It’s all about People

Yesterday we finally unveiled what we have been working on for months; the launch of our brand new Venture Capital firm, People Ventures.

So why am I so excited about that?

First of all because it is a validation of how we have been operating since 2018; backing great visionary entrepreneurs not only with money but also with resources and people to help them achieve more and move fast forward with their businesses.

It is a very active approach that we have seen very positive results from. So it made a ton of sense to focus even more on that and just double down on helping even more entrepreneurs succeed.

And then it’s just such a cool name that truly captures who we are, and what we’re about: People.

Nobody succeeds without great people.

If you don’t have great people to help you out, even the best of ideas will most likely tank.

Great people can combine to ensure that even something that might not be the biggest thing since the invention of sliced bread can become a spectacular success.

And great people take care of each other when things hit a sour patch – as they will every once in a while – to ensure that emerge even better on the other side. That shouldn’t be neglected at all.

And we won’t do that at People Ventures.

(Photo: Private)

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)

The battle for health care

One of the most interesting industries from a startup point-of-view is the health care industry.

Before the pandemic hit it was widely recognized that there are a lot of costly, structural issues afoot in the healthcare industry that technology can provide better and more cost efficient solutions for, but nonetheless newcomer struggled to really get inside the conservative system.

Covid-19 changed a lot of that for the sheer reason that suddenly the demand for telemedicine solutions and remote care skyrocketed. This meant that some of the old cultural barriers became if not irrelevant then at the very least less of a pain to startups.

I guess you could say that in a sense, digital health startups got their Covid-19 ‘vaccines’ early in terms of increased demand and opportunity to succeed in the market.

For startups operating in this space this is of course great news. And you could be forgiven for suggesting that we’re on the brink of a golden age for digital health to upend, uproot and improve our healthcare sector.

And you would probably be right. Because startups are not the only ones flocking to the health care sector to deliver new valuable solutions.

Big tech are there as well. Amazon is going in strong, and the same can be said about Google, Microsoft and Apple. And they have very good reasons to.

Forget for a second the market opportunity in itself. Big tech simply has to look this way. Why? Because the health care sector is among a very small group of sectors left, where big tech can drive the kind of top line growth they need to in order to sustain their hefty valuations.

Thus it is not as much an opportunity as a necessity for them to be in this space. And they need to win it.

This is not to say that startups shouldn’t look towards bringing new, exciting and value-driving digital health services and solutions to market. Of course they should. No doubt about it. They just need to be acutely aware that the battle for the market is going to be brutal, and that they are up against all the giants.

Realizing this before diving in and having the right frame of mind to take the competition on can make all the difference between success and failure.

No matter what it will be a super interesting space to watch.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The future of work, postponed

Flextribe, a Danish recruitment startup, wants to connect freelancers with deep subject matter expertise, who doesn’t necessarily want a full time position, with corporations who need said expertise but can struggle in attracting the necessary talent for the before mentioned reason; they don’t want to be employed.

Simple. But the Future of Work?

I am not so sure.

I mean, I like the concept. I really do. I see it very much as a flexible but quite focused low-touch agency; you put up your profile yourself, define your your hourly rates, and then you basically bet that there will either be interesting assignments up for grabs or that some potential client contacts you through the platform, and sweet music arises from the interaction.

If the solution can help the individual consultant sell his or her services, I am all for it. Having been a consultant myself, the constant need to sell your next project and basically make a living from it can be extremely stressful.

But is it the Future of Work?

I still doubt it.

First of all, I don’t think it’s for everybody to be a freelancer. It can sound so nice, easy and flexible, but in reality it is super hard work, and many people are just not cut out from it.

And at the same time I am on the fence about creating a model based on ‘the best of the best’.

Two questions immediately come to mind: One, how do you really vet it, so your promise to your clients holds true. And two – and most importantly – who are going to make the purchase decision?

The last thing is key. Because let’s look at a couple of archetypes that we normally find in corporations, and who are perhaps more skilled than most:

There are the ones who have the skills and experience and wants to achieve things by doing the right things that can really move the organization forward. Those are the ones who start out with huge ambition, gets disillusioned by corporate BS and end up leaving to join something like Flextribe instead.

And then there are the ones who have the skills and experience but more than anything else wants to climb the corporate ladder – fast. These are the ones who will most often be in a middle management position and thus buying the services of Flextribe.

Now it becomes interesting.

Will this latter group be inclined to buy into a value proposition claiming that all the best people are outside your organization? Which camp does this put this career ambitious middle manager in? The next best group, or what?

If that career minded person has already climbed the ladder a bit, he will know that the last thing he wants to do is to look stupid or out of his depth. He can choose to be brave, hire freelancers to help him accomplish the KPIs he himself has promised to deliver to upper management. Or he can choose to try to find some way of wiggling himself out of it using some typical corporate bureaucracy related excuse.

Most often he will chose the latter, as it is the least risky part. And talking himself out of potential trouble by framing the conversation to suit his own agenda is a key skill anyway for really skillful corporate climbers.

So what are we left with if this is the new Future of Work?

First of all an abundance of freelancers where ultimately it will be hard to find the best fit for the projects that will no doubt be there and require assistance. The opportunity for overpromising and underdelivering for these freelancers is huge.

Second, you will have corporations that will potentially be even more void of the required talent and expertise, and where more time will be spent reframing the conversation and casting blame rather than actually ensure that big, important projects gets decided, funded and done.

Of course this is not going to be sustainable and at some point there will be a backlash, and we will find a better way, aka the Future of Work, which is based on our experience of how not to go about organizing these things.

I am just not confident we have reached that point yet.

But I wish Flextribe and all other services like it the best of success in their endeavors.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The Catch 22 of strategy

2021 is upon us. And for many that signals the roll-out of a new strategy or annual plan.

While those often seem intuitive – sometimes even banal – getting them right is super hard.

It is vital to be able to focus on executing on the plan. Yet, it is also vital to be open to the element of surprise.

The balance between the two is super hard.

If you only focus, you will get narrow-sighted and probably not succeed.

If you’re always open for the element of surprise, you’re unlikely to be able to focus and probably not succeed.

And if you mix the two, some will focus too narrow on the former and some will be distracted by the latter.

It is just super hard to get right.

But there is no way around trying.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Capturing learnings

One of the things I am trying to do while we work to get our new MedTech startup off the ground is to document my learnings so far.

I do that in a mindmap using SimpleMind. Because when taking notes and reflecting on things the easy of speed of getting it down into some sort of structure beats trying to get the format right from the go.

Anyways, the learnings I am documenting serve a couple of purposes;

First of all, I am trying to get the learning myself. Reflect on the things we have done as a team and I have done as an individual and try to use the instances, where we could have done better or been more efficient, to become better and more efficient in the future.

Second, I am trying to document whether there are some patterns in what we have done that we can put on formula for later use and thus make the next startup startup process a bit more smooth.

Looking at the latter point, two things have already become abundantly clear:

There are a lot of learnings around process; when to do what in order to create a flow where everything around establishing the team, the corporate structure, strategy etc can happen at a pace, where people are in it and don’t risk feeling either overwhelmed, not heard or just straight out of the picture. I think those learnings are universal and can be directly applied to other future cases.

On top of that there are a lot of learnings about people; what’s important, what’s not important, how to interact in ways that builds a great degree of trust, which I think is absolutely key for a future long term corporation to work. Some of those learnings are directly applicable to future cases, but as it relates to people, and people are inherently different, some of them will have to have major adjustments on a case by case basis.

Basically, two things are fascinating for me in jotting down those learnings:

The sheer volume of notes, thoughts and reflections is just daunting and is both a reminder of the process so far and the sheer amount of work, we have put into making our new startup work for everybody. But it also has immense value in itself as a future (part) blueprint for how to do these things.

The other thing is that I will be curious to see what will end up being the differentiator for future cases and the applicability of our learnings to them? Will it be predominantly the process parts of the people parts.

The jury is still very much out on that one and as such the journaling continues.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The dangers of ‘digitalization’

The Danish Management Society‘s new focus on “Digital Reshaping” – whatever that wording means – made me think;

Whenever somebody talks about the need to ‘digitalize’ products or processes in an old industry company, you as a digital expert should be quite alert. Perhaps even worried.

Because what does the phrase really mean?

I will tell you what it seldom means;

It seldom means that the company in question is looking to question every single process and product it has in order to ask itself questions like “Is this still relevant?”, “Does the product serve a clear need in the market?” and “Have we REALLY understood what it means to make this a success in the current and future market?”. And make the necessary brutal decisions the answers demand.

It seldom means that the company is looking to change it’s entire operating model to embrace the uncertainty of a fast moving market and favor smaller, nimbler experiments as a way of understanding the need in the market before pushing for the big product delivery. And it never means a higher tolerance – embrace even – of risk. Or even a longer time horizon to get things right.

And it seldom means being really ambitious about the people you get on board and – crucially – the mandate you give them to actually make the needed changes happen and – hopefully – put the company on a better trajectory.

All of the above are in my humble opinion key elements for actually making the necessary things happen that will change the trajectory of the company into something better aligned with the needs of the current and future market and customers.

Of course you could be in luck. But alas, you will seldom see these things. What you will see when companies look to ‘digitalize’, though, is;

Doing more of the same but in a slightly different way. Typically by investing in expensive systems from convincing vendors and trying to operate them even though they are often overblown compared to the value they end up delivering to your company.

More of the ‘big bang’ releases that are being touted – using various fancy words – as ‘transformative’ or even downright ‘disruptive’ (which they never are, ed.) that end up failing in spectacular and (sometimes) even depressing ways.

The same old guard of people sitting there making all the decisions lacking the necessary insight into the depths of the matter and what needs to be done while confirming to each other that they have long ago figured this out. And the ruthless of identifying the scapegoat for failure and weeding out of everybody else, who think and try to act in a different way.

The end result?

More blindfolded investment. More wasted investment. More convenient scapegoats when things again don’t go according to the grand ol’ plan.

And very little real change.

So beware. And demand all the right answers to the proper questions, before you get involved.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Corona thoughts, part 2

It’s been a couple of weeks now. And while understandably there are a lot of businesses and startups in despair, I also sense some opportunities to look beyond the current corona pandemic and lockdown.

People are easier to get in touch with, because they’re home. Of course many are in video meetings, but it’s still easier. Negotiations become more pragmatic because we’re more left to our own devices. People will tell you ‘Yes’ more because they’re just happy somebody is offering opportunities. And people will give more thoughtful responses to propositions because they have better time to do their own personal due diligence.

I am not in any way, shape or form advocating for more of the same. I am just quietly saying that there is also opportunities in the current climate, if you just look for them and can distance yourself a bit from all the doom and gloom.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)