On Episode 12 of The Story of You, we had Magnus Grimeland, CEO of Antler, a startup generator and an early stage VC.

Antler is unlike a regular accelerator because it helps connect founders to mentors and potential co-founders in the very early stages of building a company. It leverages a rigorous selection process and funding — only 3 per cent  of applicants are accepted into their programme — to find the best candidates.

Magnus leads a global team to develop the next generation of companies, while creating a pipeline for top talent to pursue a career in entrepreneurship and innovation.

62 founders from 22 countries have founded 29 companies. Antler has invested in 13 from their first cohort in 2018. The companies created are from a wide range of industries including real estate, e-sports, hiring, robotics and automation, and e-commerce.

Here are some highlights from our conversation with Magnus.

How is Antler distinctly different from other accelerators, especially in its approach to building companies?

We focus on talent first. We really believe that all great businesses are created by amazing co-founding teams and while other accelerators and VCs invest in companies and help them make it better, we bring in great talent from around the globe in specific teams and build companies. We then invest in the companies. That is very unique.

What makes a great entrepreneur?

There are 3 factors that make an amazing entrepreneur- this is what we are looking for.

  • People who have a spike- this can be different for each person. It can be a
    personality trait or that you are deeply entrenched in a particular industry—everyone
    can have a spike or strength and if you know it, you can utilise it to make something
    amazing.
  • Inner engine —  the drive that enables you to execute that comes from passion.
  • Tenacity — on paper everything looks amazing but in real life, all these things are
    really hard. Everyone will hit walls, but the ones who succeed in something big are
    usually the ones who never give up achieving their dreams.

What’s are the biggest takeaways after the first batch of companies?

The first major learning is that it really works—that if you put a group of passionate people in a room committed to solving a problem, it will work.

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We learned a lot about forming teams- some organically, some with input from our side. How you go deep on a business model and iterate that was another.

The only way to create a great product is to get something out there quickly for the customers to use.

What have you learned about Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem?

The digitalisation of Southeast Asia is happening faster than almost anywhere else in the world—there are massive customer bases to reach in the region. We have seen giants like Go-Jek, Traveloka, Grab, Lazada emerge over the last few years.

The ecosystem has developed a lot and right now we are at this inflexion point where you have some great companies that have been built, the regulatory environment has really picked up. It has never been a better time to build something in this region. Now is the time.

What did you notice about this cohort and the way they approached building
companies?

We focus on building companies that solve problems, not follow trends. The issue with trends is people will build companies for the sake of technology. For example, when you saw the Blockchain trend, you saw a lot people trying to build businesses based on blockchain technology.

This is really the wrong way to build a business. For us, we ensure we tell the founders the way to do it is to find a real problem that needs to be solved and make people’s lives better. Then we help them get the right team to execute it and then it’s going to be an amazing business. Start with the problem.

What are the expansions plans globally?

We are a global company who want to build companies so we can support companies who want to expand globally. That’s why a global platform is better than a localised one. We will be able to execute out of Singapore. You have be international and bring in people who can add something to the company who are either stronger or have different spikes.

Also Read: The Story of You with Smartkarma CEO Raghav Kapoor

We are not creating a franchise, we are building a global partnership and all the partners coming in now as we expand into the US, Europe, Australia and Africa add amazing talent to support our companies.