Project Description

Andreas Cser

Investor, Advisor, Startup Executive

After failing with his own start-up, he worked in M&A in London. Today he’s a director at Fraser Finance and a start-up investor and advisor. Read the full interview here. 

  • What were your ambitions after you graduated from university and what are you doing today?

I always wanted to have a job where I can be creative in one way or another. And I didn’t want to be too tied up in the big corporate world. Hence, I founded a start-up called Captialism21 AG during my final year at ESCP/EAP in Berlin. However, this was just before the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. It was impossible to get any financing during these times and so we had to bury the project after 10 months.

I still had a job offer from UBS in London to enter the big banking world, which contradicted all of my initial ambitions. But I had to make a living and thought I’d learn a lot and it’s just an extension of university. In the end, it was exactly what happened: I learnt a lot in a very short amount of time.

Today, I’m back in a more creative environment. I’m a director at Fraser Finance, an investment firm and consultancy for media & tech, and I invest in and consult start-ups myself.


  • What was your experience as a founder of Capitalism21 AG?

At Capitalism21 we were three founders. I knew my main partner still from high school in Freiburg (Germany). He was a bit older and wrote his master thesis about the open source approach. I came more from the finance area and knew the “philosophical” side. I say the philosophical side because we tried nothing less but to rethink how business would be done in the 21st century. Naturally, our logo was a rising sun.

In practice, Capitalism21 was a software platform for open source projects. So we had for example an encyclopaedia that was similar to Wikipedia today. The idea was to offer every contributor a share of the eventual company or product. Other products were a database for architectural blue prints or a pets magazine.

What went wrong? Apart from a difficult financing environment, I think our assessment of user motivation was flawed. We should have built it open and without any payments or shares and focused more on the platform itself. Much like Wikipedia does today. If you want to know more: In Berlin are the so called Fuck Up nights and Maximilan Vogel, the other co-founder gave a speech in front of a bunch of people. The SPIEGEL was there and published some of the funniest excerpts of how we fucked it up. (in German)

“Why did we fail? Three main reasons: We couldn’t find strong partners for cooperation, we didn’t have a broad user base, and we didn’t make the next round financing.”
  • You then switched into the banking world and eventually became Vice President at Dresdner Kleinwort in London. What have you learnt and what was the working environment like?

Well, first of all: the firm doesn’t exist anymore. Commerzbank has bought it after the crisis. The procedures in the industry are very similar though and I don’t think that a lot has changed in the last 10 years. It’s still very hierarchical.

As a managing director you manage the major client relations. A vice president manages the somewhat smaller client relations, which was what I did. For bigger projects you also assist the MD and instruct your own associates and analysts. You’re in the middle so to say.

I covered the German business for media & technology. Since I was on my own with my clients, it required creativity and instinct to handle them. Nevertheless, the job involves a lot of presentation and model checking. Financial modelling might be increasingly outsourced to India, but it still belongs to the essentials of the job.

Another essential is the ability to synthesize, to simplify something complex without losing important information. You don’t learn this at university but it’s a key skill that I learnt in banking. You synthesize information towards the MD and expect the same from your analysts and associates.

You have to train your people carefully in order to get the right outcome. It works well in banking because there are strict quality standards and people are high performers. If you ask for something, and I’m talking about highly complex stuff, you can be certain that 95% is okay.

In the “real” world, this is not the case unfortunately. Something I learnt painfully in the start-up world later on.


  • In 2008, you joined Fraser Finance as a Director.

Indeed. In 2008, the big crisis was already visible and I left the big banking sector for good. I joined Fraser Finance and in short, I advise technology and media companies and their investors on M&A initiatives and exits.

Fraser Finance has a very simple structure: There are three founders and the rest are non-founders. Apart from that there are no real hierarchies and everyone has own projects, clients and focus.

After two years I moved to Dubai for a very large project. This gave me the freedom to step back and reflect on my career so far. I said “let’s see what you’ve done so far and what you still want to do”. Before I had started to invest in young firms a bit and when I came back from Dubai I continued.

“I don’t play the lottery. You have to look for an industry, a technology or an investment partner that lets you sleep at night.”
  • What was your experience as an investor?

At first I did two small investments in close succession; later a third, fourth and fifth. The idea was always to find young and small companies with high potential and a scalable business model. Mostly software based and something you can build up and then introduce broadly to different markets.

Right now, I’m looking at an investment opportunity in a company that builds a specific medical device. The team is from Imperial College; very professional and at the cutting edge of technology. I make use of my network and connect them with the best medical device investor in Europe. So when this guy, who has invested in now billion-dollar companies, invests, then I know that I also invest. This is one example of how I get my angle, my comfort. I don’t play the lottery. You have to look for an industry, a technology or an investment partner that lets you sleep at night. You need enough elements, own or external expertise, that support the start-ups’ premises and give you reason enough to invest.

The second investor experience I want to share is about getting operationally involved in a start-up. The first one and a half years after I invested in a company called Tjobs, the guys worked on their own. When I came back from Dubai in 2011, we started to raise another VC round for them. We got a seven-digit investment from a German VC called Early Bird Ventures. That’s when I decided to enter the company on an operational basis. Because now they had the money to really make something happen and I was personally able to really add value.

Tjobs is a platform for temporary employment and I was able to connect them with two of the largest temp employment agencies. But this was only possible after Tjobs had a certain size and capital. Once I sit down with the agencies’ CFOs I can’t tell that I have a five-man company with a great idea. They also need something grown to build on and to sell it internally.

All in all, this was a lot of fun but also very challenging. Especially because of the geographic distance: I was still based in London, while the head office was in Rumania. I probably flew down there 25 times during the first year, but the day-to-day management was still difficult. In the summer of 2015, I retreated from my operational involvement but am still a shareholder.

“You learn to synthesize, to work under pressure and you learn the meaning of high quality as opposed to good enough quality. It can’t hurt to invest a few years on that.”
  • What do you recommend students that want to pursue a similar career?

Considering the students today, I think that if someone wants to continue education or training after university, it’s a good idea to go work for one of the big banks or corporations. You learn to synthesize, to work under pressure and you learn the meaning of high quality as opposed to good enough quality. It can’t hurt to invest a few years on that.

Or you enter the start-up world. And I’m not talking about one of the start-up factories like Rocket Internet. They’re called start-ups but the structures and the capital is already there. I mean to found something with a bunch of friends and build it up from scratch. That’s a whole other thing.

But what is best for you depends highly on your situation and your way of learning. Some people are able to teach the necessary skills themselves, others need a more structured learning experience.


  • What’s your personal background and how is living in London?

I’m three-quarters Hungarian and know Eastern Europe quite well, which is why I like to invest there.

I was raised in Freiburg and did my pre-diploma in Mannheim, Germany. After that I went to ESCP/EAP and started my career in London. Now, my wife and kids also live here and I’m not planning to leave it any time soon. London is a great city. This morning on my way to work, the Queen and the Chinese president Xi Jinping drove by. You can tell there’s a lot going on here.


  • Thanks for sharing your story.