Investor Spotlight: Scott Sage

Jody: Hi Scott, it’s great to have you here, I really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Let’s talk about Crane Ventures, tell us about your mission and investment thesis.

Scott: Hi Jody, thanks for having me! Our mission here at Crane Ventures is to help founders build solid foundations. We only invest at seed - this means we’re investing on the back of an idea or as “late” as having an early product in the market, often with very little commercial traction. 

We’re fanatically focused on companies building products for other businesses - typically more enterprise focused. We invest across dev tools, cloud infrastructure, security, B2Bfintech and AI and with every conceivable business model from open source to large top down enterprise sales. We do this all over Europe and Israel where my Cofounder Krishna and I have been investing for a combined three plus decades.


Jody: That’s a really interesting approach, how does that translate into how you work with founders?

Scott: We have designed Crane to help technical founders grow as humans and discover their more commercial side. Many of the founders we back have never had the opportunity to sell anything as they were engineers and product builders. So we focus on this aspect and have numerous programme’s to help rapidly accelerate the success of their early go-to-market efforts.

We know the 50 things that will kill the company, so we have oriented our team to support founders on this journey to learn faster how to position their product, how to run customer discovery, how to build and qualify new opportunities, how to run a POC and so on and so on. If we can help them avoid these known mistakes while helping them to double-down on the right initiatives, they might still have an ugly path to get to their Series A but they will come out of the jungle with fewer bruises.

We’re only able to deliver this kind of high-touch model through our team of highly experienced company builders. We have Advisory Partners who are all former founders and executives of companies like StrongDM, Honeycomb, Slack, Zendesk and Pivotal.


Jody: I love that high-touch approach, I’m in full agreement on that model! Looking at the market now and through the rest of 2023, which three industries are you most excited about?

Scott: If I’m being truthful, we get more excited by meeting new people with crazy ideas that sound too good to be true than we do about any particular industry or trend. We definitely don’t chase fads.

The last few deals we have closed were in or around data streaming, data contracts and a spinout building an AI application. We had loose opinions around each one of these areas, but we were more driven by the founders knowledge of what was broken and how big of an opportunity it was to fix and what the future could look like for those users and companies.

That said, I have found myself spending more time again looking into developer security where we already have a few early bets and also what comes next after the modern data stack which already feels outdated as a concept.


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Jody: It would be great to get your opinion on the European tech landscape right now and what new Geographies should we be keeping our eyes on.

Scott: We believe Europe is still just getting started and we see this in the acceleration in the sheer number of great businesses getting started all over Europe. Gone are the days where you needed to be in a hub like London or Berlin to get started and raise your first round. We’ve backed so many teams in cities across Europe that I had never heard of until we went to visit them!

I can’t help but feel excited about Spain where we have two investments, one is Tinybird in Madrid and the other is Nuclia just outside of Barcelona. Somehow, despite the amount of talent and success stories, I’m surprised we have yet to make an investment into Ireland as well as in Finland. I’d love to change that at some point.

Jody: What are the biggest traits, or primary experiences that you look for in aspiring founders looking to raise capital from Crane?

Scott: Humility, coachability, self-awareness, persistence and hunger. Huge bonus if they’ve lived the problem they are going to be solving - this is the case for most of the companies that we’ve backed to date. 

Jody: Looking to the rest of the year, which companies in your portfolio or indeed outside, you feel are really leading the way the way in software innovation.

Scott: That’s like asking me to pick a favourite child - I love them all!

Some of the younger ‘kids’ we are really excited about are Cerbos in London who is working to fix the unsolved problem of authorization and Raito in Brussell’s who is doing the same for data access management. ZenML in Munich is helping data scientists and engineers put models into production much faster. Encord in London is working towards their vision of building an active learning platform for machine vision. I could go on and on but those are just a few of our more recent investments.


Investors Spotlight is our short interview series where we shine a light on experts hoping to illuminate the topic of the day.

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