Investor Q&A: Mike Stevenson, Fuel Ventures

7 Minutes

Mike Stevenson from Fuel Ventures talks about how he went from Venture Builder to Venture Capitalist and about the interesting companies he has invested in since making the move.

Work

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get into VC?

It’s been an interesting route into VC for me! I started at PwC and became a Chartered Accountant – but auditing life insurance companies wasn’t really my cup of tea. I then joined a large London craft brewery who had just been acquired by a Japanese conglomerate. This was a really hands-on Commercial role, while the brewery was going through huge scaling, investment and growth. I also built the B2B white label department from scratch and grew that to £1.5m in sales. After 2 years there, I joined a Venture Builder – working with pre-seed and seed founders – focusing on their commercial and financial strategies, building models, decks and helping with fundraising. VC was the natural next step!

Tell us about Fuel Ventures and what you like to invest in

I’ve been at Fuel Ventures since January working in the Pre-Seed (SEIS) team. We also have a Scale-Up (EIS) fund capable of writing £1-3m Seed investments, and a Follow-On fund that can go all the way to Series A! We invest into super ambitious founders, building globally scalable businesses. The focus is on SaaS, marketplaces and platforms across a very broad range of sectors.

From a personal perspective, I’m deliberately casting my net wide – gladly speaking with founders doing everything from AI to Femtech! Fuel affords me the opportunity to follow my instinct and find and invest in the best founders, no matter which sector they’re operating in.

Why should a founder choose Fuel Ventures?

As you may have noticed from our online presence (shout out to Alex Breeden), we aren’t your typical VC by any stretch! Besides the memes, I think this is really driven by the fact that Fuel’s founder, Mark Pearson, is an exited entrepreneur himself. He has literally lived and breathed the founder journey, and this ethos runs through the team – with many of us having had experience working at/with or even founding startups/scaleups, giving us the ability to draw on our own experiences to help our portfolio.

Alongside this, we have the capacity to invest from that first £150k SEIS cheque all the way to Series A, which is a relatively unique proposition. The jewel in our crown is our incredible Business Development team, who actively work with our portfolio companies to bring in top tier investors from their huge network, supercharging their funding rounds.

What does your day to day look like?

A typical day could be reading through a dozen or so decks, a handful of financial models (I’m a bit of an excel nerd being an accountant…), speaking with new founders and catching up with our portfolio founders to see if there’s anything I can help them with.

How does VC compare to being at a Venture Builder?

I really enjoyed my time working at a Venture builder. There was a steep learning curve for me but the CFO Jim Shirley (who was the CFO who first hired me at the brewery as it happens!) invested a lot of time helping me learn and develop. We were raising our own seed round as I joined, so it was great to get the hands-on experience of going through the fundraising process from a startup’s perspective.

Working in VC has a lot of similarities, but I spend a lot more time thinking about the big picture – whether a founder really has the vision and capability to execute an idea at a global scale. There’s certainly a lot I have brought over from my Venture Builder experience, and still a lot to learn about the world of VC!

What exciting deals have you done since joining Fuel?

We’re looking to make 50+ pre-seed investments this year, so a lot of deals to be done. I’m proud to have invested in what I believe is Fuel’s first Climate Tech business, along with a really interesting Prop Tech business (both of which will be announced imminently). There are a handful of B2B SaaS deals I’m working hard to close too, so watch this space!

Outside of Work

What do you do outside of work? Any hobbies?

I like to get out on my bike when the weather is nice enough (don’t hate on me, I’m a fair weather cyclist!). I try and get away as often as I can too, so now the world has opened back up, I have plenty of places on the list to visit. I’ve been to some slightly unconventional countries – I have a great story about an incident in North Korea…but that’s for another time.

Favourite Movie?

Tough to choose – toss up between The Departed and black comedy The Death of Stalin.

Favourite Book?

I’m a big advocate for audiobooks – Kitchen Confidential is definitely up there, and I always enjoy anything by Malcolm Gladwell. I recently finished Never Split the Difference – could not recommend it more to founders and investors alike.

Take me to Swoop