Creandum’s Carl Fritjofsson on the Differences Between the Startup Ecosystem in Europe and the U.S.

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

Carl Fritjofsson
Carl Fritjofsson

On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Creandum General Partner Carl Fritjofsson talks about his venture journey, why Generative-AI represents an opportunity to rethink products from the ground up, and why Q4 2023 and Q1 2024 could be "pretty bloody" for startups.

Creandum is a European VC firm that invests in early stage startups — typically at the “late Seed to Series A” stage. The firm’s investments are focused across six major buckets: fintech, health, climate, SaaS, infrastructure and consumer internet.

Some of Creandum’s most prominent investments include Spotify, Klarna, and Trade Republic.

“We started to build our own confidence that what we were doing was actually pretty good,” Fritjoffson said. “I think we've come now to a position where we've seen enough high quality companies throughout the years, we know what good looks like and we've also seen the best of the best firms have invested in some of our companies and we've sat along boards with them, so we come to learn from them as well.”

Working in the VC industry for the last decade, Fritjofsson has developed a unique approach to identifying opportunities for startups. His approach starts with recognizing that there are only so many types of large software categories that exist in the world (CRM, ERP, and Cloud Computing, to name a few)

“Each one of them are, to some extent, reinvented every X number of years. The reason why they are being reinvented is because the underlying core infrastructure has innovated” and the “winners of the last cohort…do not innovate as fast as the market expects” he said.

Fritjofsson thus spends a majority of his time waiting for significant inflection points- those moments when new technology comes along that fundamentally changes an individual’s experience interacting with a software product or service.

Take Generative AI for example. Fritjofsson believes that recent innovations represent a “horizontal wave” that impacts each of the six investment buckets mentioned above. He further believes that AI changes how we “engage and interface with software”, which necessitates fundamentally rethinking the way companies service a market

As Fritjofsson puts it, “I actually think that more or less every software category can be rewritten with a Generative AI-first approach. Now the question is, of course…how much better does that experience become?...I'm not necessarily convinced that it'll…disrupt every software category in the world, but I can at least build excitement around the potential.” Where there’s an inflection point, there’s opportunity.

Despite the present opportunity with AI, Fritjofsson described a bleaker outlook for the cohort of startups that raised their last round of financing in 2021.

Fritjofsson believes that “Q4, Q1 is gonna be pretty bloody.” He reasons that many startups cut costs in Q1’23 and Q2’23 to avoid coming to market when investor sentiment was negative. While these startups may have prolonged their runway, they likely did so at the expense of growth, which new investors will not like. As Fritjofsson puts it, Q4 ‘23 and Q1’24 will “be the moment of truth…where there's gonna be a lot of bodies in the wake because a lot of firms have slowed down.”

Given his experience as a founder and now a VC, Fritjofsson advises younger folks to veer away from entering the world of venture too early.

“I think there's a really dangerous path when you get stuck in venture too early in your career,” he said. “Because it's very hard to climb the ranks in a venture firm. Most venture firms are small and it's not a super clear path on how you become a partner.”

While he’s content in his own role, he cautions others who view a junior role at a VC firm as a stepping stone to an operating role inside an organization. The skill set, while valuable, is not necessarily transferable.

Finally, Fritjofsson shared the similarity he sees between the startup ecosystems in Europe and Los Angeles.

Homegrown success stories like Spotify helped Europe, as a startup ecosystem, “build confidence and trust their own intuition.”

In Fritjofsson’s view, LA is similar in that respect. It is significantly smaller than Silicon Valley, which simultaneously creates “a little bit of…insecurity” but also a willingness to “prove ourselves.”

While Creandum and the team are constantly evolving, Fritjofsson has experienced various instances where the team won competitive deals by “thinking outside the box.”

One example he points to was a time when Creandum was looking to win over Better Stack, a company in the observability space and said the firm was up against big names in the U.S. and Europe.

One of their products is a monitoring solution. Fritjofsson said Creandum created a sub page on the firm’s website, which looked like they were using the company’s product.

“We were building our conviction for the company,” he said. “Obviously the founder loved this. No one else did this. This was unique to him and he will remember it for the rest of his life, and we ended up winning the deal. I'm not sure if we won it because of that, but it definitely played to our advantage.”

dot.LA Reporter Decerry Donato contributed to this post.

Click the link above to hear the full episode, and subscribe to LA Venture on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

This podcast is produced by L.A. Venture. The views and opinions expressed in the show are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of dot.LA or its newsroom.

🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.

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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.


Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle

Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out

Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities

Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo

SoFi Stadium Tour

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A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours

Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch

Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
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Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.

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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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