Lars Nordwall

Stockholm, Venture Partner

Lars is our Venture Partner based in Stockholm. He works with our founders and CEOs on strategic matters, supporting the expansion of the organizations and hiring of key leaders, advising on go-to-market strategy, hitting numbers, and more.

Growing up, I spent my time focusing on everything but school. This changed in seventh grade, when my math teacher presented a vision of my future, highlighting the impact that a little more effort could have on my trajectory. It transformed me from an indifferent student to the top of the class. I wouldn’t argue that I was the smartest kid on the block, but I was likely one of the most ambitious. I went on to simultaneously study at two Swedish universities, earning a Master's in Microcomputer Science and a Bachelor's in Economics, followed by further education at Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business in the US.

My first job was in IT and strategy consulting, with an initial six-month stint in Silicon Valley as part of a trainee program. When I returned to Sweden, I quickly found local assignments unsatisfying. Within a few years, I was recruited back by the U.S. division of the same company that I had worked at in Silicon Valley. While I intended to return to Sweden after two years, I suspected that the Valley, with its relentlessly optimistic and driven entrepreneurs, was going to keep me there longer. Indeed, two decades passed, and it wasn't until the pandemic that I decided to return to Stockholm and embark on a fresh chapter.

My first company grew from 300 to 7,000 employees over my six-year employment, peaking at a market cap of $5B. I was initially running the Silicon Valley P&L and later a global team. It was incredible to witness such rapid growth in my first job post-graduation. After a major acquisition, I stayed on for four more years to build on my leadership and M&A experience.

My passion for start-ups eventually led to my resignation from a lucrative executive role to join SugarCRM, an open-source CRM organization competing with Salesforce. Despite skepticism from peers, I believed in SugarCRM's potential to become a market leader. We ended up building a successful firm with hundreds of employees, culminating in a billion-dollar acquisition by a private equity firm.

My second start-up was Pentaho, an open-source business intelligence company. The company was going through a tumultuous period and immediately went through a restructuring phase. Although my career decision had once again been met with judgment, we achieved over 100% YoY ARR growth within a year. The company was subsequently acquired by Hitachi for over $500M.

Neo4j was my next venture. During my 12-year tenure as President and COO, the company's workforce grew from 8 to more than 800, with a valuation exceeding $2.3B. As I’m sure you could predict by now, several people shared strong opinions, doubting the success of a new database category created from scratch. Nevertheless, the category flourished, with major players like Oracle, Amazon, and Microsoft entering the space, with Neo4j remaining the leader. Notably, investors supported the largest investment round ever for a database company in 2022, at $400M.

The theme throughout my career has been my belief in startups that may not appear promising at first glance. Even prominent Silicon Valley VCs advised me against pursuing such risky ventures, but it was similar well-intentioned advice that led me to turn down leadership positions at companies including Databricks, Box, and Coupa in their infancy. I learned that you cannot predict success. 

For two decades, my secondary focus has been coaching founding CEOs to evolve from technical virtuosos to global business leaders. These CEOs often lack experience in managing a company and have never supervised employees. They suddenly have to hire, fire, and coach employees while dealing with investors and a board. They often don’t know where to start, so effective coaching is imperative.

In 2022, I accepted my first board seat. After an 11-year stint at a single company, I was excited to help multiple founders and liquidate some of my assets to support these diverse ventures. I was tired of living on an airplane and happy about making Stockholm my permanent home. I initiated a 1-2 year leadership transition with Neo4j. With the transition underway, I'm proud to see the company's continued 50% YoY ARR growth and nearing $200M in ARR.

During this transition, Johan Brenner extended an irresistible opportunity to join Creandum. The timing was perfect. I already knew the entire Creandum team, as they had invested in Neo4j back in 2015 and Johan had been on our board for years. I have worked with many tier 1 VCs and I am deeply impressed by Creandum’s portfolio management and returns. 

I am humbled to join the Creandum team and thrilled to work with such exceptional entrepreneurs and founders.

welcome, lars!
Johan Brenner 28 June 2023
Welcome, Lars!