Meet the investor: Sebastian Peck, InMotion Ventures
The MD of the London-based fund owned by Jaguar Land Rover outlines the winning founder combination; competitiveness, humility and self-awareness
Firm: InMotion Ventures
Name: Sebastian Peck
Where are you based?
InMotion Ventures' headquarters is in Kings Cross, London, but we’re active globally. We currently have portfolio companies in the US, UK and Hong Kong.
What kind of investor are you?
We invest from Seed stage to Series B in mobility services and related sectors including data analytics, travel and lifestyle, and fintech and insurtech.
We typically co-invest alongside other investors such as traditional VCs, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier 1 suppliers. We are keen to build long-term relationships with entrepreneurs.
An investment is a first step. The stage at which we invest means that the company is still working towards product market fit. We provide support where we can but understand that you have to be patient and let things unfold.
What kind of deals do you finance?
We invest in companies globally and our investments range from £100,000 for a pre-seed deal to several million pounds for Series A and B rounds.
What kind of person do you invest in?
Founders need to be on top of their chosen sector, technically brilliant and commercially aware. They need to be leaders – it’s a tough gig so the ability to set out your vision, inspire others and lead by example is crucial.
A high level of competitiveness, paired with the right dose of humility and self-awareness is usually a winning combination.
Successful companies can quickly become bigger than their founders. Understanding how to build a strong team and delegating key responsibilities are a big challenge for many founders during the scale up phase.
Self-aware, confident founders tend to make better hiring decisions because they look for complimentary skill sets.
How do you source prospects?
We have excellent deal flow through our personal networks and our parent company Jaguar Land Rover.
We are also active on the conference circuit, and my team is actively scouting in sectors we are interested in. If you want to approach us, a warm introduction by someone in our network will usually go a long way.
What is your ideal investment?
An ideal investment for InMotion Ventures is one that meets our targeted financial returns and supports our long-term strategic objective.
This objective is to understand how all activities that define the automotive industry is changing, and as a result how Jaguar Land Rover’s footprint needs to change.
What are your USPs?
We believe InMotion Ventures’ key USP is our access to domain expertise through Jaguar Land Rover. This gives us a real advantage to diligence investment opportunities. We understand what it takes to achieve product market fit.
We also have access to fantastic proprietary deal flow through Jaguar Land Rover’s network of strategic partners.
What are the hot sectors?
Mobility services have attracted huge amounts of money in the past five years or so, and there is no sign that investor interest in waning. Vast sums continue to be poured into ride-hailing, and strategic investors are now found on the cap table of every major mobility start-up.
At InMotion Ventures, we believe there are interesting opportunities in niche markets that are not well served by platforms like Uber because existing offerings are not sufficiently differentiated.
This is especially true once we transition to driverless vehicles – if you remove the driver, you will need to make sure these services remain accessible for everyone, including those who are vulnerable or in need of assistance. Companies like Sheprd, which we back, are targeting these opportunities.
We also focus on technologies that support professional fleet management, demand prediction, fleet intelligence, intelligent charging, intuitive HMIs (Human Machine Interface) and a great customer experience. These are fundamental building blocks of next generation mobility services.
Personally, I think vertical flight is an interesting sector. If you have been to places like Sao Paulo, flying taxis are not so far-fetched as it might initially seem. Companies like Lilium have secured some significant funding this year. It is a sector with lots of challenges, but we are tracking these developments very closely.
Three things a company should be able to offer an investor?
- Be transparent. The first thing that springs to mind is transparency, which is key to building trust. It is difficult to work constructively with a start-up that is not transparent about its successes and, more importantly, its failings.
- Be open to collaboration. Beyond that, it comes down to what the investor wants to achieve. At InMotion Ventures, we believe in the value of bringing our companies together and creating an ecosystem where insights and knowledge is shared. Many our portfolio companies have desks in our Kings Cross office, and we actively encourage our pre-seed portfolio companies, especially, to take up space and make good use of the networking opportunities. The more the companies contribute to the environment in our office, they more they are likely to get back.
- Be prepared. Companies score a lot of brownie points if board meetings are well prepared in advance. Given the scale of our activities, it is impossible to stay on top of every detail. A well-prepared board presentation that is to the point and highly data driven requires a lot of work, but the pay-off is significant.
What is the cardinal sin when looking for investment?
First impressions are important. Building relationships is a big part of what we do.
At networking events, I occasionally see that founders are so obsessed with the ‘elevator pitch’ that there is often very little room for a genuine conversation and all you get is a hard sell and a request for your business card.
As investors in early stage companies, we are in many ways much more interested in the person than the idea, which we know will change as founders work towards product market fit.
What continuing involvement do you like in an investment?
In the initial stages of the company lifecycle, we want to create a ‘safe’ space for our companies. They can camp out in our offices, become part of our family, and be as involved with us as they like.
We offer mentoring and support across multiple functions, such as HR, marketing, and design. It is down to the portfolio company to make use of everything we have to offer.
When the company has built its first Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and is looking for market feedback or help with organisational challenges, we proactively lend our support where we feel we can make a real difference.
Once a company has successfully established product market fit, and evolved sufficiently as an organisation, we proactively pave the way for collaboration opportunities with Jaguar Land Rover or other strategic partners we have access to.
What has been your best performing investment to date?
Our fund completed its first investments in February 2017 and, in total, we completed 10 early-stage investments and a major investment in US ride-sharing company Lyft.
70% of our companies have since raised additional funding from third parties, which is encouraging, and highlights how dynamic our chosen sectors are. Overall, we have seen very good progress across the board, however, it is probably too early to single out any company.