Posted on January 19, 2018 by staff

Uber’s former UK boss on unicorn hunt


The woman who grew Uber’s business in the UK is now using her experience to help scale other tech start-ups – and is keeping an eye out for future unicorns.

Jo Bertram left Uber in October 2017 after more than four years as regional general manager of Northern Europe to “move on to something new and exciting”.

Her departure coincided with Transport for London’s decision not to renew Uber’s licence to operate in the capital, but the company stressed that the two events were not linked.

“I’d been at Uber for four years, which is a lifetime in the world of tech, and started to think about new challenges and what might be next,” Bertram told BusinessCloud.

“I had a really interesting journey at Uber. When I joined there were just three team members in London and a few hundred drivers, and no one had really heard of us at all.

“I was part of a team that grew the UK arm to a really large and profitable business with five million users, 50,000 drivers across 40 cities and towns, and led the expansion into new markets.”

Bertram has recently taken up a new role of executive in residence at technology-focused venture capital firm EQT Ventures, where her main focus is on advising tech companies on their growth strategies.

“The main thing that I can bring to EQT Ventures’ portfolio companies is particularly around how to grow and scale a team rapidly – whether it’s how to find the right talent, staff retention, how to structure a team and how to scale operational processes,” she said.

“How do you think about finding and attracting customers? How do you think about where to expand to? How do you launch and grow new markets?”

EQT Ventures has been using an artificial intelligence (AI) platform called Motherbrain to look for new European investment opportunities and find the next tech unicorn.

The platform was developed with the very specific job of proactively looking for tech companies that are ‘diamonds in the rough’.

In simple terms, the software collects data from at least 20 online sources and analyses up to 50 metrics to find companies that could be the next big thing before anyone else notices.

Bertram says AI and a data-driven approach will have important roles to play but won’t entirely replace the human touch.

“Obviously there’s so much data out there nowadays that it would be impossible to assess all companies manually, so AI will have an important role to play,” she said.

“But of course you can’t rely on it completely. So much of investment decisions, particularly in early-stage firms, is around the business model and whether they have the right people in place.

“AI can’t do that alone but it does make sure that VC firms like EQT Ventures are identifying and focusing on the right companies.”