Friends of omni:us Krishna Visvanathan
In ‘friends of omni:us’, we chat to our wise investors, colleagues, and friends. The idea is to discuss professional interests, the current state of technology, and the very reason behind our relationship, omni:us. Below you will find some insightful nuggets garnered from omni:us investor Krishna Visvanathan, founding partner at Crane Venture Partners.
Crane is an investment fund based in London which focuses solely on European Enterprise companies. They focus on pre-Series A companies, ideally accompanying them through A and beyond. Their target investments are companies that are focused on building proprietary technology that leverages data for enterprise, in what they see as the age of ‘intelligent computing’.
We spoke briefly to Krishna at our office last week. He is a warm person, and a shrewd investor with nearly 20 years of experience. On omni:us, he said that ‘… once we got a clear idea of what omni:us does… we felt conviction and decided to make the investment.’
Krishna, at Crane, you are focused on companies at the Pre-Series A funding stage. Why such a specific point in the lifecycle?
Our focus is borne out of nearly 30 years’ of combined venture experience in Europe … the Pre-A Enterprise Founder is underserved and has the tougher funding challenge compared to their peers building consumer companies. Angel and Seed funding in Europe has grown significantly and entrepreneurs are typically selling a vision. Investors (myself included as an active angel) are typically saying yes, if they feel the vision and team are compelling.
Raising a successful Series A for enterprise companies however is about demonstrable metrics across a number of fronts which is often beyond reach just on angel and seed funding – given the sales cycles involved especially when selling to large enterprises like omni:us does.
This is what we believe gives rise to the Pre-A gap – most VCs in Europe, as the lens they apply is that of a Series A – looking for more commercial traction or progress than companies have been able to demonstrate with small seed funding rounds. That’s not being critical of the founders or the system, it’s just the point in time.
So you are tackling this specific pain point for the European Enterprise founder, a sort of no man’s land for early stage enterprise startups?
Very much so. We love pre-A or post Seed stage companies. It’s our sole focus, which allows us to delve deeply into each company and judge for ourselves whether a company has scalability – people, product, business model. Long sales cycles are par for the course for us, given we love businesses with sizeable ACVs and that focus on large and medium sized enterprises.
The phrase ‘intelligent computing’ features prominently on Crane’s website. How do you describe a company built around this phrase?
Scott [Sage, co-founder and partner at Crane] and I asked ourselves what we thought the next wave for the enterprise was going to be when we founded Crane in mid-2015. The thing that we observed would impact the enterprise most over the next decade was this marriage of proprietary software and data… this became our overarching theme. That’s what we describe as intelligent computing and I can’t over-emphasise the importance of the data angle to what we look for, as that is where we see the real value and defensibility.
And that’s where you see omni:us fitting into your portfolio?
We deliberately steer away from describing ourselves as an AI focused fund as it kind of misses the point. Companies like omni:us are more than just an AI company. Yes, AI is a core part of the value proposition, but actually you’re a company that is really transforming the enterprise using intelligence… it’s the combination of proprietary and open source neural networks & machine learning frameworks coupled with the unique data you have accumulated that makes your proposition resonate with customers. You are harvesting data and using it to deliver real value: in revenue, profitability, business process, efficiency and intelligence, all within the enterprise. That’s why we took our time to get to know the team, get to know the business before deciding to invest. We’ve been very impressed with the execution we’ve seen so far. AI is just the enabler. You’re really a data-driven company.
Now, you may be asking at this stage, how does omni:us leverage intelligent computing to shift up the gears of work?