Eileen Burbidge

Eileen Burbidge

Partner at Passion Capital (early stage VC), Chair at Tech City UK, Prime Minister's Business Advisory Group member & tech- and work-aholic!

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON January 28, 2016

Discussion

Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
Hi everyone! Eileen here. I'm a Partner at London-based Passion Capital investing in early stage startups, and Chair at Tech City UK as well as the UK Government's Special Envoy for Fintech. I'm super excited to be on Product Hunt to answer your questions for the next hour. Let's get this started!
Marie Outtier
Marie Outtier@marieouttier · Co-founder Aiden
Hi Eileen, really like your work at Skype and Passion Capital! What is the one opportunity you rejected and wished you had invested in at Passion Capital, and why?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@marieouttier I can't just pick one... ! I've been on record before as citing a few examples including Onfido, Transferwise (long story especially since I'm a good friend of Taavet's and they started here in our offices!!), AppearHere... and I'm sure there are others but I've got so many other questions to answer :) (I'm sure I'm behind pace!!)
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Thank you for joining us @eileentso! What is one of your life's lessons that has shaped who you are today?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@corleyh whoa, I can't really think of any one specific "lesson"... because I think everything that happens (positive or otherwise) contributes to how you make decisions (shapes your judgement) in future... I have a few life tenets for ex, I prefer not to work with a**holes (and feel lucky that I have the luxury of being able to decide that), I want to be able to sleep at night (to live with integrity) and above all I believe in karma... and that what comes around goes around (hence the integrity)
Roy Vella
Roy Vella@royvella · Managing Director, V2 Ltd.
As a fellow transplant from the Valley, I know you've said that it felt "very insular"... until coming over with PayPal a decade ago, I didn't appreciate how true that is and how central London is by comparison. Obviously there are significant cultural differences but do you agree that London may actually be better positioned to take advantage of truly global opportunities as the digital immersion of smartphones grows?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@royvella Yes :) (and that's why I'm staying here)
Roy Vella
Roy Vella@royvella · Managing Director, V2 Ltd.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
If you were 22 today what would you work on?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@bentossell Tesla or SpaceX (see earlier comment re Elon fangirl)... or a cool new startup like @getmondo
Jonny Miller
Jonny Miller@jonnym1ller · Cofounder @Maptia
Thanks for doing this @eileentso! I read that you described yourself as an “accidental VC”… I’m curious what you’d consider has been your biggest learning (or surprise) since moving to the other side of the table? What are the qualities that you @robertdighero and @stefanglaenzer look for in a founder? Finally, what do you think is one area where the British startup culture needs to up it’s game on? I guess that’s three questions, feel free to just pick one!
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@jonnym1ller Hi, Great questions! Tbh the first one has me stumped (I can't think of what the biggest surprise has been, as there have probably been too many!) On the second question, the qualities we look for are different between the three of us (and I think that's what makes us such a unique but strong partnership), but for me I look for "above the bar" aptitude/acumen, competence, drive... and then also conviction. Included or implied in all of that is the fact that I look for founders who can attract other great team members (and then therefore investors, partners, clients, etc). Finally, I think British startup culture has so much to offer (all the right ingredients already) so the only thing which would help amplify the space but I do think we (here in Britain) should be more outwardly vocal, effusive and proud about all the things we're doing. On the one hand there's a lot of noise in other hubs (and can be to their detriment) but I think we would benefit from even more noise here.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are London's strongest startup sectors besides financial services/FinTech in your opinion? Where do you see London's startup community/entrepreneurial ecosystem in five years' time?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@tomstocklein Maybe this is "cheating" but in addition to fintech (and yet sort of a sub-sector of it) I think London and the UK has a massive opportunity to dominate in cybersecurity. Outside of those, I think edtech and healthtech/medtech are obvious market areas given the calibre of our education system and the nature of the NHS (in challenges are opportunities!) What each of those sectors has in common is that I think the UK can outshine other sectors around the world given its culture and heritage.
Leo Bassam
Leo Bassam@leobassam · Founder, CEO at Plutio.com
Thanks for the opportunity @eileentso! With your great experience in product development, what approaches did you take to validate an idea in its very early stages? I have launched a landing page (https://plutio.com) and received over 600 early access sign-ups within a month. I have also received a great amount of positive feedback as well as requests to discuss partnerships/integration opportunities from companies like Todoist. Does these count as validation? Really keen to hear your thoughts and advice, thank you.
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@loaibassam Hey Leo, Great to see you here... Absolutely anything is validation (positive or otherwise); all reactions can feed into product/feature roadmaps. Guess your question is if this is "enough", and I think at the end of the day you have to go with your gut...
Danielle Newnham
Danielle Newnham@daniellenewnham · Founder, The Junto Network. Author
You're one of the most impressive women I know, and certainly fit more into a day than most others. But who/what impresses you? And what are your tips for maximizing productivity?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@daniellenewnham I'm impressed by so many people... I don't even know where to start and this can include people I come across outside of work who are just really putting it in as teachers, nurses, doctors, etc. In terms of our field/sector, I'm a total fangirl of Elon's (obviously). I'm the worst to ask about maximising productivity because I think (know!) I'm terrible at time management and I'm a constant procrastinator(!!) but it helps that I type really really (really) fast, not that this AMA proves that given the depth of all of your great questions ;)
Maneesh Juneja
Maneesh Juneja@maneeshjuneja · Digital Health Futurist
Hi Eileen, in your opinion, what specific tech innovations do you believe the UK is uniquely placed to deliver to the world?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@maneeshjuneja Definitely cheating now, but see answer above (copy/pasted): "Maybe this is "cheating" but in addition to fintech (and yet sort of a sub-sector of it) I think London and the UK has a massive opportunity to dominate in cybersecurity. Outside of those, I think edtech and healthtech/medtech are obvious market areas given the calibre of our education system and the nature of the NHS (in challenges are opportunities!) What each of those sectors has in common is that I think the UK can outshine other sectors around the world given its culture and heritage." Aside from sector innovation, if you're asking about specific tech, I'm proud of our leadership in AI/ML, robotics (think Bristol Robotics Lab), materials science (think graphene) and life sciences too.
Maneesh Juneja
Maneesh Juneja@maneeshjuneja · Digital Health Futurist
@eileentso Thanks - useful to hear your take on things. I wish our media would celebrate more about what we do have (rather than constantly trying to ask if London can be the next Silicon Valley, which is a pointless question because they have a headstart of several decades) - Good reminder about Bristol Robotics Lab. Maybe you can answer this? Are schools doing enough to highlight future careers in cybersecurity/fintech/robotics/AI/ML? If not, what should be done to inspire our children from a very young age to build a brighter future for all of us? Thank You again, and keep pushing those boundaries.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Eileen, thanks for joining us! The ratio of female to male VC's is far from equal. As a successful woman in this field, do you have any advice for others wishing to break into it? And do you feel that gender equality is an issue that still needs to be addressed in the industry?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@ems_hodge I think this industry (and every other) would surely benefit from greater gender balance and more female inclusion -- as it/they would from greater representation of talent/people from all ethnicities and walks of life. Diversity == good, imho. So there are always areas to improve and more things we can do. At the same time, I still think (certainly based on my personal experience(s) that the tech sector is one of the meritocratic by far.
Iñigo Alegría
Iñigo Alegría@alegriamartinez · Director, Barzlive
Hi Eileen! Thanks for being here this evening answering all these questions. What do you think about the future of proxmity mobile payments? What do you think about their application in the foodservice sector? Is this something that is going to really soar or just a buzz? Thanks!
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@alegriamartinez I don't know if it'll "soar" (as in it might be a slow build) but I definitely think that's where things are headed (fwiw)
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
As a member of the UK's Prime Minister's Business Advisory Group, do you receive a lot of pitches at Passion Capital from entrepreneurs who are building companies that aim to make government services more efficient?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@tomstocklein Nice question but tbh being on the PM's BAG doesn't seem to draw more "govtech" or "civictech" type pitches. I get those anyway, and it's an area in which I have genuine interest given how much opportunity (ie inefficiencies at the moment)!
Porsche Tysk
Porsche Tysk@porsche_tysk
Thx Eileen, 1. do you invest in ideas or very early stage? 2. Do you prefer an existing team or to assist founder(s) build one? 3. What do you like to see in a short/long pitch?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@porsche_tysk Hi, 1. Yes, we basically only invest in ideas/the earliest stages (usually pre-revenue, sometimes pre-product/prototype). 2. We don't have a preference between existing team or help the founder(s) to build one (although that probably affects how far along the company life cycle they are) -- But we'll want to ensure a founder who can build a team or add to their existing one -- even if we'll help. Ultimately they're the reason anyone will join the team. 3. Conviction, obsession/passion for the proposition or problem that's to be solved. Complementary team members. Traction evidence, if any available. Great intuition (whether that translates into UX or other elements visible in a pitch). Good spelling (in a deck) ;)
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
Hey! (I actually DM'ed Tech City UK this morning regarding the Upscale announcement!) What are your favourite questions to ask founders?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@bentossell I end up asking "What are you most worried about?" (usually towards the end of a pitch). For contrast/fun, @stefanglaenzer likes to ask about birth order, ie "Do you have any siblings, how many, and which order in the sequence are you?" as well as about a founder's first entrepreneurial endeavour
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What are your thoughts on the merits of higher education vs getting stuck in and starting a business at first opportunity? How would you advise someone making this choice now?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@ems_hodge I found higher education really helpful -- less for the curriculum and more for the "life lessons" as astutely asked about earlier/above. For example, I developed and learned so much about myself as an individual during my university years. Priceless ;)
Steve Karmeinsky
Steve Karmeinsky@stevekennedyuk · Director
What's the best pitch (deck) and worst you've seen, does it annoy you when they're over 10 pages (as a cold intro deck)
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@stevekennedyuk It doesn't "annoy me" if more than 10 pages, but definitely diminishing returns after the first 8.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What are you thoughts on the UK and European startup scene? Are we just behind? Will we ever catch up? Do we just need to go down a different angle?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@bentossell Re: "Are we just behind?" <-- Who's the "we" here and behind whom/which? I don't think "catching up" is the right aspiration... I think we should aim (here in the UK) to be world leaders in certain sectors, thereby creating talent/skills which will be applicable to larger tech opportunities -- and an ecosystem to support it will then also eventually sustain great companies from all other sub-sectors... until we get a fully fledged world leading startup scene (I think we're not far off, btw)
Eddie Capstick
Eddie Capstick@eddie_capstick · co-founder: Beneficent.co
Scalibility vs Profitability! Do you roll your eyes at projected growth statistics? What advice would you give to people pitching, as to how to give 'evidence' for their numbers?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@eddie_capstick I don't roll my eyes, but we invest so early that projected growth stats/forecasts are pretty irrelevant. They're worth looking at only to see what assumptions the founders believe will drive/affect business/growth, but that's about it (absolute figures are meaningless); it's the model that matters/reflects something. "Evidence" of traction should always be quantitative, so dashboards or Google Analytics/GoSquared/other analytics reports are great
Marie Outtier
Marie Outtier@marieouttier · Co-founder Aiden
Another question from me :) Passion Capital started in 2012. From the first investment (DueDil) to the latest one last December (Hometouch), what are your top 3 highlights of your experience so far?
Steve Karmeinsky
Steve Karmeinsky@stevekennedyuk · Director
@marieouttier Duedil definitely wasn't their first investment!!!
Marie Outtier
Marie Outtier@marieouttier · Co-founder Aiden
@stevekennedyuk crunchbase info, sorry if incorrect :) What was it?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@marieouttier Haha, I can't pick just three highlights... that's like choosing your favourite kids!! :) We're proud of each/everyone of our teams -- even if they've had different outcomes than originally envisioned. The two companies you mention @DueDil and @myhometouch are definitely ones I love, but so are @digitalshadows @getmondo @pusher @carthrottle @urbanmassage @showmyhomework and a whole host of others !!!
Tommy Nicholas
Tommy Nicholas@tommyrva · CEO @ Alloy
Hey Eileen - I know you've gotten involved with a few "challenger" banking projects in the UK on the consumer side, have you thought about a challenger commercial bank at all? It seems clear that with all the innovation in fintech, banks that can power that will be a massive opportunity. Payment processing, deposits, lending, brokerage, etc. as service requires a bank back end. Any movement in that space?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@tommyrva Yes! Check out @holvi for example, and more to come (I agree this is a massive massive space). Also, @getmondo is writing its own software stack (so its own from-scratch bank back end)
Tommy Nicholas
Tommy Nicholas@tommyrva · CEO @ Alloy
@eileentso very smart move by Mondo, exciting!
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What is the best pitch you've seen? Conversely, what was the worst? (don't have to name, names!)
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@bentossell One of the worst pitches I ever saw was at a public pitch-off/competition... but we ended up investing in the business the following year... ;)
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@eileentso what swayed you?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@bentossell Well, the proposition was always intriguing/compelling, but the founder delivered the pitch terribly!!!! I got over that eventually... (and that founder has improved a lot since then) ;)
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
@eileentso what has been one of your favorite projects to work on? (I ask as a fellow, very curious, work-aholic)
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@katesegrin Impossible to think of/pick just one. Working at Skype was absolutely amazing and probably still my career highlight. Having said that, now that I've been here at @passioncapital since we launched the first fund in 2011, 5 years is the longest I've ever held a "job", so no question that it's one of my favourites too ;)
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
What are some of the experiences that have helped to shape you and your career?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@katesegrin All of them incl growing up with a Tiger Mom, getting a CS degree, moving out to the Bay Area in 1994, etc., etc. I think everything we do and are affected by day-in and day-out shapes how you perceive things.
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
What are 3 things that you love about living in the Bay Area? Do you think it'd be worth it for a young person to move there as well, given the inflated prices?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@katesegrin So I moved/left in 2004 (thought I'd be back after a year or two) but am still here in London, 11 years later. However, I do think it'd be worth a young person (who loves tech) to move there or spend some time there. Equally, I think experiences in other global cities/markets is just as important -- and the main reason I wanted to "try" London.
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@katesegrin Oh but three things I loved: 1. Driving (love Hwy 1 and all the other outstanding views/routes), 2. Amazing food and people, 3. Tech tech tech immersion :)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@eileentso @katesegrin 3 favourite things about living in London? :)
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@ems_hodge @katesegrin 1. Diversity (like genuine diversity of people and what they do, where they work, industries/interests they have), 2. Architecture (including again diversity of) for example I love traveling between Westminster and East London especially along the Embankment and seeing the varying architecture and styles along the way. 3. Opportunity (especially here in the tech sector), there's so much opportunity to make an impact and help create something really amazing here in London (whereas I think it's pretty saturated and noisy in the Bay Area)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Have you had any mentors during your career? What did they teach you?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@ems_hodge I've never sought someone out to ask/say "Will you be a mentor for me" but I've certainly gone to people for advice from time to time. I think I learned the most from great managers including @lewtucker (from when I was at JavaSoft/Sun) for example, but equally as much from people who *weren't* great managers, ie what not to do
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Can you share the best piece of advice you've ever received? Plus also - the worst?
Eileen Burbidge
Eileen Burbidge@eileentso
@ems_hodge Wow (you ask great questions, haha! but also so difficult!)/ 1. Very generic but "Don't worry about the things over which you have no control" (or conversely only worry about what you can affect) 2. Can't remember worst advice probably because I ignored/filtered it out or have now blocked it from my memory!!
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@eileentso thanks so much for joining us today and answering all our questions! Tons of great advice across the board here - Thanks again. 🙌