Silent opportunities

Preventing something from happening is without any doubt one of the biggest opportunities in healthcare – and perhaps especially digital healthcare. Trying to keep people from developing a medical condition that requires cost medical care is a really good idea for everybody concerned. And given the nature of prevention – and thus lack of physical intervention on the body – it is an area that is really suited for everything digital.

But there is an opportunity that might be even bigger; helping look after those who have developed a condition to enable them to have an improved quality of life. I think there are at least two major arguments for why this is so:

One of the problems with being diagnosed with a condition that may last for life is what happens after the diagnosis has been given. It’s all very good that in Denmark there is a 30 day or so guarantee to get a diagnosis, but to many who are then diagnosed, getting the message might actually be the last time they have a truly meaningful conversation with someone who specializes in their condition.

Yes, it can be that hard to get the attention and follow-up, you would like to have, post-diagnosis. There may be a lot of reasons for why this is so, but I think two of them are a lack of specialists in general combined with a lot of conditions being considered relatively banal by any other than those who are actually suffering from them.

In those terms this is what I would call a silent opportunity.

Here digital tools for follow-up and disease management can be a real benefit, as they can supply the kind of ongoing help and advice that is otherwise inaccessible. Done right digital tools have an opportunity to take the place of a specialist and provide the person with the condition with all the tools needed to ensure a better quality of life.

In this also lies the second major argument for why I believe this is a huge opportunity: The value the tools can potentially bring to the patient.

If a digital tool provides significant value to a person with a condition – perhaps for life – I can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t be a major business opportunity to strike a working relationship between provider and patient perhaps even for life. If the tool becomes an important port of ensuring the users quality of life, it is worth paying something for. Likely not a whole lot per month, but over time it all adds up. And, best case, with extremely little churn.

For startups looking to cater to this market it is an opportunity to build a really interesting business for the long run with a solid purpose to boot. Of course the requirement beyond being able to build something that truly adds value is that entrepreneurs are in it for the long run, as exit opportunities may be few and far between. But for the right people with the right incentives and motivation to make a difference, the opportunities are definitely there.

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The beachhead pitfall

Every time I see a startup pitch for funding, the founders include an assessment of the size of the market, they are going after. The more detailed ones also give an assessment of the size of that market, they believe they can make their own and why.

It is all well and good. Sometimes I might even think that the slide is in the boilerplate department, where it’s there because it’s expected, but it’s not the most sexy or informative slide.

But what I have learned is that it is actually more important than that. That if you get this wrong or don’t think enough of it, you can potentially end up in a place, where you and your startup find yourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Why that is has something to do with the first share of land, you grab in your market – the beachhead.

Normally, when we talk about beachheads, we refer to them as a representation of the segment you go for first in order to prove your value proposition and achieve the illustrious Product-Market Fit. It’s your assessment of where the best match between your customers pain and the relief, you can bring to the customer, is the best at this particular stage of your startups life.

You go after a beachhead, because you want to get traction ASAP to show your investors – and potentially also the first significant revenue to show for it. And it makes total sense.

But – and this is a big but – if you’re not mindful about the bigger market opportunity, your specific plans to get there and the narrative about what you’re doing right now, you run the real risk of getting stuck in the midst of what otherwise might look like a success.

What could potentially happen, if you’re not careful, is that your beachhead becomes your market. That what was once thought of as the first small slice of a big cake becomes the entire cake.

If that happens you may develop a super strong position in a niche market, but you will never be able to scale your business to the bigger market opportunity, you will need in order to find investors, who are willing to put up the ressources required to be there. In other words you risk turning into an ok business on the longer term rather than an amazing business. Which – without saying anything bad about ok businesses in general – just seems like a wasted opportunity.

And this is where we come back to the role of the beachhead.

It is super easy to get excited about your beachhead, when you start seeing traction in it. You naturally want more, and you want to build on the early success. And you can do that, but you need to control the narrative.

You need to keep telling yourself, your investors and everybody else who might listen that what you’re currently doing is NOT the end goal but just a beachhead. That while you’re killing it in your beach head, you understand the fundamental dynamics and value of your product in a larger context for different segments of customers, and you’re well on your way towards branching out.

Thus, your narrative and your operations becomes about the beachhead based on what a beachhead should be; a stepping tone towards making real landgrab in land. If you can balance the two stories about what’s happening now and where you’re taking it, you’ll have a much more compelling story to tell. Not least to the investors, you will need to enable you to get the ressources you need to make real landgrab and fulfill the potential, you set out to fulfill.

If you don’t get this right, the risk is that you end up becoming a de facto niche player doing a stellar job in too small a market that no investor really sees the upside in. And if that happens being able to move the needle and move inland will become infinitely harder. Just don’t go there, when there is an alternative that is so much better by just being more conscious about how you stay the course.

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The future work OS

For quite some time I have been thinking about how the new hybrid work culture requires a new operating system facilitating getting work done through collaboration and efficiency.

I fully realize that there are a plethora of legacy systems for all parts of the journey out there, but on the other hand, I believe the opportunity is so fundamental that it warrants thinking about in OS terms. With all the different takes on how this is done through stitching things together, I think there is a need for a more hardwired system.

If that is true, the big question of course becomes, what the key components of such an OS could and should be. I have been thinking about that too, and the following is nothing more than a list of four different key components that I would personally love to see in such an OS. That’s by no means the same as somebody ever doing it, but bear with me and allow me to hope.

Fundamental to any work OS is the ability for me as a user to control how I can get distracted, when I am doing work. One of the big challenges to collaboration is the reality that you’re essentially always adapting your work to somebody else’s agenda, and I just think there is a huge loss of productivity in that.

I would even argue that the control of distractions would be as essential a component to a work OS, as privacy controls are in many other types of software. I need to be put in charge of defining what’s needed for me to be most productive, and the OS just seamlessly need to comply with that, once I have configured it. Putting some ML on top could allow to suggest adjustments to my configurations based on how I actual work, but that would be about it.

While unrivaled distraction controls should be a cornerstone, the OS should also be adaptable to different types of work cultures. That’s the second component of the five, I would love to see in a work OS.

Think of adaptable work cultures as essentially an extension of a role based user interface, where I get the experience, flow and features that’s essential based on how I work and how we work together as a team. That’s the cultural adaptability.

It’s an important component of a work OS, as there are significant differences in how different organisations like to work together. Some have a more conservative approach with a ‘command and control’ set of values, where others on the other side of the spectrum have more of a ‘we’re all in this together, so let’s help each other out’-approach.

The point I am trying to make is that the work OS should be born with a rich set of templates based on research and market insights that allows you to configure the OS for your culture with a few clicks max. That would be really powerful, and done right it could serve as an important digital custodian of company values and ways-of-working.

With both distraction controls and an adaptable work culture facilitated directly by the OS in place, we can focus our attention of actually getting meaningful work done. This is the third key component of my ideal work OS.

How does meaningful work get done? In many ways but one of them is by making it easy, fast and efficient to not only make business critical decisions but also to execute on them. Like a startup, I met lately put it, it is all about creating ‘the path of least resistance’. I really like that way of looking at it.

There are many approaches towards getting work done in an efficient matter and a lot of frameworks and tools that support those in various ways. I think the important part here is that the method applied resonates with the adapted work culture as mentioned above, so that decisions and execution are as closely aligned with the individuals and the teams preferences for getting things done as possible. The less we need to think about it, the better and more efficient it is.

Getting things done efficiently also includes tying things together in logical ways ensuring that conversations are transparent, and that meetings called have meaningful agendas and outcomes, and there is a process for follow-up that ensures that things actually get done and nothing gets lost between different chairs. A lot of those things can be automated through flows, and I think it should be a core part of the work culture templates with the opportunity to optimize the configurations as needed.

While process is important for getting things done and make efficient decisions, it is equally important to have the context for the decision present and ready. Thus a significant part of being able to have an efficient work OS is to have the data supporting decision making ready and available at any time.

Thus doing the mundane work of ensuring that the work OS can integrate towards any type of data and platforms that your organisation uses for storage and work will be crucial. There are already a lot of precedent in how to do these types of integrations, and there are several providers, who already provide a federated view from one interface into countless different tools and platforms. So it can definitely be done.

The more the data you already have gets integrated into the work OS, the more supercharged it will be. People tend to live their work lives digitally wherever their data is stored and available, so it will probably be one of the key drivers to easing the adoption of the work OS.

The goal with a work OS should be everybody in the organisation becomes part of it. Why? Because it’s the cornerstone of the fourth and potentially most critical component to why a work OS could be a cornerstone of the future of work both on premise and in a hybrid mode:

Programming and automating the ways-of-working policy of the organisation.

Ways-of-working will be increasingly important as the means of turning a set of values and policies into a modus operandi for how the organisation and the people within it work and behave with and towards each other as well as externally.

As organisations become even more hybrid, and most of the people in it will in periods of time be working remotely, having a firm set of values and policies will only increase in importance. It will be the glue that keeps the organisation together. But it won’t happen by itself. It will need help. By a set of configured and carefully calibrated and adapted rules and policies for the individual organisation that sets seamless boundaries for what’s good and productive behaviour and what’s not.

Most of us working with software in our daily work lives are used to systems setting up rules for us or at the very least having the capability of creating our own. But they are perhaps to disparate across different systems and in some ways also too much in flux all the time to be truly efficient. Ensuring a broad, common adoption and custodianship of the set of rules of the entire organisation will perhaps be the one point where the work OS will really be able to make a foundational difference.

In summary there should be more than enough opportunity in this space for someone to have a go at creating a true work OS; something that could be foundational to powering the way we work efficiently in ways that resemble the original PC OSs. Yes, that’s how big this opportunity is. Question is whether someone has the audacity to go after it in a way that is bold enough?

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BMaaS

Have you ever thought about how many different SaaS tools for business there are, who help you get things, you have decided on doing, done, but how few (great) tools there are at helping you reach the right operational decision about what to do?

As a former business manager with a deep passion for getting involved and being operational on this and that I have often wondered. Especially since I have first hand experienced how the decision making process in corporations is inherently flawed.

Many of the decisions being made are not necessarily based on the facts or the access to the best data. They are based on habit, hearsay, politics and whatever else somewhat murky pretext. And the results show;

Poor decisions leading to sub-par initiatives and less than optimal outcomes.

It’s a huge problem for many large organizations but also one it’s hard to talk about and address efficiently, as any kind of fact finding and urge to try and improve the status quo will undoubtedly uncover all the hidden flaws of how decisions are actually being made.

In software development the problem has to a large extend already been fixed by agile development methodologies and processes. Here widely adopted and accepted frameworks already exist, and there is a plethora of software platforms and tools that help facilitate smooth and efficient development processes – examples such as Jira and Asana comes to mind.

Of course it would be possible to take some of these platforms and adopt them for ‘operational business development’ rather than software development, and many already do that. But why the need to settle?

In my mind a very valid question to ask is this: Why shouldn’t operations – the day-to-day job of execution to make a business work with customers, suppliers, employees and other stakeholders – have the benefit of the same kind of lean mean software orchestration, as software development already has?

Of course it should.

We could call it ‘business management software’ and define it almost as a kind of OS for operations or an exoskeleton for operators enabling the organization to get even more out of employees, who are already doing a great job.

Solving the operations efficiency challenge centered around transparent, data backed decision processes based on context could prove to be an unlock of immense value for corporations large and small. And thus also an opportunity worth pursuing for entrepreneurs looking to deliver real tangible value for business users – and operator-savvy investors understanding the inherent opportunity in this space.

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The power of disagreement

Being in disagreement sucks. Not only is it a sure way of ensuring you defocus from what you should ideally be working on. It also can be completely draining of energy. And depending on how the disagreement plays out, it can be downright nasty and make you want to head for the exit.

But there is actually real power in disagreement. If you are able to unleash it.

When we violently disagree on something, it is an opportunity to broaden our own horizons and get creative about new ways of looking at the world and new solutions to existing problems.

Looked at it that way being in disagreement can be the biggest catalyst of positive change in your team and your business. It can provide that ‘Heu-re-ka’ moment you all need to move on in a better direction.

But it requires something. It requires removing your ego from the equation and not be tempted to view disagreement as a personal matter that has more to do with you as a person and your relationship(s) with the one(s) critiquing you. If you fall in that trap, you’re immediately on the slide towards the dark side.

Instead you should be asking yourself: “What can I learn from this?” and “Where’s the bigger and important point in what the other one is arguing?” and then work onwards from that.

Now, in fairness, it’s super hard to do. Especially if you have great pride and integrity, and you’re passionate about what you work with. That sets you up pretty well for taking a slap to the face very personal.

But try to steer clear of it and focus on the opportunity. It will most likely be way better for your business, your team, your relationships with team members. And yourself, of course.

(Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash)

A challenge of a generation

Aside from climate change one of the most daunting trends facing us in the Western world is the thought that for the first time in generations, there is every chance that our kids are NOT going to be better off than we were compared to our parents and the generations before that.

In the US, which has always been the land of hope, dreams and opportunity, this has long tilted, and it is happening in Europe too (article in Danish) with the Mediterranean countries ‘leading’ the pack; growing economic wealth and prosperity as a function of time is by no means a given anymore.

As if that is not bad enough in itself, we’re at the same time filling our kids and youth with the exact opposite story: Everything is available for you, you choose, and your choices are (almost) free – except the luxury items and experiences you can also get and which you can get due to costs saved in other places and the access to cheap capital.

So in reality you could argue that our youth is living a lie, we helped them create, and that one day they will wake up to a staggering bill. When that happens, and consequences need to be reaped, there is no telling what will happen.

Now, this is not a doom’n’gloom piece even though I admit it looks like one. It is – as most of my other writings – a piece about opportunity for creative visionaries to take stock of the problem, go back and figure out how we’re going to solve one of the biggest generational challenges, we have probably ever faced.

I will admit I don’t have the answers. If I did I would probably be busy trying to set the right things in motion. But what I do know is that the opportunity is there for people with products and services that look to galvanize our youth and limit the future impact of the trajectory we’re seeing.

It could be in terms of new kinds of savings products. It could be about education ensuring an ability to ride the development and be presented with new opportunities. It could be about simple living and making that into ‘cool’ living. The list of opportunities are endless.

And there will be a huge need and market for it, once reality hits. An excellent way for the right people to combine a very strong purpose with a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity.

(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

Time your own luck – now

Getting a business off the ground of course has a lot to do with the idea and what pain you’re looking to solve for customers. But it is also about timing and luck.

Some people say that you can make your own luck. And perhaps that is true. To an extend.

What you certainly can do is look around you at what’s going on. And if you look at the world right now, there are at least 3 good reasons, as I see them, why this might be a great moment to time your luck so to say and venture into something new.

First of all, a lot of incumbents in different industries are busy elsewhere handling the fallout from the pandemic with disrupted supply chains, increasing prices on goods, lack of talent etc. They’re way to busy with that to innovate in earnest themselves let alone keep a keen eye on what you’re doing.

Second, there are a lot of change afoot after the pandemic. New trends have emerged, new patterns of behaviour – some of which we still need to see the resilience of after the pandemic eases, mind you – have got on the radar etc. And with that new pains, needs and demand for new, innovative solutions that you might be able to provide.

And third, there is the work-from-home thing. While some people yearn to get back to normal office life, there are also millions of people out there who feel the opposite. They are ready for a change. Maybe even for a move into entrepreneurship. So when I said above that incumbents might have a hard time finding the right talent, it could be an entirely different matter for you.

So what are you waiting for?

(Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash)

Hyperlocal belonging

The other day I saw a survey that claimed that 44% of all Danes would like to know their neighbors better.

In a globalized world, where we’re so busy figuring out when and how to travel somewhere next, this is somewhat a mind-boggling number.

You may say that you’re global. But the fact of the matter also is that most of us (not me though) live alone – many even single. We venture out to meet people, but when we are at base, we’re most often alone.

To more and more people that turns into a feeling of anxiety and even depression. The Covid-19 pandemic certainly hasn’t helped with psychiatrists reporting a large influx in ‘new’ patients who all have in common that just a year ago they would have been deemed far from in need of seeking help with their mental health.

So, having said all of that, it is comforting to see that once again there is a surge of interest in the hyperlocal space. In building local (mostly) digital communities, where people who might otherwise feel slightly isolated and alone can get a sense of belonging.

That’s the good part.

The not so good part is that for all the initiatives, I see being announced especially in Denmark, I have a feeling that they will be missing the target and the real opportunity.

Both Jysk Fynske Medier and JP/Politikens Hus have announced that they will be rolling out new hyperlocal mediainitiatives in select geographies in the coming months. It should be applauded. It not for anything else then for the jobs it’s going to create in a media industry that is by now more infamous for its frequent job cuts.

But is a hyperlocal NEWS site really the answer to the question of hyperlocal belonging? Maybe. But I am guessing ‘no’.

It will most certainly be able to fill a need to be informed about what’s going on around you. But is that enough to make you feel connected too? I doubt it. I think that in order to achieve that you need something more.

Considering all the issues with people feeling lonely and borderline depressed, the opportunity to find new ways to connect people and by proxy help build mental stamina and health seems both really good, worthwhile and as something that could have some interesting positive business consequences.

Because people are more than willing to pay for services and products that give them a feeling of being substantially better off on a personal level. And what is more personal than the sense of belonging, being part of something bigger, being seen, heard, appreciated and connect with likeminded people for various activities?

Not really that much.

So I will be curious to see who the first ones will be who make the bet to build a hyperlocal model not based on information as the primary thing but on the psychological levers to make the individual feel better as it’s core.

That’s a really intriguing and cool opportunity.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)