Global Swede 2020 and MSc in Business & Management alum, Quyen Nguyen, leads the investment & portfolio at VC company Antler Nordics. Quyen loves innovation and the innovation course at SSE was one of the best courses of her academic life. Read more about her view on Sweden as a startup hub and what it’s like working at a VC.

Can you describe your current role at Antler? What is it that you do overall and on a day-to-day basis?

Currently I’m leading the investment & portfolio at Antler Nordics. Antler is a global early-stage Venture Capital firm investing in exceptional founders and exciting companies. The job involves setting up processes, evaluating investment opportunities, and working with founders to support companies’ growth in all areas from fundraising to business development and hiring.

My days are often busy but very exciting. A lot of meetings for sure!

I often meet with entrepreneurs within the Antler program to bounce ideas on some problems worth solving and solutions. Another part is to look at the deal-flow and have meetings with potential companies to understand and evaluate the opportunities to invest. Almost everyday I have calls with founders from portfolio companies to discuss fundraising strategy, as well as anything around building companies and growth. Internal meetings, calls with other investors, and lots of readings are also part of the day-to-day work.

What is the most exciting part of your work? Where do you think your industry is going in the next 5-10 years?

Working in VCs really brings a broad network. For me personally, it’s so exciting to work with founders from different walks of life. I love supporting them in all possible ways to build great businesses that change the world in positive direction.

So far, at Antler Nordics we have invested in 100+ companies in various industries. They are now growing into different stages, facing interesting challenges and possibilities.

The Nordic startup ecosystem is quite similar yet still different comparing across countries. Managing the investments and portfolio within the Nordics provides me excellent opportunities to learn the best practices in one market and apply to the other.

Startups and funding have been through a rapid growth period in the last few years. As the macro landscape changes, there will be certain challenges that might slow down the development in the short term. However, great companies and great founders with grit will always thrive, no matter the market condition. Looking at the 5-10 year horizon, I’m very positive that we’ll see major developments in the startup ecosystem across the globe with new innovations, new business models, and perhaps new ways of VC funding as the tech development is accelerated and the possibilities are endless.

What are some of the challenges of being an investor in venture capital?

I see that a good VC investor is someone extremely analytical and at the same time very sociable. So the first challenge is to wear those two hats comfortably and combine them well.

Second, VC investors need to be fast learners. Specifically within Antler – an early stage and sector agnostic VC, I find myself constantly updating new knowledge in various fields to be well-informed and well-rounded. It comes down to the ability to not only keep up with the latest technology development and business movement globally, but also find the right talents in the areas and make calculated bets in them.

What was so appealing about studying at SSE? What was so appealing about studying in Stockholm/Sweden?

SSE opened doors for me to possibilities. I had a great time getting to know and studying together with very smart, hard-working, and reflective schoolmates. They often don’t take things for granted and are driven to change the status quo.

I was luckily injected with that mindset and I am very driven myself to make impact in work and life.

How did your time/education at SSE help guide you in your career so far?

To be honest, I didn’t plan for VCs at all. I always wanted to work with innovation and build great companies, so this career came to me quite naturally.

That said, the career direction was also heavily impacted by my time at SSE. I was surrounded by entrepreneurial friends at school and the whole developed startup ecosystem in the city. We would always go to Stockholm tech meetups and join Hackathons together.

I loved the Innovation Course at school (one of the best courses in my entire academic life), which led me into the field of digital product development. The structured field projects and internships gave me extremely valuable exposure into the business scene in Sweden, which really helped in navigating future opportunities.

When I was about to graduate, one of my SSE friends told me about the opportunity at Antler even though it wasn’t opened for applications. And that’s when it’s started.

You received the Global Swede Award in 2020 and after your time at SSE you decided to stay in Sweden for work. What guided that decision? Has your view of Sweden changed from studying to working here?

2 years ago in the Global Swede Award interview, I considered Innovation, Equality, and Sustainability as the Swedish values that I admire. That hasn’t changed since.

Now, having spent more time with different companies in Sweden, I’m very convinced that Innovation is one of the core drivers for the Swedish economy. Stockholm is not a mega-city, but it has the 2nd highest number of unicorns – only after Silicon Valley. There are favorable conditions for entrepreneurs coming from across the world to stay and innovate in Sweden.

Equality and Sustainability are very important in my work in particular. We have implemented different initiatives to support female entrepreneurs and increase diversity. The majority of our investments are into companies with positive impacts and I also see that impact-driven investments are in focus across the industry.

Following your time studying, do you have any words of wisdom or advice you would like to share with our current/prospective students?

I think it is really important to dare to try things, work hard, and be reflective. Dare to be a minority in the room as well and make your voice heard.

For the majority of us, it’s hard to define dream and passion. The easier start is to collect experiences and continuously reflect upon your likes and dislikes, successes and failures. Think of challenges as opportunities and remember that the possibilities are endless.

Lastly, be compassionate to yourself and people around.

What are three words that sum up your time at SSE?

Challenging yet rewarding.