Formula One (F1) racing is an incredible sport. Some of the brightest minds in the world of engineering and human performance, equipped with multi-billion-dollar budgets, create staggeringly high-performance cars, run by similarly high-performance teams and drivers.
Nico Rosberg raced in Formula One for eleven years, claiming the title of World Champion in 2016 with Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team. Since then, Rosberg has embarked on a career as an entrepreneur and investor in green technologies and mobility. He is an early investor in numerous successful start-ups including Lilum, What3Words, Tier, Lyft and Formula E. He is also co-owner of mobility engineering company TRE, and Co-Founder of the GREENTECH FESTIVAL; a global platform for cutting-edge green technologies. In 2020, he became an official judge of the TV show Die Höhle der Löwen (the German edition of the BBCs Dragon’s Den) with the aim of investing-in and supporting sustainable startups.
In this exclusive interview, I caught up with Nico to learn about his life in F1, entrepreneurship and investment.
Q: How did entrepreneurship come into your life?
[Nico Rosberg] After ending my career as an active driver I was looking for new challenges to pursue in the coming years of my life outside of F1. There were two factors that were important to me: Firstly, I wanted to build my own business and be successful at that. Secondly, I wanted to do something that makes a difference in this world. For me, it was very important to find a way to have a positive impact of some sort. Arguably, the biggest challenge we face right now as humans and as a society is climate change and the issues associated with our negative impact on the environment. So, this has become a key element of my business endeavours along with all surrounding technologies that help tackle this issue.
Q: What did you learn about resilience, focus, competition and success from your career in F1, and how does that apply to the business world?
[Nico Rosberg] I have learned a lot in F1 that I can apply to the business world. The biggest lesson is certainly the ability to get the most out of myself and reach my potential. Since my athletic career I have dealt a lot with methods of personal self-optimization and self- development, be it through mental training, nutrition, meditation or course fitness. This is also very useful outside of competitive sports. For example, since my retirement I have rediscovered meditation. Meditation played a huge role in my World Cup title but then I stopped because I lacked motivation. The mental intensity was completely gone and will never be there again in the same form. But I have slowly reintroduced the discipline for meditation again into my daily routine and I can feel the benefits. We know that it’s good. As a racing driver, I was always extremely structured, and so are our days now. At 8:30 a.m. today I had an hour doing my homework with my daughter, before that I had meditated and exercised for an hour. These are all lessons that I have learned from my time in Formula One for my life.
Q: What did you learn about the transformational power of technology from your journey in F1, and how are you now applying those learnings into your investment life?
[Nico Rosberg] Formula 1 has always been the pinnacle of motorsport and – more importantly – one of the principal platforms for car manufacturers to develop new technologies that will later find their ways into road cars. In F1, you find the most innovative, forward-thinking and dynamic engineers in the world and they are working at a rapid development speed to solve problems stretching the boundaries of current industry standards.
Having grown up and worked in this environment, I strongly believe there is a solution to everything as long as you are not willing to accept a status quo and constantly look for better results. Looking at the future of mobility, this is precisely the mindset that we need; there are solutions and we must be creative in finding them to lower our impact on the environment and reduce our CO2 footprint. It is possible to find new energy sources and it is possible to develop means of transportation that produce zero emissions.
Q: What are the key areas you are looking to invest, and why?
[Nico Rosberg] Many of my investments and projects are currently related to technologies that help make our future more sustainable. Some examples are startups developing efficient propulsions, new means of transportation, mobility services, plant-based foods or technologies for autonomous vehicles. In order to bring these technologies to a common platform, I founded the GREENTECH FESTIVAL, which will take place for the second time this year. It is the first global platform showcasing green technologies and a sustainable lifestyle. The first event was a huge success attracting more than 40,000 visitors and displaying an exceptional array of technological innovations by more than 60 exhibitors. We had Google, Allianz, BCG and many other big players involved. In January, we signed up Deutsche Bahn again as a business partner for GTF as well as the United Kingdom government as this year’s partnering country. Our aim is to make a difference in the world and prove that sustainability really is cool.
Q: What makes a business investable?
[Nico Rosberg] This is highly dependent on what you want to achieve as an investor and what your strategy is. For me it is extremely important that commercial interests and social benefits are not mutually exclusive, but that they can complement each other wonderfully so I always look out for products that are innovative, forward-thinking and offer a true value for society. Being an early investor, I think in the long term, especially for startups from the mobility and green tech scene. These trends do not prevail overnight, but are often based on technical disruptions that first have to find acceptance in the market. Some will have a breakthrough, others will fail, but ultimately, we will see the greatest developments in the area of sustainable mobility in the next decade.
Q: What have been the unique challenges, and opportunities that have come out of family business?
[Nico Rosberg] A family business is always based on a very close bond between the owners and the employees of the business. You have to establish a relationship with your employees based on mutual trust and you inevitably become more involved than if you were running a big anonymous corporation. The environment of my employees is extremely important to me, especially now in times of crisis. You realise that there are families involved and that you carry responsibility for them as well. Fortunately, at TRE we have a fantastic team and a very skilled leadership group so I can fully rely on their expertise even in these challenging times.
Q: What do success and failure mean to you?
[Nico Rosberg] My whole life was dominated by success and the fear of failure. Success is like a drug. Once you have tasted it, you want more. Fear on the other hand is a huge mind blocker as it kills your self-confidence and creativity. So, I have learned to deal with these emotions through meditation and psychological coaching during my time in F1. It is important to find a balance, become aware of negative thought patterns and control your mind more proactively. I have become much better at that and of course, today I define success differently. I have proven that I can win a Formula One World Championship. This feeling will carry me forever.
Q: What is the significance of Greentech in your life; and how are you growing this sector?
[Nico Rosberg] I am a father of two small children. When you have children, you have to ask yourself what the world will look like in the next 80-100 years, because people get that old these days if everything goes well. Last but not least, as a father I see it as my responsibility to think about my actions and my motives. As an active driver, I didn’t have much time for such thoughts and I was still very young. In recent years, however, I have recognized that this inner motivation is the right one.
My goal is to bring about positive change through my business. Not just for my children, but for the next generation. From a global point of view, we are currently in the middle of a technical revolution similar to what our grandparents experienced when everybody switched their horse carts for cars. The same is happening now and it is a phase of transition for many businesses. Just like at the end of the 19th century, during the second industrial revolution, they need to reinvent themselves completely and get back on track.
Green technologies are the key to this. For example, by 2050, 68% of the population will live in cities so we must find solutions for personal transportation. Autonomous driving, electric vehicles, and personal short-distance aviation are critical to the development of smart cities and will shape the way that people move within and between the cities of the future. Also, I think aviation is an industry that offers a lot of possibilities in terms of reducing the environmental impact of flying. I am investing in EVTOL companies and I am convinced there are promising opportunities in long-distance airborne transportation, too, for example synthetic fuels.
Q: How do you build, and lead, high-performance teams?
[Nico Rosberg] First of all, you must realize that a team is always stronger than a single individual. You cannot win a Championship by just being a great driver. You must have a very good team behind you. This is the same in every business.
In the past year, I have grown a team of about twenty employees working for me permanently and I have taken great care in choosing young people with diverse skills, an innovative mindset and the ability to think outside the box. I learn from them everyday and this is an important lesson, too. As a leader, you are not infallible. It is important to be able to admit a lack of expertise in certain areas of your business and to rely on your team’s expertise instead. This also frees up your mind to think about the bigger picture.
Q: What would be your key pieces of advice to the next generation of entrepreneurs?
[Nico Rosberg] Read a lot. Never accept current standards. Always improve yourself. And remember, you always meet twice in life. This lesson comes from my father, and I’ve seen it be true many times.
Nico Rosberg was born in 1985 in Wiesbaden, Germany, the son of Formula One™ World Champion Keke Rosberg and German mother Gesine Rosberg. He grew up in Monaco and attended the international school there.
He started a career in motorsport at a young age and entered Formula One™ in 2006, driving for Williams F1 and later Mercedes AMG Petronas. In his eleven-year career at the pinnacle of motorsport, Nico Rosberg took 23 Grand Prix victories and 30 pole positions. In 2016 he won the World Championship with the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team. Five days after the title win, he announced his retirement as an active driver.
Since leaving Formula One™, Nico Rosberg has embarked on a career as an entrepreneur and investor in green technologies and sustainable mobility startups. His company Legacy and Partners, based in Monaco, currently employs 20 people who manage a large number of projects with the support of a dedicated team of international experts in Monaco, Great Britain and Germany. Nico Rosberg’s drive as an entrepreneur is fueled by the will to drive positive change for society and mankind. He pursues this approach not only in his business activities, but also as an ambassador for a sustainable change in mobility through technological innovation. Rosberg has invested in numerous successful startups such as Lilium, Volocopter, What3Words, Tier and Lyft.
He is also an investor and shareholder of the all-electric racing series Formula E. Furthermore, Rosberg is a co-founder of the Berlin agency GREEN WINDOW, which specializes in sustainable events and communication. It is intended to help companies understand sustainability as a market and use it effectively for their business. Rosberg is also a co-owner of the German vehicle technology company TRE GmbH, one of the leading companies in the field of chassis development. Together with Schaeffler, TRE developed i.a. the intelligent chassis for the electric Schaeffler Mover Shuttle, which was awarded the German Mobility Award in 2019.
With his entrepreneurial commitment, Nico Rosberg supports numerous initiatives that address the most pressing challenges of our time, such as Future Positive Capital, which finance European deep-tech companies and use artificial intelligence, robotics, synthetic biology, genetics and other technologies to address sustainable nutrition for the growing world population, combating climate change and dealing with an aging population. Rosberg is invested in several global reforestation projects, as well as projects that support local farmers in sustainable agroforestry projects in countries such as Paraguay and Kenya. For many years he has also supported VIVA CON AGUA, a non-profit organization that works to ensure that everyone around the world has access to clean drinking water. Nico is part of the World Energy Council of Monaco and a long-time supporter of the Prince Albert II Foundation and the Ocean Gala. Rosberg has been a regular guest at the World Economic Forum in Davos since 2016 and exchanges ideas with key players from politics, business, science and society on the topics of sustainability, mobility and social justice.
In 2018, Rosberg was recognized for his commitment to sustainable innovation with the “GreenTec Entrepreneur of the Year” environmental award. A year later, he founded the GREENTECH FESTIVAL, a global platform for innovative and pioneering green technologies, which attracted almost 40,000 visitors at its premiere. The festival will take place again in Berlin Tempelhof from June 19-21, 2020 as part of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship. Nico Rosberg has been a sustainability ambassador for Deutsche Bahn and Kempinski Hotels since 2019. Together with Heineken, he campaigns for the responsible use of alcohol and road safety in the “When you drive never drink” campaign. In 2020 Rosberg became a judge in the TV show “Die Höhle der Löwen”, the German version of the BBC’s “Dragon’s Den”, with the aim of promoting sustainable and future-oriented start-ups. Rosberg operates his own YouTube channel with over half a million followers and his own podcast on the subject of success, personal self-development and breaking boundaries. In addition to his work as an entrepreneur, Nico Rosberg works as a Formula One™ expert for the German TV channels RTL and SKY. He speaks five languages fluently: German, English, Italian, French and Spanish. Nico Rosberg lives with his wife Vivian and daughters Alaia and Naila in Monaco and Ibiza.