Managing Partner of Waterman Ventures “Comes Home Again” Through His Fund for Fellow Brown Alums
Ludwig Pierre Schulze has personal, professional, and inspirational roots at Brown University. A campus business gave him his first introduction to entrepreneurial ventures. That was followed by several stints in ventures on a much larger scale — including his own venture business. The culmination of those experiences has been Schulze’s move to become Managing Partner of Waterman Ventures, a private, for-profit fund that enables Brown alums to invest in ventures connected to fellow alums. He recently traced the steps in that full-circle journey for us.
What’s your connection to Brown?
It was immediate and has proven long-lasting. I was on college tours, sitting on our Main Green, and said to my dad, “This place just feels right.” Thankfully, it actually was. So right, in fact, that I would end up meeting my wife (PLME) and making a group of lifelong friends (Mvi!). I also discovered the challenges and joys of defining, building, and managing organizations. And I have remained connected over the years by interviewing amazing prospective students.
Tell us about your professional background. Where did your investment career begin? How did you get into venture capital and business more generally?
While my classes in realpolitik (PS 40) were fascinating and taking Arabic pass/fail was fun, I earned my drinking money by running a refrigerator renting and dorm-room trinket-selling business called Brown Student Agencies…on Waterman Street. BSA and Barrett Hazeltine opened my eyes to the possibilities of business, and the Boston Consulting Group taught me all the basics.
From there, I was naturally drawn to the power of technology to drive innovation and had my first stint in venture at a $800M global fund — including during the dot.com crash. Then I created an in-house venture for the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer (Nokia) and ultimately built my own venture that serves >13M consumers. More than twenty years later, it’s wonderful to be reconnecting with Brown and alumni—who started me on my entrepreneurial path—through the Waterman Venture Fund.
What sparked your interest in working for Waterman Ventures?
Admittedly, I found it a bit confusing at first. A venture fund for individuals, not just pension funds and insurance companies? Once I understood the clever structure, it was fascinating.
For me, Waterman is an opportunity to give Brown alumni access to the next great Brown companies. And while we’re not affiliated with the university, investing in Waterman is a great opportunity to learn from and support the next generation of entrepreneurs while helping build the wider Brown entrepreneurial community.
Of course, venture isn’t for everyone. But if you’re an accredited investor who is seeking balanced asset allocation, it’s worth exploring. I believe the Waterman approach of providing a portfolio of 20–30 deals diversified by stage, sector, and geography — all deals that are led by a sector-expert venture capitalist — is a prudent approach. Almost always better than sinking it into your brother-in-law’s great idea.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned during your time in venture?
Having been on every side of venture — as an investor, corporate buyer, and founder — I’ve learned quite a few lessons. Inevitably, some have come through mistakes, like watching first-hand the largest European e-commerce venture implode. Others have come through successes, like selling unknown software into one of the world’s largest banks.
But ultimately, I find most things boil down to the people involved. Challenges and opportunities will arise. Will the people involved have the expertise and temperament to understand them and respond?
The Waterman model fits well to this lesson. Fundamentally, my role is to find the venture investment opportunities in which great entrepreneurs are matched up with expert “traditional” venture capitalists. The result is a portfolio of companies that will be best positioned to succeed through the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Waterman Ventures is a private, for-profit fund not affiliated with Brown University that provides Brown alums with a diverse portfolio of 20–30 deals connected to fellow alums.