Our partner, firstminute capital, spoke to Nico Rosberg, 2016 Formula One World Champion turned sustainability and mobility entrepreneur and investor. Nico has invested in several European start-up successes like Tier Mobility, what3words and Lilium and founded Green Tech Festival, a green (and more fun) version of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Nico shared some of his learnings from an enormously successful sports career and how they apply to entrepreneurship. He also shared his thoughts about the future of mobility and his motivation behind investing in green technology.

Founders Intelligence helps business leaders to reinvent their industries by tapping into insights from the tech and venture world. We’ve summarised a couple of key takeaways from the conversation with Nico Rosberg below:

Successful athletes and entrepreneurs share an obsession for perfection and strive for it

  • People are often too lazy to sweat the details. Nico was obsessed with improving his performance during the 2016 season, and looked for any tiny detail to lose weight to become faster. He removed the painting on his helmet, went on a strict diet and stopped cycling to remove muscle weight. He ended up winning the championship by a fraction of a second — the tiniest details made a massive difference.
  • Self consciousness, humility and fear of failure are character traits that can be huge assets. Focus on improving yourself rather than looking for mistakes in other people (see above).
  • Meditation and pre-game visualisation, ironically enough, helped Nico become more aggressive in racing — and also to deal with internal politics in his team (book recommendation: The Monk who Sold his Ferrari).

Europe faces challenges in scaling up eco-mobility solutions

  • The European ecosystem struggles to develop category defining start-ups, partly due to a lack of cash for scale-ups, regulatory hurdles and internationalisation challenges; this also holds back the eco-mobility ecosystem.
  • Notable exceptions are start-up successes like Lilium, BlaBlaCar, Flixbus and Bolt.
  • Europeans are still more risk averse than American entrepreneurs and investors.

Sustainability and green tech should be front and centre for European corporates

  • There’s a risk that European OEMs will end up as mere hardware suppliers, where the bigger value lies in the software and services on top — but this is far from their comfort zone and requires different skills and thinking. Connecting start-ups and corporates can be a win-win by helping start-ups scale and mitigating risk for corporates.
  • A key goal of the Green Tech Festival that Rosberg founded is to push corporates to instill a sustainability mindset in every corner of their culture.

Thanks to Nico and firstminute for this fascinating conversation and we look forward to the next Green Tech Festival in autumn in Berlin.