HomeInterviewsOxx, Interview With Principal Ingrid Bonde Åkerlind

Oxx, Interview With Principal Ingrid Bonde Åkerlind

Ingrid Bonde Åkerlind - OXX Principal
Ingrid Bonde Åkerlind – OXX Principal

In November 2023 we covered Oxx’ announcement of the raise of $190m to support European B2B SaaS scaleups. Some months later, Principal Ingrid Bonde Akerlind replied to our questions about herself, the firm and their overall strategy, and shared some thoughts about entrepreneurships and the tech landscape.

VCWire: Hi Ingrid, can you please tell us a bit more about you? What’s your background? 

I am a Principal at Oxx, a VC fund specialized in B2B SaaS. Before joining the Oxx team in 2020, I was (what is commonly referred to in this industry as) an operator, having taken on various marketing and growth leadership roles at European tech companies. Among others, I led pricing at French unicorn BlaBlaCar, and just prior to joining Oxx, I was the first pure marketing hire at Swedish SaaS company Volumental. In other words, I experienced first hand what it takes to go from a scrappy outfit to a structured GTM team, which makes being on the investor side all the more interesting. 

VCWire: Can you introduce Oxx? 

Oxx is a venture capital firm founded in 2017, by our General Partners Mikael Johnsson and Richard Anton. They worked together for about 10 years in various capacities prior to starting the firm, and have both invested in B2B SaaS since before – as they like to say – “it was even a thing”. Having looked at companies across all stages, they saw there was massive potential at the growth stage and started Oxx. We are now a team of about fifteen self-proclaimed ‘SaaS Geeks’ with offices in London and Stockholm, which is where I am based. We invest in European and Israeli B2B SaaS companies at the scale-up stage. 

VCWire: What is your overall strategy?

Oxx’s overall strategy is to back the most promising up and coming European SaaS companies when they’re at the emerging Go-To-Market fit stage: when they are mature enough that their acquisition, retention, and upsell of customers is becoming predictable. While we are relatively sector agnostic, we focus primarily on industries that are ‘hype-resistant’, where we see that the solutions can have a strong impact over time. 

We partner with companies in both the application and infrastructure layer – so both software for business users, and technical tools for developers or data practitioners. But common among all of our investments is that there’s a real product depth to what they’re doing. Our initial investment amounts are around $5-10m. 

VCWire: Beyond capital, how do you support startups?  

We have a very focused approach to investing – Oxx invests in around 10-12 companies per fund, which means the whole investment team has the bandwidth to work closely with each company as they build. How we apply this depends on what the startup needs – there’s definitely no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to building a company. We focus on the emerging go-to-market fit stage, so really polishing those elements during our first few years together is highly important to us. We published our ‘Go-To-Market Fit’ toolkit (which we update on a regular basis with new tools and insights) to share this knowledge with the community, and then typically dive a few layers deeper with our own portfolio companies. Activities could include tweaking positioning, thinking about messaging, or exploring a new channel with the company. 

We also look to introduce CXOs and advisors to companies. For example, in the past six months we’ve added a CFO from our network to one of our portfolio companies, and secured a board member with CMO experience from one of the most recognisable global SaaS successes of the past decade for another portfolio company. We frequently support companies with their US expansion, as it’s typically a goal for the funding they receive from us. We work closely to help them position themselves for a US market, connect them with downstream investors for the next round of fundraising, and in general share the good, bad and ugly from our previous experiences.

VCWire: What do you like to see in founders?….And what don’t you like to see in them? I mean, is there something which impresses you at a first glance?    

The first thing that I am personally drawn to in a founder – given that I previously worked on ‘Go-To-Market’ in companies – is that they will really have a deep understanding of their customer, the customer’s problems, and how their product solves that problem. If founders truly, truly understand this, it forms the source of irreplaceable intuition that leads the company to success.

The second thing I like to see is a dose of transparency behind the fundraising facade. We’re all in sales mode, but we’re also trying to build a relationship for the long term. I personally enjoy when a founder reveals a particular challenge the company is going through, which allows me to offer advice on how they might be able to fix that. This allows us both to take the very first steps towards understanding what it might be like to work together. 

On the flip side of this, I don’t like to see arrogance – it’s definitely a pet peeve of mine – or poor presentation skills. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how good your metrics are, if you can’t sell your company to me, then how can I trust you to be able to sell it to a customer?  

VCWire: Please, tell us a bit more about the portfolio. You can list a few startups whose paths have made you particularly proud of.            

Right now we have twelve active companies in the portfolio across Oxx I and Oxx II, with several that have grown steadily throughout both the ZIRP era and downturn.

Firstly we have Funnel, one of our most prominent investments. Their marketing technology software enables companies to collect, refine and report on data from any source. This solves for data processing engineers becoming the bottleneck to correct marketing reporting. We invested in 2018 and they have grown extremely well since then, with several further external fundraising rounds. 

One portfolio company that I work with closely is Gravitee, an open source API management platform that has unique support for synchronous and asynchronous data. They pioneered pulling the API platform category into event-driven architectures and landed on the Gartner Magic Quadrant last year. 

Goodlord is a third – it’s an all-in-one property letting platform that has become the dominant company in its sector in the UK.

VCWire: Which sector/s would you bet 2 cents on in the next five years?  

We’ll be betting more than 2 cents!

Right now, there’s a lot of buyer demand to integrate vertical AI into the next software decisions people are going to make. But the truth is, it’s not one singular sector: it represents a change in how SaaS operates. Our thesis is that most SaaS of any sort will incorporate AI into its offering in the next few years, so it’s a transformation of the whole software sector, rather than one industry within it.

Where I do believe there’s a lot of room still for growth is the digitisation of enterprise functions that have so far been left behind, for example across manufacturing, procurement, and logistics. These are whole industries that are still run by manual functions and Excel. For this reason, I believe we will continue to see the unbundling of Excel over the next few years. 

Finally, as a fund we see huge potential in cybersecurity. The faster the technology cycle turns, the more attack vectors, and therefore the more sophisticated required to protect companies – generative AI is the latest in a long sequence of such shifts.

VCWire

07/05/2024