ENTREPRENEURCOUNTRY FORUM: BEWARE OF THE BEAR

Amit Pau (MD, Ariadne Capital & EntrepreneurCountry Global) opened the 2016 edition of the EntrepreneurCountry Forum sharing a concern for our peace of mind and security, in an increasingly complex digital age. Julie Meyer (CEO, Ariadne Capital) elaborated further, data, she said, is part of every business model. For entrepreneurs to get ahead in the market, they need to get themselves on a highway, a route to market. Digital enablers, the Davids of this world, are being smart, they are teaming up with the Goliaths to use their distribution, to deliver new solutions. And it’s working.

The connected world is here, changing the way some go to market. For example, Andy Hobsbawn (Co-founder, Evrythng) shared that there will be 80 billion items of apparel that will be connected, meaning that if you cannot find one of your shoes in the morning, you can simply ‘Google it.’ – I’ve already tried Chipolo, a solution which lets you find tagged items, refreshing and disturbing at the same time. – If ‘anything’ can speak ‘web,’ he said, then it will be part of the greatest innovation platform.

But it is not just going forward, also stepping back, which may present opportunities. Kenny Leitch (Global Telematics Director, RSA) shared that while helping to reduce the cost of insurance, Internet of Things solutions can look into their back catalogue of insurance claims and help advise clients on improvements so reduce their risk of making a claim in. This marks a significant shift from fixing problems, to preventing them in the first place.

Philippe Cayrol (Growth Manager, BlaBlaCar) began with a history lesson. While the business model of ride sharing isn’t new, solutions such as his own, empowered by technology, address the current hurdle of ensuring trust, and so enable more to view ride sharing as a viable offering

As it is with understanding the needs of the customer better, Jeremy Waite (Head of Digital Strategy EMEA, Salesforce) put forward the notion: How can we create so much value that people will want to use our services? With 77% of communication now taking place in private e.g. WhatsApp or in smaller groups, the social digital landscape is changing, meaning that traditional businesses need to find ways to access these communities of private friends ‘networks.’

But it’s not about the money, rather, the vision, Pete Pastides (CMO in Residence, Ariadne Capital) advised: chase exiting projects, not money; for the former will bring the latter. And in doing so, you shape the future of business.

Russ Shaw (Founder, London Tech Advocates) supported this assertion saying that as most entrepreneurs do work long hours, they should be putting more focus on connecting people so they can minimise their exposure. The right people will do the same job in a better way, thus improving time and resource management.

This was a sentiment shared by Roland Hess (Global Lean Transformation Lead, RWE) who said that it is not just what you are doing, but how, and that change starts from you as a person first. Part of which includes better communication. Citing how often managers do not know what is happening on the shop floor, working in silos he added does not help understand process flow nor allow for meaningful methodologies for change.

This is why Penny Power OBE (Founder, The Business Café) added that technology is nothing without the right people behind it. With 80% of people surveyed wanting to work for a socially connected CEO, the most connected people, she opined will always be the ones who innovate.

Sharing insight on Ecademy – which she and her husband set up – Penny added that for success, you have to be well funded and so able to hire the right people; having the vision alone is just not enough to deliver. Michael Tobin OBE (Entrepreneur) shared the that encouraging people to focus on the vision and less so the strategy; as long as you take steps in the right direction, you will reach your target.

Cheryl Hicks (Executive Director, Toilet Board Coalition) showed that opportunities can be found in every sector. It is not just about sanitation but the management of waste which can have an impact on agriculture. So understanding and managing relevant data will enable opportunities, so much so that they even have a toilet accelerator.

Heather Jackson (Founder, An Inspirational Journey) reminded us that is people who will grow a business, which is why entrepreneurs such as Dan Wagner (Bright Station Ventures) are so important: Go out and get your biscuit. Any failure, he said, can be soul destroying, crushing, but I’m a positive individual and I can’t wallow in that. Believe in something and make it happen. And what better way to demonstrate the changing landscape than when James Chalk (Head of Equity, Crowdcube) shared that their highest investment, of £1 million was made on an iphone 6 at midnight. When you want it, you get it.

The reality however is that growth and comfort often do not come in hand in hand, as Alberto Rodriguez de Lama (Founder, Nexium) said. What could go wrong? Almost everything. But an entrepreneur has to have determination. Perhaps his best advice, hire people who are smarter than you as it is never about egos but about working together to deliver the vision. – We are in an era from Capitalism to Talentism.

What better way to demonstrate this than Michael Tobin OBE (Entrepreneur) who showed that his smaller team can compete with larger agencies, and in one example, generating 16x the return. The right people in the right place will enable any David to challenge a Goliath.

When Paul Tarantino (UK Director, MapR) shared that big data is at a tipping point, my first thought was of Simon Hunt’s (CTO Home Gateway Security, Intel) presentation, who introduced us of a number of ways information and security have and can be breached. Sharing that Smart Barbie could be hacked where instead of saying inspirational messages to your child, she could end up speaking something less pleasant, data can be dangerous. His message: you do not want any more data out there than is required for the services you want.

But it was his bear which captured all of our attentions and gaze. Another smart toy, he sat there on the podium, looking towards the audience. Unknown to us, he had a camera built in and could have photographed or live-streamed the audience. Enabled with his own artificial intelligence, the era of smart toys, a la the 1998 movie Smart Soldiers is not that far away.

As a simile however the bear represents something much more sinister. Beyond Davids (entrepreneurs) and Goliaths (big businesses), who can either complete or find ways to work together, there exists a third category, the bears, who sit by the side lines waiting to swipe.

There are opportunities for all of us, big or small, who when we understand a vision, we will always find a way to deliver them. But it is the bear who causes friction, interrupting our foresight, damaging entrepreneurialism, opportunity, success, mutual benefits and growth. The bear is not a David or a Goliath, it is our doubts, our fears, our insecurities.

It is said in my faith to encourage one another to do good. So if there is one lesson to take away from this edition of the EntrepreneurCountry Forum, it is to keep good company who can and will support you – often you just have to ask – be positive, overcome challenges, innovate, and always beware of the bear.