This Much I Know: Alex Macpherson, Managing Director of Octopus Ventures, on backing exceptional founders

Sharing his story with us this week is Alex Macpherson, Managing Director of Octopus Ventures. With 53 companies in its portfolio (including successes like Zoopla, Swiftkey and Graze.com) Octopus is one of the European ecosystem’s leading players, backing teams across multiple stages and sectors.

Alex transitioned into venture after 11 years as a derivatives trader in the City – prior to which he sold personal and business computers after leaving school (and even worked in the circus). In 2000 he founded Katalyst, a private investor group making investments into early stage, start up and expansion stage companies. Over seven years, Alex led the business as CEO until its sale to Octopus in August 2007 – upon which he joined the firm.

Speaking to Seedcamp partner Carlos Espinal, Alex discusses the ways his years as a City trader shaped his approach to investing– including learning the lesson that the ‘first cut is the cheapest’, meaning investors and entrepreneurs should know when to cut their losses or shift strategy.

Referencing some of Octopus’s biggest success such as Zoopla, Alex explains how he looks for teams that combine execution with vision and why, given that the difference between success and failure is ‘wafer thin’, backing exceptional founders is essential.

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