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From Passion to Calling: Why Jeremy Brown Moved to Germany to Pursue Venture Capital

Crunchbase Spotlight is a series that celebrates diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship, venture capital, and tech by profiling people of color, women, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ.

Jeremy Brown - Crunchbase SpotlightFrom BMW to N26, Germany is home to numerous innovative companies on the cutting edge of technology.

As one of Europe’s leading economies, it has become a hub of innovation that has caught the attention of investors and attracted ambitious tech entrepreneurs looking to build thriving businesses.

The country is also home to Jeremy Brown, a venture capitalist born and raised in the U.S.

Brown is currently a senior investment associate at Berlin-based Foundamental, a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage construction tech startups across Europe, Asia, and North America.

His journey to venture capital is anything but ordinary. It’s a story about following one’s passions and self-awareness.

A Curious Mind

Born and raised right outside of Denver, Brown grew up with a passion for science, an affinity for the outdoors (fitting for someone growing up in a state known for its vivid landscape), and a natural engineering mindset.

With a keen sense of self-awareness, Brown knew he wanted to turn his passions into a career. The question was: how? Enter Colorado School of Mines in 2005.

Located in Golden, Colorado, Colorado School of Mines specializes in preparing students for careers in science and engineering. It provided the perfect environment for Brown to explore how his love for science and the outdoors could be applied in the working world.

In 2009, with the U.S. still reeling from the 2008 financial crisis, Brown graduated with a degree in geophysical engineering. This wasn’t the most ideal market to graduate into. However, not to be discouraged by what was happening, Brown saw an opportunity to continue his education by going to graduate school.

That same year, Brown found himself on the campus of Stanford University pursuing his PhD in geophysics, which he obtained in 2014.

For seven years–including his years in graduate school–Brown landed opportunities to put his education into action in the oil and gas industry. These included:

  • Working with BP for 5 years over the course of his PhD conducting research and providing technical expertise on how to enable the company to produce oil and gas in a more safe and smart way in the wake of The Deepwater Horizon disaster.
  • Moving to Netherlands to join Baker Hughes as a product manager focused on the company’s enterprise geomechanics software.

Up to this point in Brown’s journey, venture capital wasn’t even on his radar.

However, that all changed in 2016.

After years working in the oil and gas industry, Brown wanted to do something that combined science and tech, which also enabled him to connect one-on-one with people on a more frequent basis.

To bring clarity around what his next move should be, Brown flew back to California to once again attend Stanford University. This time, he was pursuing an MBA.

Discovering a New Passion and Even Greater Calling

It was at Stanford’s business school where Brown first discovered venture capital and began to explore it as a potential career option.

Fortunately, he was able to test the waters in 2018 when he joined Plug and Play, an early-stage venture capital firm and startup accelerator. While with the company, he focused on industrial IoT seed stage investments–a perfect role that combined his geophysics background with his newfound interest in venture capital.

After a year at Plug and Play, opportunity came knocking. Foundamental extended an offer to Brown to join its investment team and focus on investing in construction tech companies in North America, Europe and Asia.

In 2019, Brown officially became a resident of Berlin, Germany. He also became the second Black venture capitalist in the entire country.

With diversity being such an important topic of discussion today, one would think that being one of only two Black people in venture capital in a country of over 80 million people might create mixed feelings. For Brown, he was nothing but excited: “Diversity is much more talked about in Silicon Valley than other big tech ecosystems.” He goes on: “Moving to Berlin, I thought this would be a great opportunity to build a platform to promote diversity within a different ecosystem. And also do so with other investors, not just in Berlin, but London, Amsterdam and other ecosystems that I engage with.”

For Brown, the move to Berlin wasn’t just about investing in startups. He saw it as a unique opportunity to spark a greater conversation around the lack of diversity (racial, gender and sexual orientation) in venture capital overseas.

The Road Less Traveled

What’s interesting about Brown’s journey to venture capital is that he didn’t take the common paths that many in the profession do: He didn’t study finance, get into investment banking, and then make the transition to venture capital; neither did he go the founder route and join a venture fund after an exit.

Instead, he followed his passion and gave himself the freedom to explore new interests when they surfaced. He developed enterprise product experience and brought a technical turned business background to evaluate deep tech startups in IoT and construction. As a result, not only is he in a position to help startups bring innovative products to market, he’s in a place where he can make an impact by spearheading the diversity conversation in regions where it’s not a frequent topic of discussion.

Also, Brown thought it was important to join a fund that promotes “intellectual diversity”. At Foundamental he found this to be the case – diversity along several dimensions including ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, and life background with the core belief that this will bring more perspectives to investment evaluation and ultimately lead to greater returns.

For others from underrepresented groups looking to break into venture, he’d recommend looking to funds with a global footprint as they are highly likely to value intellectual diversity. Additionally, there are routes to leverage one’s unique industry background, in his case oil and gas, to add investor value at a sector-focused fund.