More Than Just Money

While young AM companies like Carbon, Formlabs, Desktop Metal, and Markforged have impressive stories to tell about how hundreds of millions in venture capital have fueled their growth in the United States, investments in German and other European start-ups remain comparatively modest. Sometimes, even with a slimmer financial portfolio, however, up-and-coming firms can certainly hit the ground running on the international stage. This prompted us to ask investors from the U.S. and Europe about related strategies and the criteria that are key to success. Our discussions turned to much more than just money.

Over the past five years, Arno Held and his team at AM Ventures have visited more than 1,400 start-ups across the globe. These investment experts, who specialize in additive manufacturing and normally work at offices on picturesque Lake Starnberg (near Munich), have looked over all the business and financial plans; they’ve spoken with the founders and their teams. For Held, the personal relationships that arise from these meetings are one of the most influential factors when it comes to deciding whether to invest in a young company. »You have to be able to trust one another«, he says.

That said, the fact that AM Ventures has invested in 18 start-ups in those five years – a rate of 1.2% – has to do with more than a mere lack of trust in so many entrepreneurs. »You can rule out 70% of them pretty quickly«, chief venture officer Held continues. »For us, the important thing is seeing an opportunity to work with a young company and its team on building something successful and sustainable. That’s why the team aspect plays such a big part in our investments. We don’t invest as much in technology as we do in minds.«

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