Former Formula 1 world champion Rosberg: “The German car industry has to be careful”

Former Formula 1 world champion Rosberg
“The German auto industry has to be careful”

Nico Rosberg managed to do what not many world-class athletes manage to do after the end of their career: start a new career. Rosberg has developed from Formula 1 world champion to sustainability entrepreneur and well-known startup investor. Now the 2016 champion is starting his most ambitious venture to date: With Rosberg Ventures, he is building a 75 million euro fund of funds. “There are a lot of big Formula 1 fans in the startup sector and I take advantage of that,” told Nico Rosberg in the ntv podcast “Startup – Now be honest”. The fund is intended to build a bridge between the most successful German entrepreneurial families and the most successful startups in the world. It’s been eight years since you became Formula 1 world champion. Since then, you have pursued a second career, as a startup investor and fund founder. Is your ambition to be the best just as great here?

Nico Rosberg: Absolutely. I can call myself a former world-class athlete. We athletes have this fighting spirit and it now helps me enormously in my business. The top founders have a similar fighting spirit. It’s very comparable and it helps me a lot now to speed up, make decisions and never give up and never take no for an answer.

Many professional athletes fall into some kind of hole after their career ends. How could you prevent that?

Although I of course had financial security, I was still sometimes close to the hole afterward. I remember once I was sitting in the car and suddenly had a crying fit. That was completely exaggerated when you think about it now. Life as a racing driver is simply very extreme. The intensity, the focus, the compromises, the hundreds of millions of people watching and judging. When that stops, it’s a shock to the body. It is important to exchange ideas with as many people as possible and to talk to people who inspire you. This helps enormously to find your own new path. For me it was Dieter Zetsche, the head of Mercedes at the time. He gave me insights into the future of Mercedes and what the company is doing and still plans to do in the startup sector. And this is one of the reasons why I found my way into the startup world.

And this path recently led you to Silicon Valley. You have rented a race track there and the top investors and founders come straight to it. What ulterior motives do you have when you organize something like this?

My journey in the startup world is now very advanced. I have now launched my own 75 million euro fund under the name Rosberg Ventures. A fund of funds in which we primarily pool capital from the largest German and European entrepreneurial families and then invest this in the best venture capital funds in the world. This enables unique access for German and European capital. It’s not easy at all to get this access and that’s why you have to build relationships. I have the big advantage that Formula 1 is currently going global without end. There is a huge boom. There are also a lot of big Formula 1 fans in the startup sector and of course I take advantage of that to build relationships.

Why is it difficult to invest your capital in Silicon Valley?

It’s very difficult because everyone wants to get into these world-beating VC funds. Every pension fund, every insurance fund, every university, foundation, everyone wants in there and everyone who is in it will never leave. Only one to three new investors are added each cycle. That’s because allocations are the world’s best asset class. Also in comparison to the DAX or real estate. You put your money in the hands of the best startup investors in the world.

And as a Formula 1 world champion, all doors are open to you?

No. It’s extremely difficult to get into this world, even as a Formula 1 world champion. I got into one or two funds because I happened to meet the mega Formula 1 fans there. But the five after that said no. They spoke to me for half an hour each time, but nothing more. They said to me: Nico, you have to bring more money, more capital and offer us added value. The fighting spirit as an athlete comes through in me again. When I hear no, then things really start. And that’s why I developed the strategy of pooling the capital from some of Germany’s largest family businesses with our own and using it to go to venture capital funds. Look here: Now I come with a group of strategically relevant entrepreneurs who are ready to exchange ideas with your startups, even invest directly or become customers of your startups. A win-win situation for the startups, but also for the entrepreneurial families. Of course, the latter do not want to miss the train of transformation. Digitalization, artificial intelligence, sustainability. Even if it’s getting more and more difficult.

What specifically will be more difficult for Germany as a business location? What do you get?

I just came from China because I was at a Formula 1 race there. What shocked me: I drove a few electric cars from brands like Huawei or Xiaomi. Xiaomi has just launched a kind of Porsche copy. A hybrid between the Porsche Taycan and Model S from Tesla, so to speak. Cost: 30,000 euros. They sell so many of them and I’ve driven them and it’s amazing the quality they’ve achieved now. Five or ten years ago it looked more or less okay, but everything still rattled and it was a disaster to drive. But now nothing rattles anymore. The quality is shockingly good and we really have to be careful with our automotive industry.

In what way?

We definitely have to be careful. New competition is approaching us in the electric car sector, something that we in this country may not have fully understood yet. That is very impressive.

With Nico Rosberg said Janna Linke. The conversation has been shortened and smoothed for clarity. You can read it completely in the ntv podcast “Startup – now to be honest” listen.

Startup – Now be honest

What lies behind the dazzling facade of the startup scene? Janna Linke knows it. In the podcast “Startup – Honestly Now” she takes a look behind the scenes of the start-up scene every week and talks about topics that are currently making headlines. She classifies, asks questions. Personal, honest and with real added value. To do this, she speaks to personalities from the scene, experts and gives you an absolute all-round view. Together you will delve deep into the startup world.

“Startup – now honestly” – the podcast with Janna Linke. On RTL+ and everywhere there are podcasts: Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, RSS feed

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