By @SimonCocking, great interview with Nicola McClafferty VC . Formerly cofounder , , Jefferies. Wife, mama. tech, mornings, coffee. Former Londoner rediscovering life in Dublin.

What is your background?

I was born and raised in Dublin. After doing my degree in UCD I moved to London. I started in investment banking with a technology focused advisory firm called Broadview (now part of Jefferies a large US investment bank). We largely advised VC backed companies on exits. I loved working with high-growth technology businesses but wanted to be involved at an earlier stage and so from there I moved into VC. I spent 3 years as an associate with Balderton Capital, investing in high-growth technology businesses across Europe, and then 2 years with Ravensbeck building up their early stage investment practice in the media space………. If you spend enough time around fascinating and inspiring entrepreneurs eventually you want to do it yourself and so in 2011 I left my job and founded my own start-up Covetique.com. Covetique was an online retailer of pre-owned luxury fashion (think Net a Porter meets Ebay). We took investment from ASOS in 2012, grew the company to a team of 20 doing just under $5m run rate sales. We sold the company to ASOS in 2015. I’ve now returned to the VC world and am excited to be working with the team at Draper Esprit.

Does it seem like a logical progression to what you do now?

I have worked with high-growth, entrepreneurial tech companies my whole career and that’s really what I am passionate about. I have been in Venture capital before but I really wanted to gain more operational, product and company building experience. Having now been through the journey of my own start-up, understanding the challenges, the highs and lows that entrepreneurs face…. I feel better equipped with the right set of skills to be a good investor.

1 min pitch for what you do now? What inspired you to be a VC?

At Draper Esprit we invest in early stage technology businesses across Europe – business with the potential to disrupt and ambitions to scale globally. We typically invest at Series A and Series B stage from around £2-£10m+ Unlike traditional venture funds, we are a public company and we invest off our own balance sheet. This Patient Capital model allows to invest in companies over a longer time period without the limitations of a fund lifetime – we can work with entrepreneurs to grow global businesses over the long term. Meeting with and investing in the breadth and quality of entrepreneurs that we do is a privilege. I feel lucky to be in the position I am in.

How are you finding the move back to Dublin? Pros and cons?

The move back was driven by family – my husband and I are both Irish, we have 19 month old twins and this is where we wanted to raise our family. Being near family is probably the biggest pro. We really miss London, it was home for 13 years but its been brilliant rediscovering Dublin, which has changed a lot. The city feels vibrant, the list of restaurants I want to try is as long as my arm and the quality of life when raising a family is fantastic. On a professional level seeing how the tech ecosystem has evolved is really exciting – Ireland has always punched above its weight in its ability to build global technology leaders and there continues to be a lot of innovation here across sectors.

Biggest cons….no Ocado and amazon next day delivery!

What will success look like for you in 2017 if it all goes to plan?

That I will have had the privilege to back some (future) world-class entrepreneurs at the early stages of their business journeys.

Will you be aiming to guide investments in a particular area / sector / what will you be looking for?

We, as a firm invest across the technology spectrum – consumer internet and applications, enterprise software/saas, hardware, digital health. I’m personally not looking at a specific sector but will be largely focused on finding world class technology businesses in Ireland. We look for a great team, large market opportunity with strong product market fit as well as a good level of early traction and strong proof point KPIs.

As someone who has been on both sides of the fence (investor and startup) what tips would you give to startups? (and investors?)

I typically advise early stage start ups to be laser focused on getting product/market fit right. I’ve seen many businesses lose a lot of time and money just getting to that point. If you get that right, the early proof points will put you in a much stronger position to raise capital. Also, as you start to think about raising funds, be clear about the right type of investor for you – this is a long term relationship so choose people that you are happy to sit around a table with for years to come.


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