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Sabine Schoorl & LUMO Labs: Opportunities for Impact-Driven Ventures in Emerging Technologies

Sabine Schoorl has worked in tech as a serial founder, investor, and startup coach since 2013. She is a Senior Partner at LUMO Labs, an impact-driven multi-stage investment fund. They believe emerging technologies are key to solving the social challenges people face today. In our chat, learn more about LUMO Labs’ mission and find out what Sabine thinks is going well in the Dutch startup ecosystem & which challenges it is facing.

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1. Hi Sabine. Thank you for agreeing to do the interview. Please tell us about your background and your connection to the startup world.

I started my career in the boardrooms of a multinational company, then at a startup company, and after that, I worked in a family business in construction and real estate. I mainly worked in roles at the intersection of strategy, marketing, innovation, and technology. These experiences of working in boardrooms in different cultures were very educational and laid the foundation for my entrepreneurial journey. 

I’ve been an entrepreneur since 2010. In 2013, I co-founded a software startup with my wife, Ingrid Tappin. In 2014, we were the only female founders to launch our product at The Next Web. It was a roller coaster ride, full of lessons and experiences that further shaped our future. A few years later, I co-founded Europe’s fastest-growing ecosystem of ConTech and PropTech startups. I sold my shares in the company by the end of 2017. 

Matchmaking founders with innovating leaders in the construction and real estate industry is what I really love doing, as well as coaching startup founders on their journey. For the last three years, I helped founders in their fundraising process. 

While growing my network of investors, I met Andy Lürling, one of the 2 founding partners at LUMO Labs. He told me about their impact investment focus, their gender-diverse portfolio, and their ambition for the successor fund. With my entrepreneurial background, knowledge of sustainable cities & communities, and climate tech in the built environment, this meeting was a beautiful example of serendipity. I’m delighted to be part of the passionate and experienced LUMO Labs team and to work with fantastic startup founders and investors. 

2. You’re a Senior Partner at LUMO Labs, an impact-driven multi-stage (pre-seed through series A) capital fund with a two-year venture builder program. Tell us about your mission.

LUMO originates from the awareness that continued urbanization, climate change, changing demographics, and the sequence of technological breakthroughs call for a profound redesign of the governance, operations, and underlying infrastructure of our cities, healthcare, and education.

Our impact focus is best identified as the SDG crossroads between Health & Wellbeing, Quality Education, Sustainable Cities & Communities, and Climate Action.

We focus on software propositions without the need for proprietary hardware. We only invest in operating systems, infrastructures, and platforms based on and/or related to Artificial Intelligence & Data, Blockchain, the Internet of Things, Security, and Extended Realities (AR/VR).

Founded by entrepreneurs turned investors, we acknowledge that such a profound redesign requires more than awareness and top-down regulation. We believe that sustainable – or rather regenerative – progress can only occur through positive and deliberate action and focus.

Our network and how well we use it is a strategic and distinctive differentiator for LUMO Rise Fund. With two female partners in the team and 47% female founders in our portfolio companies, we aim to attract diverse, talented founders and investors. 

We beat the odds because we understand the specific kind of value creation and risk mitigation that fits this exceptional stage, methodical and timely selection, active monitoring, our proven LUMO Program, and supporting our winners. 

​​We provide (pre-)seed venture capital and coaching to purpose-driven founders who seek to bring technological innovations to the market through scalable and profitable propositions that help solve social and environmental challenges.

For maximal social, environmental, and financial return, we provide follow-on series A funding to our winners. We invest in the EU. Our primary region is Benelux and Germany, and secondary Nordics, Baltics, and Iberia.

To get access to the best investment opportunities and to maximize value for our portfolio, we are active players and acknowledged contributors to relevant ecosystems. We build meaningful relationships, and we make sure to be up-to-date and top of mind in our investment areas.

3. Since 2013, you have worked in tech as a serial founder, investor, and startup coach. What is it about entrepreneurship that mainly attracts you?

In 2013, we wanted to solve a problem that we heard repeatedly with a scalable software solution. For me, entrepreneurship means adding value by solving real-world problems. The biggest issues in the world are the most significant business opportunities. We face climate disasters, a rapid urbanization pace, demographic shifts, a shortage of housing, and a shortage of labor. There is a high sense of urgency and a high demand for solutions. 

As entrepreneurs turned investors, we believe good things come from positive and deliberate action and focus. Emerging technologies, e.g., Deep Tech AI, master complexity at unprecedented speed and scale. They hold the key to structurally disrupting widespread degenerative habits and systems by reaching many people through sustainable – or rather regenerative – propositions that facilitate and stimulate professionals and individuals to take better care of themselves and their surroundings.

We foresee that when people take better care of themselves and their surroundings, their quality of life and well-being will increase, while the strain on (public) healthcare, social welfare, and the planet will decrease.

4. What is the most important advice you would give to startup founders looking to grow in the Netherlands?

Founders should be obsessed with the most immense pain of their ideal clients. My definition of an ideal client is a person or group of people that you will never become tired of serving. Find your ideal client, find her or his most painful problem, and determine how much she or he is willing to pay for a solution. 

Go out of the building and talk to your potential clients as early as possible. Test your ideas and assumptions, pivot, and reshape. Don’t wait until it’s perfect because perfect often comes too late. 

Unfortunately, I still meet founders who are in love with their products. The problem with this is that they don’t listen to critical feedback. They miss crucial information that can create the success that they need.

Another piece of advice would be to find your tribe. Who can support you on your journey, grow your network of industry experts, investors, and peers, and learn from them. Especially when you are from “another group.” LGBTQ+, people of color, neurodivergent, female, etc. Ask for help as much as you need. In my experience, everybody is willing to help when you have a critical ask, but be very specific about what you need or who you need. 

5. What’s going well in the startup ecosystem in the Netherlands at the moment? Which challenges is the ecosystem facing? What do you predict for the ecosystem in the near future?

At this moment, I see that the ecosystem is showing increasing interest in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which is a good thing! 

DEI is a true business enabler. Organizations that do diversity and inclusion well outperform their peers in profitability, increase their innovation revenue, have faster time to market, and show overall higher growth. 

However, the strategic importance of DEI at the company and ecosystem level is too often ignored. We see companies fail due to a lack of inclusion and an inability to hire the talent they need to scale. They lose out on innovation and creativity and are often blindsided by the needs of a diverse customer base.

In March 2023, Diverse Leaders in Tech, powered by Techleap.nl, was launched under the leadership of Ingrid Tappin to raise awareness, connect, empower, learn, and inspire. This community is different from other communities as it brings intersectional leaders together, and outspoken allies are committed to creating positive change.

I have already learned a lot from many of these leaders with exceptional track records in tech and inspiring lived experiment experiences. Not only have I learned more about my own unconscious biases, but I have also learned how to bring DEI to life in day-to-day life and work.

I’m on a mission to grow my queer tribe, and I want to meet more queer founders and queer investors to work with. Being out and proud at work is essential, but sadly enough, I still hear stories that people must leave an important part of themselves at home. 

Companies need strong leaders and vocal allies to reap the benefits of DEI. Workplaces should be safe spaces for people whose identities are not the norm so they can bring their whole selves to work, which enables them to do their best work. 

I believe the biggest challenge in our ecosystem is that we are not inclusive enough. Our country is diverse and attractive for international talent, founders, and investors, but many bridges between different networks, communities, and talent have not yet been built. 

We must start gathering more DEI data within tech and benchmark ourselves against other industries and countries to be more strategic in our DEI efforts. What matters should be measured because what gets measured can be managed.

My prediction for the future is that with this growing awareness of the importance of DEI, the Dutch tech ecosystem will become the best in class. Thanks to the power of diversity and the inclusive way of working together at all levels. If we unite the different communities, we will get a powerful flywheel that will bring us happiness and prosperity.

Thank you very much for sharing your story and insights, Sabine. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

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