#107: Startups in Supply Chain from a Venture Capital Perspective

#107: Project Aviato Once-in-a-cycle Featured Image

In this episode, we have Sune Stilling and Peter Hove Hildebrandt as our guests.

Sune Stilling Co-founder of Project Aviato:

At the end of 2020, Sune Stilling left A.P. Moller – Maersk A/S after 21 years, to found the once-in-a-cycle opportunity, Project Aviato, a leading growth equity supply chain fund.

In his most recent position with Maersk, Sune was appointed as Head of (Maersk) Growth, reporting to Group CEO, Søren Skou. In this role, Sune was responsible for the adjacent growth and innovation agenda on an enterprise-level while being the Managing Partner and Founder of the company’s Corporate Venture Arm which became the world’s leading supply chain venture investor.

Sune has held MD/CEO and senior leadership roles focused on radical turnaround, transformation, divestment, and profitable growth in emerging- and developed markets across a number of regions and countries. Prior to assuming the position as Head of Growth, Sune was the CEO of Egyptian Drilling Company (EDC), a leading joint-stock oil field services company in the MENA region with 6,000 FTE, 70 drilling rigs, USD 600M revenue, and USD 200M EBITDA.

Peter Hove Hildebrandt Co-founder of Project Aviato:

At the end of 2020, Peter Hove Hildebrandt left A.P. Moller – Maersk A/S after 21 years, to found the once-in-a-cycle opportunity, Project Aviato, a leading growth equity supply chain fund.

In his most recent position with Maersk, Peter was the Head of Transformation, reporting to the CEO of Ocean and Logistics Vincent Clerc as well as the CTIO, Navneet Kapoor. In this role, Peter was responsible for driving the overall transformation of Maersk with a specific focus on shifting Maersk to a platform operating model.

Peter has held MD and senior leadership roles focused on strategic business development, transformation, and business execution roles in markets across a number of countries. Prior to assuming the position as Head of Transformation, Peter was the Global Head of Revenue Management responsible for building, developing, and executing Maersk’s short term pricing and optimization.

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Connect with the Guest:

Sune Stilling: LinkedIn
Peter Hove Hildebrandt: LinkedIn

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • How to spot a million-dollar startup
  • The key skills that most start-up founders miss (SALES, FINANCIALS, SALES!)
  • How not to screw up investments
  • Where the supply chain and logistics industry is heading in next years
  • Why Rune Sørensen is the best asset any company could hope for
  • How they filter good startups to invest in

Show notes:

  • [01:20] Let’s start with Sune. Tell us a little bit about your background. You’ve done pretty much everything that could be done in a big corporation and a big shipping company, but tell us about yourself.
  • [02:24] Let’s say experiment a lot with running organizations as the Managing Director and CEO of a lot of different organizations around 2012 then led to a stronger focus for me on the energy businesses. At the end of 2020, Peter and I decided to leave Maersk, not an easy decision for either of us but we just felt the opportunity to start Project Aviato.
  • [04:27] Peter, you’ve been all over the place as well. So maybe tell us a bit of your background.
  • [04:48] I’ve tried to lead in the Balkan region, spent time in Madrid and in Eastern Europe, and the last six to eight years have been very much focused on transformation. Transforming the pricing and optimization model of Maersk.
  • [06:20] I saw on LinkedIn, “Project Aviato Once-in-a-cycle” tell us a bit about it.
  • [08:59] How do you see this morphing and all these startups coming together? How is it gonna look like in five years?
  • [10:35] I think one of the things you will start seeing is a different type of collaboration across the industry which you can see in many other industries. I think that’s going to come our way in the near future.
  • [12:43] A lot of the companies that we invested in numerous growth contexts are pushing net scores of 70 and 80. Nobody else in the shipping and logistics industry can dream about that and I think that’s a pretty interesting starting point.
  • [14:09] Right now you’re looking at investing and at these interesting ideas. How do you look and identify good startups?
  • [15:25] You might have the world’s best idea but if you can’t really execute on it and if you don’t have the time to support it, it won’t work. So you rather support a rockstar team with a mediocre idea, than a mediocre team with a brilliant idea.
  • [17:54] I like to also ask about your battle scars and from things that seem to be good and then it tends to be not so good. So what are some things you can share from that perspective?
  • [20:08] I think a lot of the founders that we’ve invested in, particularly when they come from outside the industry, tend to significantly underestimate the movement of physical goods.
  • [22:13] We often say that we can see if there’s a problem but then you neglect to understand the right people to solve that problem. Because you may love that idea but if you don’t have the right people around the table, it’s bound to fail.
  • [24:17] Corporates have so many layers. What are your thoughts in terms of what was the best way in which corporates can still be creative and innovative?
  • [28:39] Do venture capitalists steal startup ideas to give to their portfolios? What do you think on this point?
  • [30:10] This is not to be arrogant, I just think that it’s a fact that we just see so much more. You come with your company, but we have seen 20 companies just like it. So we can tell you what we think is brilliant and why, and what’s not and why.
  • [34:41] What are the key skills you find lacking?
  • [40:29] Do you actually need VC money? Don’t you need it? How do you kind of balance all of these options?
  • [42:28] I think it’s just really a matter of finding for your company. Finding the right capital structure, what are your ambitions? And how fast and how big do you want to grow your company.
  • [44:24] We are beginning to see now because of the COVID pandemic that these companies that have both a physical delivery model and a digital delivery model and make those two intersect are now performing incredibly well.
  • [45:24] How do you source or find great teams, these great ideas, and these great startups. What’s your mechanism for spotting the gems?
  • [46:58] Build those relationships with other VC partners in this space, both in the US and around Europe. So there’s an interest in working together and identifying these opportunities. But in essence, it is also about getting out there.

Related Episodes:

#103: Essa Al-Saleh Chairman of the Board of Volta Trucks

#105: Colin Bryar Co-author of Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon

#106: Benjamin Gordon Founder and Managing Partner of Cambridge Capital

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LEX GREENSILL​

Chief Executive Officer, Greensill​

Lex is the co-founder and CEO of Greensill, and a Senior Advisor and Crown Representative to Her Majesty’s Government on Supply Chain Finance. He was awarded the CBE for Services to the British Economy in Queen Elizabeth II’s 2017 Birthday Honours.

Lex previously established the global SCF business at Morgan Stanley, and led the EMEA SCF business at Citi.

Lex holds an MBA from Manchester Business School, and is a Solicitor of the Supreme Courts of England and Wales, and Queensland.