Katharina focuses on backing and supporting founders and companies from across Europe that are solving previously uncracked challenges in the B2B world. Index’s lead investor for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, she is both a part of the London office and based in Berlin.
Born and raised in Germany, Katharina holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a bachelors degree from the University of St. Gallen. Prior to joining Index, she invested in early-stage enterprise and productivity software at Cherry Ventures. Kathi started her career at The Boston Consulting Group, based in Zurich, where she focused primarily on the pharma and medtech industry.
Investing from inception to the growth stage, Kathi’s background means she’s well-placed to help companies navigate expansion beyond their locality. She is passionate about the fast-maturing tech ecosystem in the DACH region and its ability to generate world-beating ideas that can fix major obstacles companies face globally.
Why are you passionate about working with founders that are solving complex problems for businesses?
Often, the paths less travelled hold the most opportunity. To build category-defining businesses in this space, you need founders that have deep expertise and an obsession for a topic that might not look like the most attractive ones to solve from afar. These companies can’t be started on the back of a trend, instead often they had an ’aha’ moment from previous experience, e.g. by encountering that problem within another organisation. Finally, fixes for B2B problems are inherently global so ripe for expansion from day one.
What most excites you about the DACH region today?
I believe there has not been a better time for entrepreneurship in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to achieve global, breakout success. Historically, there have been great executors in the region, but over the past few years we’ve seen a growing number of operators who have experienced hyper-growth companies first-hand. There are many more product-focused founders now who have worked with cutting-edge businesses and faced technical challenges of a higher order than ever before.
At the same time, there are big established, globally relevant industries that are increasingly turning to technology to modernise and increase efficiency. This, along with the very high number of SMEs, provide not only fertile ground for founders to emerge but a large, B2B market that isn’t dependent on selling into other startups and tech companies.
Finally, the decentralised nature of the region empowers entrepreneurs regardless where they start. Berlin and Munich are strong nodes, but there isn’t an equivalent of London or Paris - instead each city in DACH region has their own specialist sectors, industries and businesses.
Could you tell us more about the kind of companies and problems you are interested in?
The investment conversations I have tend to fit into three types:
1) Software to manage complex processes: As a region that has created companies like SAP and has a number of outstanding technical universities, there’s so much technical know-how and ability to process and innovate on complexity.
2) Those solving problems for SMEs. There’s a huge number of SME or “Mittelstand” companies across the region that are looking for broad-based solutions that increase efficiency. Rather than looking for 10 best in class solutions, they need something that can handle the entire issue: Personio is a great example of this.
3) Highly targeted vertical SaaS solutions. With the decentralised nature of the area, regions specialise in different global sectors across DACH. These require highly specific software solutions and provide a fertile market to sell into.
What motivates you as an investor?
I love that green shoots can come from anywhere: all you need is a dreamer with a great idea and the most impossible things can grow.
Being an investor means I get to meet and work with uniquely talented people, that each have a willpower and ways of looking at the world that you rarely see elsewhere. That’s what inspires me to do my job – it’s a privilege to meet people every day that are pursuing ideas previously thought impossible.
Finally, the venture business is a people business and one that is both an art and a science. Maybe different from common perceptions, it's an industry where kindness, thoughtfulness and serendipity go a long way - more than in any other industry I’ve encountered.