Volta Ventures Welcomes Hannes Deklerck as Junior Associate at the Ghent Office

Q - Tell us a bit about yourself

Raised in the small and peaceful town of Knesselare, I’ve always been attracted to nature and calmness. When I started my master’s programme in Ghent however, I started loving the busy city life just as much!

Ever since I have been a kid, I’ve been intrigued by economics and finance. After studying economics in high school, I decided to further dive into this topic by studying business administration at Ghent University, mastering Finance and Risk management. At this point I was very passionate about “value investing”, my biggest dream was to become a successful fund manager like Warren Buffet. During that period I had finished my first internship in a fund that focussed on exactly this investing style. And of course, I was still managing my own small stock portfolio that I started in high school. 

After finishing this master however, I felt like I was just at the start of my learning curve. That’s why I decided to participate in the “Advanced Master in Financial Markets” programme at Solvay business school school, which definitely opened a lot of doors for me.

Plenty of meaningful connections, insights, and knowledge is what this postgraduate delivered. Most importantly though; it introduced me to the dynamic world of startups and venture capital. Long story short: I applied for an internship at Volta, and because I had such a good time, I decided to stay even before I graduated!

Oh, and aside from economics, I love gardening, hiking, ​​in-depth conversations, hanging out with friends, and I’m never scared of a good party!

Q - What are some of the insights and qualities of a value investor that you hope to bring to VC?

Even though VC and value investing can be considered opposite investment styles, there are still qualities that are necessary for both

First of all: being able to evaluate the quality and feasibility of a business model and management team is key in both worlds. Being able to “pick winners” is strongly connected to this quality.

Secondly, it is very important to leave emotions aside and to only make investment decisions based on ratio and logic, don’t get too excited!

Last but not least, Buffet’s quote: “price is what you pay, value is what you get” reminds us that one should always make sure he pays the right price for a company.

Q - What should we expect from you at Volta?

As a motivated freshman, you can expect an energetic, enthusiastic young man at all times. I will probably ask a lot of questions though, as I am always curious and eager to learn. Currently, I get loads of energy from listening to startup pitches. It is an excellent way to observe what is happening in the technological world, and a founder’s energy is always contagious!

For now, I will be focusing on financials and reporting, but I cannot wait to chase for the next unicorn myself once I’ve gathered enough experience.

Q - What are some technologies you get excited about at the moment?

Obviously, this has to be AI, and more specifically LLM/ deep learning language models. Developments in this field have accelerated more quickly than ever before, especially since the release of chatgpt and similar models.

Like with blockchain, I think part of the fuss around this technology is attributable to “hype”. However, I am certain that this innovation is significant, that it is here to stay, and that it could be a turning point in the global technology space.

As with every new technology, I am convinced that there will be clear winners in this field. However, I also believe that there will be a lot of hyped AI companies that will eventually fail. It is our job to make this distinction and to allocate capital only to the best and most defensible businesses. 

For me, it will be very interesting to see which layer of the AI-stack will be able to capture and maintain the most Value. As of today, we see that cloud companies are reaping the most value, while model builders have yet to find ways to capture profits. In terms of AI-based applications, there seem to be a lot of use cases, but companies are struggling with retention. This is partly explainable by the early stage of the innovation, with lots of “AI-tourists” experimenting in this field. Another interesting thing to watch out for is the performance of closed-source versus open-source models (e.g. openAI vs Mistral.ai).

As a VC, I think the best opportunities will be found in startups that focus on compliance middleware, data storage and retrieval, and defensible AI-applications. In any case, I’m very curious how this landscape will evolve, and I’m looking forward to getting  to know new startups in this field!

Q - What influenced your choice to join Volta?

Well, that’s an interesting question. At first, I thought I had my career all figured out. I had already agreed to do an internship at an M&A-firm, after which I had planned to continue in the field of private equity. However…

As I was open to new experiences, I decided to engage in an internship in VC in the meantime. During my advanced master, I learned that Volta was definitely one of the best in this field, so I was very happy to get the internship exactly there. Very quickly fell in love with the firm, and also with the industry in general. The fact that I could work with startups on a personal level, that sector is about discovering the trends of tomorrow, and that I could work in a small, but very reputable and well connected firm (with awesome colleagues), quickly convinced me to turn my plans around. 

Private equity suddenly appeared… boring in comparison to the exciting environment of venture capital. As of today, I am very happy with my decision. 

I hope you got to know me a little better, and I’m always up for an interesting conversation over a coffee if you feel the same!

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