Dr David Demetrius is an Australian entrepreneur who has lived in Belgium for over 25 years. One technology company that he created was sold at the height of the tech-boom and he uses the capital to invest in both start-ups and scale-ups. He also provides board-level training programmes.
Over the last few years you’ve been active as a venture capital investor in various businesses and also as a training provider. Could you explain a bit more about what you do and how you operate?
Through the training company that I founded in 2005, Emadin SA, I provide training for company directors in all aspects of corporate direction. As a result of this, I’m often made aware of opportunities for my colleagues to take an equity stake in young start-ups and early growth companies.
You’re clearly focused on creating profitable partnerships. Can you explain the critical elements you look for?
The key points for me are to find individuals or teams with products or services that clearly fill a gap in the current offerings available and where the individuals or teams clearly believe passionately in what they are doing, and have the drive and commitment to carry it through. It is important that I feel that we can contribute something that the organisation is currently lacking. For example, I find that many young companies are reliant on the technical skills of the founder(s) and that they have little, if any, experience in developing corporate strategies or implementing sound corporate governance procedures.
Over the years, venture capitalists have become well known through television programmes such as Dragon’s Den and its clones across Europe, and it seems they always focus on three things: the business plan, the market and the cashflow. What’s the importance of these three things as far as you’re concerned?
In a sense, the more successful the company is, the more important is its cashflow. A fast growth puts cash under enormous pressure.
Clearly, the market opportunities are also vital. It’s useless having a wonderful product if no one wants to buy it. Often, young entrepreneurs believe that if they like what they’re selling, then everyone else will obviously want to buy it. This is often not true.
With respect to business plans, I’m often appalled to see how badly prepared such plans are. I’m sure that I’ve missed many good opportunities simply because I was presented with such a badly written plan that I threw it away without even getting to page two!
As you’re based in Belgium, is there anything that you feel the European Commission can do to assist you achieve your objectives as a business investor?
I’d be delighted to see the Commission simplify the procedures for obtaining EU grants and make it easier to know what grants are actually available. At present, most fledgling companies can’t afford to allocate the resources necessary to seek out and apply for grants.
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