6 Degrees Q&A: Introducing Thomas Olszewski

Thomas is a Partner at 6 Degrees Capital and is the newest member of our team.

Thomas was a VC prior to starting his own consumer FinTech business in the consumer credit space. He is now happy to be back on the investing side.

When he is not on the hunt for the next European FinTech unicorn, he can be found testing the latest computer components, or on his bicycle, cycling cross country.

We knew Thomas through an investment into his business via one of our previous funds, and we are excited to have him join our team at 6 Degrees.



Tell us an early childhood memory

My earliest memory was falling off a chair as a child and having to go to the emergency room to get some stiches in my lip – I still have the scar!

My time growing up was divided between the USA and Poland. The US was a very affluent place especially compared to Poland. There wasn’t much going on in eastern Europe in the 90’s and it felt like the USA was getting everything a few years before it arrived in Poland. The internet and films for example. That has changed a lot.

At a very early age, I became used to flying back and forth between the US and Europe. This dual identity continues to this day, as I am Polish and American, but also now increasingly British!


Why did you move to the United Kingdom?

I moved to the UK twice, once to go to university and again later in life.

When I finished high school in Connecticut, a lot of my friends were going to university in Pennsylvania or New York and that didn’t sound like much of an adventure. When a family friend had the idea I do something in the UK, it really captured my imagination. Of my graduating class of 800 people, I was the only one to go to University in the UK. In general, the number of Americans in UK undergraduate programs is extremely low. That was my first time moving to the UK.

Years later, I was living in New York working for hedge fund and love brought me to Germany. I looked up some information about Berlin and I thought it sounded exciting. An article in the New York Magazine described Berlin as “the coolest place on earth” (expletive removed). I called a friend of mine who worked at company that “copied other companies” (Rocket Internet) and I was quite fascinated by that.

I moved to Germany and eventually was relocated to London. The rest is history! 


You ran a business at university, what was that like?  

I ran a business at university acquiring, unlocking and exporting iPhones into countries that didn’t have them yet. It’s crazy to think now but when the original iPhone came out there was a time it was only offered in the USA. After about a year it came to the UK in a limited capacity and that was about it. If you were in the middle east, continental Europe or elsewhere, you were stuck using a materially inferior product. I bridged that gap through my eBay-based business, which was no Unicorn, but it generated a few hundred thousand in sales. I was quite arrogant back then and thought a lot of my fellow students were wasting their time reading about business when they could just go and start one. Although on reflection, I still think that!


How did you get into the VC industry?

I moved to Germany “for love” and found myself a fish out of water. I had a career up to that point working as an investor at a hedge fund. In Berlin, there weren’t any hedge funds, so I was scratching my head as to what to do. Being an entrepreneurial person, I had a lightbulb moment that I should work in venture capital.

European VC was a bit more niche back then and believe it or not I got interviews with a lot of the top funds by emailing the info@ or emailing partners directly. I was hired by Cavalry Ventures as an Investment Manager and learned the fundamentals of the industry in that role. I was then hired by Frontline and relocated to London.


What did you learn from being a startup CEO?

Gosh, how much time do you have?

I didn’t appreciate how large of an emotional burden there is in running one of these companies. There is a lot of pressure on founders to perform. If a fundraising meeting doesn’t go well, you may have to fire people. If the business fails, you’re going to let down the people who believe in you the most – your investors. I treated every meeting like it was life or death which led running the company to be a very taxing experience.

Building a successful business is also incredibly hard. You can’t just get some things right you need to get everything right. If you have a great product but the sales function doesn’t work, then you’re going to have problems. If you have a great sales function but your finance function is not working, you’re going to have problems. Being relentless in your pursuit of excellence in all functions is critical. 


How is it to be back on the investing side?

Great! I was an investor for nearly 10 years before I started my startup, so this is more my natural habitat. The team, through one of its previous funds, was an investor in my startup so having the existing relationship has made the transition much easier. I look forward to building FinTech decacorns with my colleagues and taking part in this incredible European VC landscape that has emerged!


If you have a startup that you think Thomas might be interested in, you can send your details to thomas.olszewski@6dc.vc.


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