Perhaps the one downside to building a venture capital firm filled with operational experience is that you can’t always keep an operator out of the action for too long. Or so it seems, if the latest VC move at London-based Atomico is anything to go by.
Atomico Partner Yann de Vries — who led investments in Teralytics (Switzerland), GoEuro (Berlin) and Jobandtalent (Madrid) — is joining Lilium, the super ambitious Munich-based startup developing an electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet and accompanying “air taxi” service.
Specifically, he takes up the position of VP Corporate Development at Lilium, tasked with helping the company with long-term partnership development and investor relations.
De Vries joined Atomico four years ago from Redpoint e.ventures, a leading VC fund in Brazil, where he was a Managing Director and co-founder and led investments in Farfetch and Gympass. Prior to starting RPeV, he was the head of Corporate Development for Cisco in EMEA and Latin America, and spent five years in Silicon Valley working for a startup and in venture capital.
I’m told de Vries — who speaks four languages and holds an MSEE from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and an MBA from Harvard Business School — was already involved with Lilium as part of Atomico having led the company’s Series A round back in 2016.
The VC firm followed on as part of Lilium’s $90 million Series B late last year, and although Atomico (and Skype) co-founder Niklas Zennström led on Atomico’s behalf, he worked closely with de Vries on the investment and is fully supportive of the former Atomico Partner’s latest move.
“Lilium is on a very exciting trajectory, and Yann’s experience makes him a perfect fit to lead their corporate development strategy,” says Zennström in a statement. “As an investor we are very supportive of the transition and have confidence in the impact Yann will have at Lilium. As a board member I look forward to continuing to work with Yann in the next phase of his career”.
Meanwhile, the hiring of de Vries as Lilium’s VP Corporate Development follows a number of other prominent roles being filled in the last 18 months.
They include Dr. Remo Gerber, former MD for Western Europe at Gett, who joined Lilium as chief commercial officer; Dirk Gebser, VP of Production and previously holding manufacturing executive roles at Airbus and Rolls Royce; and Meggy Sailer, Head of Recruitment, who was formerly Tesla’s Head of Talent EMEA.
Most recently, the German flying taxi company recruited car design veteran Frank Stephenson, who has previously worked for Ferrari, Maserati and Mini, to name but a few. I caught up with Stephenson for an extensive Q&A in April where he described joining Lilium as a “match made in heaven”.