S.potify, Skype, Airbnb, Facebook, Klarna, Revolut – these are some of the companies in which Klaus Hommels invested early and with great profit. The 54-year-old German, who has lived in Zurich for more than three decades, is one of the most successful venture capitalists in Europe. And it’s his grandmother’s fault. She once gave her grandson 20,000 Deutschmarks so that the teenager at the time could gain his own experience in investing. She guaranteed the junior that he could keep any winnings and that she would take losses. “My grandma wanted me to be skeptical about banks,” recalls Hommels in an interview with the FAZ. “She thought I would follow a bad investment tip from a savings bank employee and thus learn my lesson.” But the grandson came up with a completely different idea. As a hobby kicker and fan of Borussia Mönchengladbach, he put the whole amount “from the gut” into shares in the sports shoe manufacturer Puma. The daring maneuver paid off: “I made a lot of money with it.” From then on, it was clear to the farmer’s son what he wanted to become later: an investor.
The way to the soaring tech booths of this world was still a long way. Following his uncle’s advice, Hommels initially did a very down-to-earth apprenticeship at Deutsche Bank. He then studied finance in Friborg, Switzerland, where he received his doctorate with a thesis on “In-House Banking”, ie financial transactions that bypass the banks. He found his first job in Gütersloh as assistant to the CFO at Bertelsmann – a traditional address that allowed him to jump into the much more exciting world of the Internet. When the media group took a stake in the online service AOL, Hommels pulled out all the stops: “I caved in until I was allowed to switch to AOL,” says Hommels.