About First Venture
First Venture invests in strong entrepreneurial teams in technology, health and sustainability.
First Venture invests in both unlisted and listed growth companies with a market cap of less than SEK 500 million.
The investment team led by Rune Nordlander and Peter Werme has a long, relevant and unique track record of investing in both listed and unlisted companies in the areas of technology, health and sustainability.
First Venture is a long-term, active owner and works closely with the entrepreneurial teams in the portfolio companies.
First Venture invests in technology, health and sustainability, three megatrends that are helping to foster a better future for humanity.
In particular, the development of digital technologies and digitisation has had a major impact on many industries and is important for developments in health and sustainability. Health is not just about medicines and medical care, it’s also about preventive measures such as diet and exercise.
Sustainability or Sustaintech, which can be defined as sustainability and quality of life through technology, is a trend that is growing in importance and it is urgent for humanity. We must act now and there are many early-stage Swedish growth companies with innovative solutions and products.
– Focus area “Valley of death”
Only 1 in 9 start-ups survive the “Valley of death”, which may seem frightening, but shows how difficult it is to convince the market with a new product, see the figure opposite. All companies fall into this downward spiral and reversing the trend is not easy, but it is possible. To make it through the trough, these companies need capital, mainly to develop and grow their teams, but also to increase their sales and marketing resources.
The picture shows how the product is developed, launched and placed on the market. Even if it is successful and demand increases, most companies find that growth is costly and that they lack the resources to maintain successful growth. This early stage of negative cash flow before they manage to turn the corner “kills” most start-ups and is therefore called the “Valley of death”. Traditional venture capital financing usually focuses on companies that are already profitable. Growth companies at the bottom of the “Valley of death” may therefore have difficulty obtaining financing, which puts them in a very vulnerable and exposed position. First Venture, on the other hand, sees a good opportunity to invest due to less competition and potentially higher value growth. That’s why the bottom of the “Valley of death” is the focus area for our investments.
First Venture invests in both unlisted and listed growth companies in technology, health and sustainability.
In the unlisted companies, a very active effort is made through the board and through coaching the entrepreneurial team to increase the growth rate. A listing of the company should be possible within a three-year period and the entrepreneurial team should be ready to go that route. First Venture generally becomes involved as a minority shareholder and places great emphasis on the entrepreneurial team being major shareholders when investing.
In the listed companies, First Venture will preferably be active through the identification committee rather than the board of directors, in order to facilitate active management of the shares in the portfolio companies. However, close contact with the entrepreneurial team is maintained on an ongoing basis. A listing also provides a good opportunity for companies to apply an acquisition strategy to accelerate the pace of growth.
A variety of measures are needed in order to break the negative trend in the “Valley of death” and create high value growth, and naturally these measures vary between different companies. But here we will summarise some of the measures that have proved important in different companies, depending on the stage of development. It is important to develop a sustainable product and business model close to the customers.
It is the customers who make the final judgement regarding the usefulness and value of the product. To reverse the negative cash flow, revenues need to grow faster than costs, and at that stage, sales and marketing need to be stepped up and the impact of the initiatives monitored to ensure customer satisfaction.
The entrepreneurial team that developed and launched the product often needs to be developed and expanded with new people during the commercialisation phase, as does the board. Business development is also an area of focus in both the board and the management, with goals, strategies and a business model that are necessary internally in the company, but also for external communication. Finally, it is essential to develop a financing model and communication plan that are adapted to the company’s situation and strategies.
First Venture is a further development of our earlier work within the Första Entreprenörsfonden, which was founded in 2006 and where the first fund was launched in 2010.
Första Entreprenörsfonden invested in the early phase and helped develop the companies. We were basically co-founders and worked closely with the entrepreneurial teams from the early phase until listing and beyond. We spent many years in the “Valley of death” with our portfolio companies, working hard to reverse the negative trend to create high value growth.
First Venture Sweden AB was established in 2017 based on our experience over more than ten years.
First Venture’s experienced team has been working with investments for many years. The investment team, together with First Venture’s network of advisors, has deep, relevant, broad and unique knowledge of technology, health and sustainability.
Rune Nordlander, CEO and Founding Partner
CEO since 2021
Education and experience: MSc in Engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Executive MBA from Uppsala University.
Rune Nordlander is a partner and founder of First Venture (formerly Första Entreprenörsfonden), where he has been investing in growth companies with strong entrepreneurial teams since 2006. Previously, he was the founder and CEO of the IT consultancy firm Endevo AB (now part of Symbio) and CEO and shareholder of our subsidiary, the IT consultancy Frontec (now part of CGI). Prior to that, he worked in R&D at ABB.
Other current positions: Chairman of the board of Virtual eTraining Software Stockholm, Speedment AB, Neodev AB and Zigrid AB. Board member of Första Entreprenörsfonden i Norden AB, Sprint Bioscience AB, CombiQ AB and HumanCap Nordic AB.
Holdings: 835,000 A-shares and 178,000 B-shares in the Company through Första Entreprenörsfonden i Norden AB.
Pia Johansson, CFO
CFO since 2021
Education and experience: Master’s degree in Economics from Uppsala University
Pia has many years of experience in economics and finance from various industries, primarily in the real estate industry at companies such as GE Real Estate Sweden AB, AB Familjebostäder, Blooc AB and Mattssons fastighetsutveckling AB. Most recently she was employed at Lokaltidningen Mitt i Stockholm AB AB.
In recent years, she has held roles as CFO and chief economist, while also having experience in investment and entrepreneurial companies under her own management.
Prior to that, she worked as a business controller for 10 years.
Holdings: 0 shares
Oliver Pawela, Investment Manager
Oliver is a curious company builder with extensive international experience, having worked in renewable energy and technology for over 7 years. Oliver has a broad range of experience from been operationally involved as a project manager and co-founder of Viatron, a specialist service provider to the wind industry, where he was involved in large-scale infrastructure projects for Vestas, GE and Siemens, among others. Through his entrepreneurial skills, he drove the family business to an IPO in 2013 on the strength of advanced patents, EU grants and unique value propositions. Since 2017, he has worked as a strategic consultant to energy companies and infrastructure funds in the planning, financing and establishment of offshore wind farms, with an investment size exceeding SEK 11 billion. In 2018, his professional experience was complemented by a board position for a data centre and a grant from the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship to produce a prototype for LLZ-based fixed-phase batteries.
Mikael Rydle, Investment Manager
Mikael is a passionate entrepreneur with a background in business development, retail, manufacturing and logistics. He has a keen interest in concept creation, new ideas and market analysis. He has started and been involved in several start ups and has successfully taken an idea/concept to a marketable product and then launched the product globally. Before focusing on entrepreneurship, Mikael worked as a sales manager and manager, sometimes with over 100 employees in his team.
Peter Werme, Founding Partner
Peter is co-founder of First Venture and Första Entreprenörsfonden. Peter has been an active investor and chairman of a large number of portfolio companies in the technology, health and sustainability sectors over the past 15 years. Peter is chairman of the listed company Humble Group, where he has been involved from the start and which is now a fast-growing foodtech group. Peter is also chairman of the board of the cloud company Kiliaro, which is going public in 2021, and chairman of the board of Nutribe Sweden AB.
Peter has a long and solid experience in asset management. He was part of the team that started ABB Investment management, where he was active for about ten years and was responsible for the management of listed and unlisted equities in Sweden and Europe, with a management volume of SEK 3-10 billion. Peter was also responsible for managing Länsförsäkringar’s Swedish equity portfolios and started up their fund operations. Subsequently, Peter was also involved in setting up and managing hedge funds, Equity long-short, at both SEB and Handelsbanken.
First Venture and Sustainability
First Venture actively works on sustainability in all its investments, both top-down and bottom-up. We analyse each investment and company individually from a sustainability perspective and we only invest in those companies that we believe meet our investment criteria. Sustainability is thus an integral part of our investment analysis. We do not consider that this restricts our choice of investment opportunities. First Venture believes that companies that base their business idea, products and service on something that is not sustainable in the long term, will not grow at the same rate. As a result, they are unable over time to make a satisfactory return on their capital, which in turn can lead to problems with financing and investment.
First Venture applies an analytical model to review the company’s compliance with international environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) conventions and guidelines, as well as the UN Global Compact, including some of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) principles. These frameworks are in turn based on international standards for the environment, human rights, labour and corruption. We have also chosen not to invest in companies where sales come from the production and/or sale of tobacco, gambling, fossil fuels, pornography or weapons.
First Venture’s operations shall be conducted in a manner that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, since we also want to contribute to a sustainable society. This means, among other things, that First Venture takes account of the needs of both present and future generations, and that we take long-term responsibility for our daily work. High moral standards and good business ethics characterise all aspects of the company’s operations. Existing legislation and other regulations are minimum requirements. First Venture’s work is based on the company’s shared values of transparency, honesty and humility. Our values are central to our daily work and define our behaviour and attitudes, both internally and externally.