Uber has made some notable hires in the last year as the transportation upstart continues its march for more growth, but as of this summer it’s also lost one of its key employees. Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen has left his position as VP of mobile at Uber and has moved over to London to become a general partner at VC firm Balderton.
There, Fjeldsoe-Nielsen will be focusing on making new early stage investments out of Europe, as well as working with existing portfolio companies to expand their business. This is something that will be familiar to Fjeldsoe-Nielsen. His career forte up to now has been mobile and specifically mobile business development.
Before moving to Uber — where he was one of four VPs at the company and reported to Emil Michael working on business development — Fjeldsoe-Nielsen worked on mobile at Dropbox, where he played a central role in brokering the deals to preload and bundle Dropbox’s app on to Samsung and HTC phones. Those were moves that proved to be central to Dropbox’s growth in mobile, which in turn played a very a large part in the company growing to hundreds of millions of users by the time he left, from mere millions when he started.
While at Dropbox, he also worked as an advisor to WhatsApp prior to its sale to Facebook. Other companies where he has worked in the past include Voicesignal, Skyhook Wireless, Ness Technologies and T9 Tegic.
Leaving Uber after only a year and a half, and while the going there appears to be so good — the company continues to grow, even despite some heavy criticism from incumbent taxi drivers around its policies and more — was a decision that his peers did not view lightly, he said.
“People told me I was crazy for leaving Uber and leaving Silicon Valley,” said Fjeldsoe-Nielsen. He says that the choice was made for a personal reason: no Uber drama; just that he and his wife wanted to be closer to family in the UK and Denmark.
Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, who is half Portuguese and half Danish and speaks five languages, is coming to Europe at a time when startups in the region continue to lag behind their U.S. counterparts when it comes to numbers, both in terms of startups on the ground and also in the amount of funding that they get.
On the positive side, that could mean a softer landing when and if the current market’s tech bubble bursts. And in the meantime, the less crowded landscape could also mean a bigger opportunity for a newcomer to the VC world, like Lars, to get in on interesting companies as they come to market.
“At Balderton, it is our mission to back the very best global technology businesses being born in Europe, and to work alongside the founders to help them realise their undoubted potential. We are delighted that Lars shares in this vision and his unparalleled expertise and enthusiastic commitment to the European tech scene will help us uncover, back and support the very best founders in the region,” Daniel Waterhouse, General Partner at Balderton Capital, said in a statement.
For Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, a more pared-down playing field in Europe could also help keep down the noise for him to focus more on the signals that he’s found, from experience, to be common threads through some of the startups where he’s worked. “A big product lesson I picked up from Uber, Dropbox and WhatsApp is simplicity,” he said. “Doing one thing really well. From there you can then grow.”