This guilty pleasure of Madeline that nobody knows…
Wow. Something that nobody knows?
I’d have to say cracking my back or anything chiropractic… but I think that’s common knowledge. Also, I love watching videos about airplanes, especially the first class cabin designs.
Most recently, I’ve also discovered the beautiful craft that is art conservation and restoration. It’s become my new obsession. I find the process to be absolutely mesmerizing and so so satisfying. Check out it out here.