A coffee with…. Madeline Lawrence, partner, Peak Capital
At the age of 20, Madeline Lawrence helped build ASIF Ventures — a pre-seed venture capital fund, ASIF invests in the next generation of entrepreneurs, supported by Dutch angel investors and universities.
Now she’s based in Berlin, working as an investor at early and growth stage venture fund Peak Capital where she claims to have an eye on SaaS, marketplace and platform companies built by sharp teams.
TI caught up with her at this year’s TechBBQ where she was moderating a panel on Humanising Venture Capital, which saw seasoned venture capitalists share the inside scoop on their investment journeys.
At Peak you claim to make ‘rich men even richer’ — is that all there is to it?
It’s reductive and sensationalist but it’s my metaphor for explaining a complex asset class and the dynamics around it.
Peak has been around for about 15 years and what makes us different is that we raise money only from individuals, so not large corporates or governments. So, our investors (who are generally men) are people who have founded companies or early employees. And we make them richer.
People always say that venture is all about innovation, venture is all about people — but to me venture is the clearest example of your product that I sell to our investors and what I’m responsible for doing is making money into bigger money.
Let’s call it what it is.
Less than 3% of female founders currently receive venture capital investment — do many come to you with their ideas?
We have done some analysis on our pipeline. We are seeing more, sure. In terms of who on the team has the most diverse founders — I have the most conversations and push them fastest into the process — but then it’s the same drop off rate at investment stage.
Sounds like more female VCs would help…
I think there are a lot of ways we can increase female entrepreneurship, but when it comes to getting more capital in female entrepreneurs’ hands, there’s a kinship there if investors are the same gender.
Ultimately, we invest in solutions to problems that we think are big enough that people will pay to solve and can make money from. And female VCs tend to see the problems that our gender has — someone who has never had a period wouldn’t understand how revolutionary a menstrual cap could be or the value of pelvic wall exercises.
What sort of areas are you investing in right now?
I work in early-stage venture, pre-seed to Series A. I’m a generalist so I have enterprise tech investments but also more consumer-facing ones. Currently we’re heavily indexed on B2B SaaS. It can be hard to be too specific about products at an early stage, because if you’re investing in a person their idea can change. Sometimes we’re not sure if what they are building makes sense, but they tend to have resilience and unique perspective and the stamina to keep figuring it out. This makes the job fun because you don’t have to pretend to be an expert in the subject matter.
What technologies excite you right now?
What excites me in a frontier way is bioengineering. I’ve been speaking to a couple of founders at TechBBQ with ML and AI backgrounds about how we can replace a lot of work that happens in experimental labs wet labs with dry lab [computation and engineering] work. So that rather than trial and error in a wet lab you can model at a scale that would be impossible otherwise.
I’m also really interested in new forms of ownership. This isn’t necessarily a blockchain conversation, but when it comes to things like generative AI or the advent of voice and the fragmentation of media, how do we prove the ownership of who ultimately owns what — especially when things are intangible? How can we prove and assign ownership to things like audio files, clones or creating digital twins? And not in an industrial sense but in the individual sense, who owns what?
It’s a fascinating area — with deepfakes — who owns the image?
That’s the question, right. Someone else invested all the time to create an image of you… imagine the most perfect rendering of yourself. To what extent do you own yourself and to what extent are you part of a larger product?
It looks from your LinkedIn that you’re launching a bid to sing in next year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Is singing your side project?
No, but nobody in Eurovision sings! I’m hoping to be a contestant. I was having dinner with my friends who are big into Eurovision, and we were joking ‘We could be like Abba but with five of us instead of four and none of us are Swedish’.
That conversation got derailed when we realised that we could choose to represent the microstate of San Marino. They’ve had the same contestant for the last eight years. I figured that if we really wanted to do this, we could literally put flyers all around San Marino, contact the government there, create a lobbyist movement. There are only 40,000 people in this state so we could influence that. So, I changed my LinkedIn profile — we all did — and we will make it our side quest. So, vote for San Marino!
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