Mikael Johnsson, Co-Founder and General Partner, Oxx VC

With 24 years of experience from venture investing, Mikael Johnsson is a venture veteran with deep expertise in scaling successful B2B SaaS companies. Having invested in SaaS before the term was even coined, Mikael has served as a close partner to several successful SaaS companies, including current Oxx portfolio companies Funnel, Gravitee, Apica and Latana.

Born out of a shared passion to back the next generation of SaaS leaders, Mikael co-founded Oxx together with Richard Anton in 2017. They have built Oxx’s strategy around the concept of Go-To-Market Fit, developing a structure for thinking about how to build a repeatable, sustainable growth engine that accelerates and propels the growth of SaaS companies. Oxx partners with the most promising European SaaS scale-ups from Series A and beyond, providing each entrepreneur with a support system of unique specialist expertise and network, and a culture of unfaltering partnership and absolute conviction.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Mikael shared his professional trajectory, the inspiration behind establishing Oxx VC, personal sources of inspiration, future plans, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Mikael, please share your background and areas of interest.

My background lies in venture investing and technology, having worked in the field for 24 years. My interest in software and fascination with the industry’s potential was first sparked during my university years when I took a course in Management Information Systems and understood how software had the potential to support complete transformation of companies and industries. Initially, I envisioned establishing my own software company, but I soon sought deeper industry insights by working as an analyst at a venture capital firm. Despite not becoming a software entrepreneur myself, I found myself materialising my interest in software and technology in venture capital, specialising in growth-stage software enterprises. And today that entrepreneurial itch has been addressed by starting Oxx and building it from scratch together with my co-founder Richard Anton. Throughout my career, I’ve invested in 20-some companies and had the privilege of advising / mentoring over 100 tech entrepreneurs.

What was the inspiration behind establishing Oxx VC? What are its mission and vision?

Having known each other for more than 10 years and worked closely together for four years, Richard and I founded Oxx in 2017 with a unified vision and ambition to establish an investment firm dedicated to cultivating enduring category leaders, demonstrating Europe’s capability in building and running globally competitive software enterprises, challenging the traditional dominance of the US-based software companies. Our aim is to become Europe’s leading B2B SaaS venture firm, investing at the scaleup stage to help companies achieve their true market potential while being a true partner for them on their journey.

As a seasoned tech investor and advisor, what do you look for in a potential investment opportunity?

Our investment philosophy has always been to invest with evidence-based, absolute conviction in companies with strong fundamentals, aiming for sustainable, capital-efficient, and consistent growth.

That hasn’t changed, meaning we’re looking for a strong and unique product, a large addressable market, a robust team and the opportunity for the company to grow rapidly in a capital efficient manner.

At Oxx, we also emphasize putting people first, seeking excellent founders who can navigate challenges. Personally, I believe that exceptional individuals possess the power to overcome challenges, while mediocre leadership can hinder even the most promising business plans.

What do you love most about angel investing? What part of your work brings you joy?

For me, angel investing is primarily a means for learning and feeding my curiosity. It’s a great way to keep up with technologies and new waves of innovation while also building relationships with the next generation of talented entrepreneurs.

What common mistakes do founders make when pitching their start-ups?

I think that many, if not most, founders and CEOs that I meet underestimate the importance of positioning and really understanding how you create unique differentiated value and for whom. If a founder can’t clearly articulate the unique differentiation of their product and what their Ideal customer profile looks like to investors, they won’t be able to sell it effectively to prospective customers.

What do you feel sets successful entrepreneurs apart from those who struggle to succeed?

I believe that successful entrepreneurs exhibit exceptional talent, resilience, and the ability to align with their teams. They are also driven by a very strong desire to solve a problem and build something great – not just economic gains. Further, they understand the importance of perseverance and patience. You can’t jump from point A to C when you build new things and many times you will fail and have to iterate – that’s just the rules of the game. Even though building and developing new things might be the most exhilarating aspect of entrepreneurship, having the resilience to persist through hardships and sticking to improving and refining fundamentals is ultimately what makes a company successful long term.

Throughout all your work as an investor and advisor, what is one value you feel you can always count on? How do you know what’s right?

The value that I believe is at the core of our team, as well as the partnerships with our portfolio companies, is transparency and alignment. If you can’t have an open discussion about difficult matters, you won’t be able to align and pull everyone in the same direction, which is critical to succeed. We often talk about bespoke support, tailoring our partnership to each company’s exact situation and needs. Knowing what’s right involves aligning it with founders, establishing trust, and adhering to a hands-on, entrepreneur-led approach. This requires transparency and openness.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

Sir Alex Ferguson is arguably the most successful football coach in history and the passion, domain expertise, care for people and sheer force of will he displayed in his leadership is a true inspiration to me. He was incredibly demanding and crazily stubborn with his players, but he cared deeply for everyone, players and staff alike, and saw them all as individuals with unique talents and needs. To me that is all what being a true leader is all about – getting the absolute best out of people while showing that you care for them and treating them as unique and special individuals.

How do you unplug and step away from work?

Exercise and meditation always serve as good avenues to unplug. I’m also a passionate football and skiing enthusiast, and I often seize winter breaks to hit the slopes somewhere in Europe.

What is your biggest goal? Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

Primarily, the goal revolves around the growth and development of Oxx as a firm and our team.

Nurturing the next level of investment talent as well as the key supporting functions for building a really successful investment firm. To build something for the next generation which outlasts both myself and Richard.

I don’t think I’ll settle down, but I hope my job is a bit different in 5 years.  If not, we haven’t been successful in developing talent and giving them the opportunity to thrive.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs and investors? What do you find yourself telling them over and over again?

On an intrapersonal level, I consistently emphasize the significance of building and maintaining strong personal relationships. Understanding that business is fundamentally about people and connections is crucial for long-term success.

On a business level, the one piece of advice I never stop giving is: Focus! Don’t try to do too much at once and don’t try to please everyone – FOMO is a recipe for strategic disaster. Build an outstanding product that uniquely solves “someone’s” specific need better than anything else. Then once you’ve found enough “someone’s” you can broaden and move to the “next ones”. At Oxx this is manifested in how we think about scaling B2B SaaS companies in very distinct stages – Product Market Fit, Go-to Market Fit and Growth – where the focus and priorities are different for each stage of development and maturity.

Similarly, for investors, the recurring advice is to find your alpha – what can you deliver beyond capital that is truly unique and differentiated and will make the best entrepreneurs choose you as their investor?

Stay aligned with founders, build trust, and adopt a hands-on, entrepreneur-led strategy.

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