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Alina Bassi: What makes a founder tick as an investor?

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Alina Bassi: What makes a founder tick as an investor?

Alina Bassi founded the startup Kleiderly in 2020. She now works as an investment manager for Ananda Ventures. What makes an investor who was just a founder tick? How do startups convince them?

The founder Alina Bassi is now an investor at VC Ananda Impact Ventures. Katja Hentschel

What Alina Bassi wasn’t everything. Chemical engineer. Fashion founder. Lion’s Den candidate. Circular economy pioneers. We go even further: The Berliner, who comes from London, is also co-founder of the Founderland initiative, which supports female founders with a migrant background. And she is one of 35 European Leaders of the Obama Foundation.

Since autumn 2023, Bassi has also been an investor. She works as an investment manager at Ananda Impact Ventures, a €200 million fund from Munich that invests exclusively in sustainability startups. Their main focus is on the topic of decarbonization and on startups that contribute to reducing climate change, says Bassi.

For her, the step to the other side was logical, says the Kleiderly founder. Kleiderly, that was the startup that she founded in 2019 and where she is currently in the exit process, as she says, without giving any further details. Back then, Bassi had developed a process with which a type of plastic could be made from old clothes made from polyester, cotton, viscose and elastane. With the help of natural additives, the fibers of the textiles are created into granules that can be melted and poured into a wide variety of shapes. Bassi’s form of choice: sunglasses. She also appeared on television back then as the woman who made sunglasses out of old clothes.

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The 34-year-old told us in an interview why she doesn’t miss being a founder and how she uses tram rides to upskill.

Alina, do you think ex-founders are particularly critical as investors? Because they have particularly high requirements?

No. I think I’m a good investor precisely because I can empathize with what it’s like to be on the other side. I know that you risk so much to start a business and put so much on the back burner in life. The respect I have for founders means that I support them fully.

Does that mean you are a “nicer” investor than others?

Neither. But I believe that if you act with kindness and respect, you can make tough decisions without hurting anyone. And hard decisions are part of it – as an entrepreneur and as an investor. I even believe it is my job as an investor to make decisions about an investment or not, respectfully but also straightforwardly. Even worse is stalling someone.

How does your previous life as an investor help you in your new role?

I think I’m good at building trust in founding teams and understanding their situation more closely.

How exactly?

I take my role very seriously when it comes to responsibility for deploying capital. And if it’s not the right case for Ananda, then maybe I can still help with my network, know a funding program or an accelerator where the startup could fit. I look for possibilities and paths – that creates trust.

Why is this important, even in the selection process? Later, as an investor on the board of a startup, you need trust, of course. But before making the investment decision?

I believe that this is the only way I can get the best answers from founders so that I can assess them well. They feel understood, I don’t put them under pressure or put them in a stressful situation. Being a founder itself can be very stressful and stressful. If investors put additional pressure on it, it won’t be helpful. I know that from my own expirience. It is important here as founders and investors to act together as a team.

Is this something you consciously want to do differently than investors you’ve dealt with?

Yes, I do pay attention: How are the founders doing? Are they OK or on the verge of burnout? Do they have someone to help them, a coach or a solid network that supports them?

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You can’t study being an investor, just as you can’t study being a founder.

Yes, that’s right. But I like this challenge. Even as an engineer, I didn’t learn at university what I later did on the job. I first learned to be an entrepreneur “on the job”. And I like that. I’m constantly trying to ‘educate myself’. Upskilling. I do it all the time. For example, I also took part in the Included VC Fellowship.

And how else do you get up like that?

First and foremost I read. Much. Constant. Newsletters, articles, books. I read to improve. When I take the tram in the morning, that’s the time when I read all my newsletters. When I walk, I listen to podcasts and I read every night before I go to bed. Currently Steven Bartlett’s “The Diary of a CEO”.

Alina, does it hurt you to sell Kleiderly and give away your startup?

No it does not. It’s part of the startup journey.

Not at all?

Not at all. Going or, as in my case, letting go doesn’t hurt if it’s clear to you as a leader that it’s always about what’s best for the company. Then it’s not an ego thing and then nothing hurts. I know that the exit is the best thing for my company. I’m really excited to see where my experiences in engineering, building Kleiderly, founding Founderland and now my time at Impact Venture Capital will take me.

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