Had 32-year-old Andy Funk followed his family's wishes, this would have been the year he would be taking the helm of the family business, Funk Gruppe, Germany's largest independent insurance company and brokerage. But he took a different path, choosing to become an entrepreneur rather than leading the structured life of an insurance executive. During his senior year in high school, Funk started a software business. After graduation, he left for the United States, taking his online business with him. Funk moved into a Hollywood apartment, where he was surviving on pocket money because sales were slow. Funk launched two other software ventures, and by 24 he had sold all three. He sold his third software company and decided to launch his own venture capital firm. Funk focused on investing in socially and environmentally responsible companies. Funk Ventures has invested in more than a dozen companies, including Organic to Go, Prolacta Bioscience and Encore Fitness. Funk recently met with the Business Journal to discuss his unusual career trajectory and the prospects for his venture capital firm during one of the toughest investing climates in years.


Question: Why didn't you go into the family business?

Answer: As the eldest son of a family owning a 130-year-old insurance company, it was always expected of me to take over the business when my father was ready to retire. I'm the sixth generation of the family since the business started. But I didn't want to know how my life would pan out for the next 40 years. That was not exciting to me. I like to create things. I really figured this out when I was in high school.

Q: How did that come about?

A: I was on a class trip to London and got a glimpse of how a less-structured business world worked. I had an epiphany of sorts: I knew then and there that I wanted to move to America and become an entrepreneur. So, right after I graduated, that's what I did.

Q: Why America? And where did you go?

A: It's the land of entrepreneurs, where you can build something out of just an idea. I shipped my motorcycles and musical instruments to Chicago and toured the country for a couple months. I followed the old Route 66, ending up on Santa Monica Boulevard at Ocean Avenue. I fell instantly in love with this place and decided this was where I wanted to live and build my company.

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