Simon Betschel is the Operating Partner at Possible Ventures, an early-stage, international VC investing in frontier tech to solve humanity’s biggest challenges. With significant experience as a founder and operator from Sydney to San Francisco, Simon is a serial entrepreneur and investor. Simon joins us to discuss his approach to investing in humanity-scale missions that will shape a better future for people and the planet.

GW: Thanks for joining us today, Simon; for those who don’t know you, tell us a little about Possible Ventures

KC: Possible Ventures is a Munich-based, international VC with investments focused largely on deep tech – climate, energy, quantum, AI, cyber, space tech, synthetic biology, etc. Our small team is spread across Germany and Australia, investing globally in the pre-seed and seed stages. 

We look for exceptional founders leading mission-driven teams with visionary ideas and tangible solutions to seemingly impossible problems. We love to be the first cheque into companies that operate in what we call the frontiers of technology.

‘We believe that the defining companies of our generation will be harnessing frontier technologies to address fundamental issues in climate, energy, health, and a more equitable, secure and resilient society.’

GW: Well, that’s incredibly interesting straight away! Can we briefly address the European focus for Possible Ventures?

KC: In Silicon Valley, the concentration of software developers and the startups they build has led to an ecosystem with a self-perpetuating flywheel of success.

Europe has built a similar ecosystem around deep tech, with a strong industrial base, more STEM students graduating each year than in the US, and universities committed to supporting the community. The result is a series of thriving European deep tech hubs, producing unicorn startups and outsized returns right across the region.

We apply a similar lens to investment opportunities in Australia. It’s about finding where the sovereign technological edge is and actively engaging in those areas. We look beyond natural resources to deep tech, energy transition, climate tech and other capabilities where Australia has the potential to become world leaders.

GW: And how did this mission-driven focus eventuate for you personally?

KC: I’ve been a software guy on the business side for a couple of decades, so I’ve been involved in multiple startups, multiple exits, and have seen my fair share of failures. When I returned to Australia after a few years in Silicon Valley, I was building an angel portfolio and became increasingly interested in deep tech. I started writing a newsletter about the latest trends in tech, and noticed that Chris Hitchen, the General Partner at Possible Ventures, had become a subscriber.

‘I chased [Chris Hitchen] down for coffee and we ended up debating the future of tech. He told me everything that was wrong with my hypotheses, and I thought his non-consensus view was compelling.’

Ultimately, I loved the mission behind Possible Ventures investment into frontier tech – addressing real, global challenges – and eventually joined as an Operating Partner to run Asia-Pacific deal flow and help build out the fund.

GW: What’s the thing that’s going to pique the Possible Ventures investing interest?

KC: Our thesis is that smaller funds are well placed to get access to the best companies and that the early stages offer the best trade-off between risk and reward. We also believe that the next decades will be dominated by frontier deep tech companies building critical infrastructure. Governments are refocusing on sovereign capability, while new funding sources facilitate the building of large companies and entirely new industries.

So our interest is always piqued by founders with a meaningful mission that people can understand and rally behind. It starts with a grand vision, but must be backed by capability and executable steps to deliver transformation.

GW: Regarding deal flow, tell us how exactly Possible Ventures attracts these brilliant founders.

KC: We’ve made over 200 investments now, and key to our process is that we invest in clusters. We know that the brightest minds often gravitate to each other. 

Take energy transition: we invested into Marvel Fusion back in 2020, when people were still laughing at the idea of laser-initiated inertial confinement fusion. But that investment gave exceptional founders at SiZ (sustainable long duration energy storage), tozero (lithium-ion battery recycling), and Reverion (carbon negative power generation) the confidence that we understood their vision and had a network of investors and founders that would support their growth.

The clustered approach also produces a flywheel effect for deal generation and assessment. By adding world-class teams from the same cluster to our portfolio, we gain vetted introductions to new founders and tap into experts uniquely skilled at evaluating the potential of other deals we are considering.

GW: What is your advice for emerging investors looking to explore some quite deep niche opportunities as yourselves have done?

KC: I think the term niche is misleading. Frontier technologies for climate, energy, quantum, AI, cyber, space tech, synthetic biology may fall into specific categories, but each of them have freaking huge commercial and impact potential. We’re looking at the next trillion-dollar industries.

GW: Thanks, Simon! Even in an inspiring space such as this, what gets you leaping out of bed in the morning?

KC: You can’t dial-in being a VC investor. Last year, our small team saw 3,000 deals – that’s a lot of calls, due-diligence, and written assessments. You have to enjoy continuously moving from one idea to the next. You have to love meeting with founders and hearing why they’re excited to build. You find yourself getting off a call thinking: ‘wow, I just got a fresh glimpse at the future’.

‘With each technological breakthrough, from leaps in AI to redefined power plants, we’re witnessing the evolution of sectors and seeing a blueprint for the future being redrawn. I feel really fortunate to be contributing to this transformation, investing not just in technology, but in the visionaries behind it.’