’Everyone has to be very agile’

Olaf Ostin, head of ETF's UK office, says flexibility is the key to finding success in the rough world that is the technology market.

Olav Ostin joined global venture capital corporation ETF Group a year ago, having learned the corporate finance ropes at Enskilda Securities. A genuine European – Ostin is half French, half Swedish and married to an Englishwoman, he has responsibility for the group's operations in the UK and Ireland.

To date, his company has built a portfolio of around 60 internet related companies in B2B, efinance, broadband, wireless and services.

Ostin subscribes to the view that flexibility and the willingness to change one's business model if needs be are key traits of a successful technology investor. With that in place, storms can be weathered more easily, which obviously is particularly useful at the moment.

'We probably haven't seen the worst yet', he says about the market, adding that there will be more bad news coming from the large corporates in Q3. But his longterm outlook is positive, even though he doesn't expect the IPO markets to reopen until 2002, despite 12 completed European technology IPOs in June. What he is telling portfolio companies at the moment is 'be very careful in 2001, and if you have the right product, the right team and [a sufficient] cashbase, you'll probably be very successful in 2002.'

Particularly if you are operating in the wireless sector. '2002 will be the year of wireless', Ostin believes, expecting some solid returns from across the sector. His UK portfolio includes wireless plays such as Peramon Technology, a developer of wireless applications and Worldzap, which works on delivery methods of interactive content for handheld devices.

ETF Group, which was founded by Giorgio Ronchi in 1996, has invested $250m of venture capital to date. Headquartered in Lugano, Switzerland, the company has offices in Munich, Milan, San Francisco, New York, Tokyo, Sidney, London and Paris. An office in Stockholm is also scheduled to open. ETF's investment portfolio is currently valued at approximately $800m.