I attended CFP and Founders Forum 2011 and finally get around to doing a short write-up. For those of you who do not know CFP (Corporate Financial Partners), it is about the most not banking like investment bank and private equity funds company possible. Andreas Thümmler who gives the whole network around CFP its unique way of doing things founded CFP. This special way is more uncomplicated, more creative and more innovative than the investment banking 1.0 you see across the board. Thus it is not too surprising that CFP is specialized on technology deals. Besides the pure M&A business CFP has created their own PE fund, because they saw that most of the entrepreneurs for whom CFP works would reinvest part of their money into other technology companies. This makes their fund (CFP and Founders Fund) an unique opportunity for innovative approaches in technology, because they do not just have the money but also an amazing network of successful technology people who hold a stake in the investment the fund takes on.
At this year’s Founders Forum there was a crowd of more than 200 investors, founders and experienced technology and banking people who discussed the current market situation, opportunities and the merits of entrepreneurial endeavors especially in a time where the general financial market seems to be unpredictable at best. After the substantial decline in stock and bond markets preceding the event it was not surprising that the star of the event was James Turk from GoldMoney.com. GoldMoney.com basically makes gold available as an every day currency and is of course profiting from the uncertainties in the market and the general movement towards commodities since the 2008 financial crises. Personally I can see the logic behind the approach and I quite like the idea of an independent gold based currency, but I do not agree with the notion, that this is the only way to survive any doom and gloom scenario. Personally I believe that equity in companies producing actual assets and consumer services in an element just as important as putting money behind the firewall of a gold currency. This is why I also liked the talk given by Oliver N. Hagedorn from avesco Financial Services AG – a financial service provider specialized in delivering services to entrepreneurs who have made one or more exits He was not only speaking his mind that financial consulting can never be done for free – which is obviously something most people still expect – because independence in consultancy can only be guaranteed if you pay for the advice you get. Mr. Hagedorn was also strongly emphasizing that cash behind the firewall is not a single strategy approach (like just investing everything into gold) but should be more like a fort with different protections for the wealth to be preserved, different levels and mechanisms of protection for different needs and different market situations. And I could not agree more.
One very important keynote speech – especially given the current situation in Africa – was given by Dr. Michael Hoppe who is running the very special aid organization Steps for Children. This organization is not only special because it focuses on giving children a good education and thus solving the under development problem and possible risk of extremism at the same time – in the long run that is – but also because they do not give away the assets donated to them simply to fund their program but they use the assets to build up small enterprises that will finance the program in the long run. And as I happen to believe that the best help you can get is help to learn to help yourself and be entrepreneurial this is an approach I not only personally support but would recommend to anyone who is considering sharing some of the wealth they have earned. At this point it is a good example to mention Matthias Hunecke, the founder and CEO of Brille24.de who has donated a share of his company to Steps for Children – a very brave, admirable and humbling example to all of us.
But now to the most important part of the 2011 CFP and Founders Forum – the founders who presented their companies and approaches. I will not write about each and everyone, because you can check that out yourself. I would like to write about three very interesting examples. These examples are three very different ones but three companies, executives and concepts that I personally find intriguing and would thus like to promote to you (and I have not included brille24 here because I already mentioned their great service in other places).
First let me start out with zuuka! a mobile development company specialized on building the coolest applications for kids for this new generation of devices. The founders of zuuka! – Susanne and Dirk Busshart – obviously did not just have a love for good educational material for children they also realized the potential of the post book and post TV area where entertainment does not have to be dull and education does not have to be nerdy anymore. I believe the market of educational and entertainment applications for children is huge and that these applications are a good thing for our society at the same time. Susanne and Dirk have realized this and started cooperations with many of the best known children’s book publishers and authors to put well known characters at the center of new concepts. They were also able to acquire the rights to some of the coolest child material through an acquisition in the US and I believe we can expect great applications and an excellent corporate development from them – and an improvement in our kids entertainment and learning patterns which will leave all of us in a multi-tier win situation.
Second I would like to mention Kognitio a company providing “big data” services as in house or cloud solutions to everyone who really wants to squeeze the value out of all the great data they own. Customers of Kognitio could be super markets who want to know what to sell to whom when and where based on all the trillions of sales made in all their stores over a long period of time. With a technology like Kognitio´s this kind of analysis becomes possible at a reasonable pricing. I believe that Roger Llewellyn – founder and CEO of Kognitio (yes I spelled the name correctly and even I with an Irish family connection cannot remember how to pronounce this Scottish name) – has been ahead of his time in developing this technology for the past years but he is in a great position to have a proven technology in a market where “big data” is all of a sudden a hype and where large players like SAP try to move into this market with new and fairly untested solutions like their in memory HANA package (which I like, but I think Kognitio just has more experience in the realm). In my book Kognitio is also worth mentioning here, because the CFP and Founders Fund only rarely invests into completely enterprise focused and solely technology driven approaches and I think they have done so with Kognitio for a very good reason.
Last I would like to mention a company that is so far out o my field of knowledge that I might be opening up a lot of doors to criticism here, but it is my personal feeling that they are doing a great thing and thus you read about Agrarius here. This publically traded company is focused on agricultural production on a corporate scale in Romania. They have a good point about the slow down in innovation in the food industry while at the same time the global population is increasing steadily. I believe a new wave value will be induced into food production and thus I think that proper management and corporate organization to this field will give investors a wonderful long term pay off. Also Ottmar Lotz – founder and CEO of Agrarius – gave me some insights into the modern agricultural industry and the idea of city farming (vertical farms) that are fascinating me and give me hope that we will be able to deal with the mega cities building up all over the globe.
Unfortunately I could not attend the evening party at the CFP and Founders Forum – and that is seriously bad, because I missed out on great networking and also parties in which Andy Thümmler is involved have the nimbus of being legendary by definition – but I heard from attendees that I really missed out on a wonderful evening event.
Well I am already looking forward to another year following CFP’s activities and I am sure I will write about next year’s Founders Forum with even more great examples for entrepreneurial engagement and innovative approaches that will rock the world.