Investing in the Future with Thomas Staubli

Dive into an exclusive interview with Thomas Staubli, seasoned investor of OnchainLabs. Discover his insights on blockchain’s future and his strategic investment approach in the rapidly evolving tech landscape.
Emerging Technologies
Startup Ecosystem
DACH Region Startups
Tech Investments
Blockchain Integration
Web3 Trends
In a world fueled by technology startups and strategic investments, few figures are as compelling and insightful as Thomas Staubli, main investor of OnchainLabs.

With a notable career spanning more than three decades, Thomas has witnessed the evolution of the financial and technology sectors, seizing opportunities to shape them through strategic investments and leadership roles. From his early days at Credit Suisse, navigating complex financial environments in Zurich, New York and Frankfurt, to his prominent role in scaling Partners Group AG from a startup to a powerhouse, Thomas demonstrated his deep understanding of the investment landscape and his ability to foresee and leverage upcoming trends in both technology and finance.

In 2015, Thomas embarked on a new venture by establishing himself as a private investor, injecting resources in promising young, small-cap startups across the DACH region of Europe. His portfolio ranges from traditional fields such as medicine to the more forward thinking fields of Web3. With investments in N-Dream/AirConsoloe, Tecflower, zai and notably, OnchainLabs, Thomas aims to guide young companies through the intricate process of growth in our technology driven world.

In this exclusive interview, we delve into the thought process of Thomas, discovering the motivations behind his investments and more…

What initially attracted you to the world of startups and tech investment? Specifically, what ignited your interest in blockchain?

My intention was always to play an active role when investing in a company, leveraging the nearly 30 years of experience I’ve accumulated in this field. Startups offer a unique purity in this regard, requiring a more holistic perspective than established companies. While tech investments demand a deep understanding of the technology, they also possess the potential for significant and disruptive change, presenting both a challenge and a rewarding opportunity. I like this combination.

Blockchain aligns well with this perspective. It is probably the most significant game-changer of the past decade. At the same time it is a big challenge to get a profound understanding of the future direction of the development of the technology. There are many very smart people in this market, making finding the right positioning crucial for success. There are plenty of opportunities – that’s what makes blockchain so captivating!

As a main shareholder and investor of OnchainLabs, where do you foresee the blockchain industry heading in the next decade? Additionally, what role do you envision OnchainLabs playing in this evolving landscape?

I foresee blockchain technology seamlessly integrating into our everyday lives. Its adoption will be characterised by user-friendly interfaces and applications, eliminating the need for a profound understanding of the underlying technology. Instead, individuals will interact with blockchain-enabled services effortlessly, benefiting from the remarkable innovations it brings forth.

As for OnchainLabs, we will play a significant role as an intermediary between blockchain features and businesses seeking to derive value from them. Our approach involves providing solutions to businesses without requiring a comprehensive understanding of the underlying technology. Through our tools, businesses can address significant challenges, such as enhancing customer engagement and integrating customers into the broader ecosystem, where mutual rewards are realised.

We anticipate playing a substantial role with OnchainLabs in bringing real-world assets (RWA) to Web3.

Based on your experience, what factors contribute to the success of a startup in today's highly competitive world?

People are key! They have to be able to be an integral part of a team, need to be willing to go the extra-mile and have 100% aligned interests! All team members need to have a clear understanding of the company’s objectives, value proposition, and overarching aim and the company’s vision. 

Furthermore, focus on your USP to stand out in the market and always bear in mind – whatever you do, there needs to be a buyer of your product out there. Mastering the delicate balance between adhering to the business plan while remaining flexible to unforeseen circumstances as well as keeping costs under control is truly an art form and plays a significant role in building a successful startup.

Do you have any examples of a specific moment that made you realise you made the right choice by investing in a startup?

So far I have had the opportunity to invest in nearly 20 startups. As always – some failed, some performed adequately, and others exceeded all expectations. It was never easy to predict the outcome: some startups were on the brink of failure only to bounce back unexpectedly, while others, despite immense promise, ultimately faltered. Occasionally, we've found ourselves developing exceptional ideas and products, only to discover that the timing wasn't quite right for the market. 

Yet, amidst these fluctuations, the journey of reaching small milestones one step at a time, keeping the passion and enthusiasm for our endeavours is what gives me a good feeling! One thing I learned: at the end, luck matters a lot!

What are some common challenges that startups face in the blockchain and Web3 landscape, how should they navigate to overcome these challenges?

The main challenge I observe is the lack of awareness regarding this technology. It almost feels like everyone knows it exists but no one understands how it operates. Despite the popularity of cryptocurrencies and an increase in commercial investments in the sector, there still is a broader lack of familiarity with blockchain's capabilities and its relevance to current issues. However, I see this gradually changing as people realize the importance of blockchain and Web3.. Still, much work remains to be done. A way for startups to help solve this problem would be by showcasing the use cases of the technology and showcasing all its practical benefits and most importantly to seamlessly integrate the technology into solutions in a way that the end consumers can navigate in it with basic knowledge. Furthermore, demonstrating tangible success stories and how this technology can provide value to the customer could gradually change people's perceptions.

In your opinion and based on your own experience, what emerging technologies or trends will have the most significant impact on the blockchain industry and startups in general?

These days I see many Web3 trends pivoting towards prioritising on adoption. The blockchain industry, with all its benefits, has a significant problem which is the high barrier of entrance. Navigating the intricacies of various wallets, transactions, and the use cases of the technology can be quite daunting for new users. This represents a critical need for more accessible and user friendly solutions. As a consequence there are increasing trends in addressing this challenge which makes startups focus more on streamlining the user experience, reducing technical hurdles, and enhancing security in a way that can be both comprehensive and reassuring to novices entering the field. OnchainLabs for instance has a similar approach with its OnchainID. By just creating an account, users are automatically given a wallet, removing the need to navigate complex setup processes. Furthermore the implementation of the Shamir Secret Sharing algorithm, elevates the security, making the entering into blockchain not only easier but also safer.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs and investors looking to leave their mark in the startup ecosystem, especially in the blockchain and Web3 sector?

My advice is not exclusive to the blockchain and Web3 sector but applies broadly to anyone aspiring to become an entrepreneur. Central to entering this journey and develop a successful company is the imperative to address the right problem for the right audience. Our daily lives are riddled with countless problems, many of which we might not even recognize as such. Sometimes, all it takes is to view a problem from a different angle, a perspective that was previously unexplored. I have seen many founders being to deep int their "thing" and loose the sight of the wood for trees! They lack the neutral outsight view! This is where entrepreneurs can truly add value, by stepping back and try to refocus on the core challenges: deeply understanding their users and their needs, as only by solving a problem that significantly impacts your target audience will make them convert into your customers and finally turns the business idea into a profitable business. As a successful entrepreneur, you understand exactly where your strength lies and therefore where you can add value! You want to empower your key people and let them take over full responsibility. Your experience gathered over many years will help you to find the right balance between tightening and loosening the reins.