I realized a while ago, that on my blog I have done only sporadic updates on how things are evolving with my own startup, GenieBelt. Too bad, because things have been more than normally exciting especially the last one and a half year, and the journey so far is a good story of persistence and ambition, which I think startup interested people can learn from. (more…)
Everyone knows the demograpic facts: the human population is not only growing, but in the developed part of the world (and increasingly so in other major regions, e.g. China), the proportion of elderly people is growing even faster. And the old are also getting older! That poses a big challenge, since it is a core responsibility of any society to take care of the elderly, those that worked hard so those following would inherit a better world (preferably!), and with a bigger and bigger portion of the population being older it gets costly for the working population to sustain a good level of elderly care. As in so many other situations, part of the answer to that challenge lies in technology. Biotechnology and innovation in health care in general is of course part of this. An important part of the many elements that needs to get in place, is how to make existing assisted living/elderly care more effective. In Scandinavia there are thousands of homes for elderly people, that no longer can live by them selves, and need daily support - and you can add tens of thousands more in countries like Germany, UK, Japan, USA, etc. If you visit these homes, you will see how the nurses and assistants are running very fast to cope with all their daily routines and the constantly appearing emergency situations. They are also acutely aware, that they will not get a lot of extra resources to cope, maybe on the contrary - so how can the work be organised more effectively so they can maintain a good service level with sufficient "warm hands" to take care of the elderly? Half a year ago, I was contacted by some of the founders of Sekoia (not the VC of more-or-less the same name) who had worked on a solution for exactly that: work-flow management for the elderly care homes. At first, it might sound like a simple issue, but I am working/has worked with several teams doing work-flow management for specific industries, and the devil is always in the detail. You can use some generic solution, but the big productivity gains always come from customizing to the specifics of the industry. And the Sekoia guys had spend nearly three years fine tuning the concept before they recently went into sales mode, i.e. they knew very well what the needs are of this sector. And with their open platform concept, I believe this is a winner. The team ticked the boxes for me (chemistry, potential, progress, I can help, etc.), so we quickly decided to team up, and I became investor and active chairman some months ago. I have spend some time working with parts of the team, and last week we had a couple of days off-site (in a cabin used by kindergartens that needs a bit of nature - proper!) where I got to know the whole team. That only gave me more confidence in that we have something really good brewing. Lately, the team has turned up the volume and sharpened the philosophy behind the solution and seen even better customer feedback. The team has also started to get more into sales mode, and talked to the relevant institutions (p.t. only Denmark, but we have big plans ...) about the philosophy behind the solution, and there is great reception, it really is a way for the sector to both drive effectiveness as well as quality. Even without significant sales activities, Sekoia now has dozens of solutions sold. That might not sound like a lot, but in Scandinavia, where we have a relatively sophisticated set-up for assisted living, no other player has more than one pilot in action. And in the rest of Europe, we haven't seen anything like our approach - this might end up as a good example of Scandinavian welfare technology being exported for the greater good. The number of 85+ year olds will grow by more than 150% between 2005 and 2030, and the population which is 100+ years old will quadruple, so wish Sekoia good luck in succeeding with the mission of making assisted living better and more cost efficient. As a minimum, the solution needs to everywhere when I need a warm, helping hand some time around 2070!
DING-DONG - It's been a while since I've posted last time, so here's an update. My plan in February was to do research on a couple of project ideas I had, and then to talk to all kinds of people to see where exciting things happened, especially in Denmark and London. The plan was also to move not too fast, since it is easy to become enthusiastic and commit to all kinds of interesting ventures, and then suddenly be fully booked up. And now, I have partly fallen into that trap - but for good reasons! What is it I want? The stuff that motivates me the very most, is to do great things with great teams. Everything flows from the people on the team, and if it is great people working together in the right, high-performance, entrepreneurial fun-loving way, then amazing things can happen. From these kind of teams flows great products, happy customers and oodles of respect from investors & partners. And that again attracts even more good people, and if the leadership continues to step up, then Nirvana can be maintained for a very long time. That is awesome to be part of, can't get enough of it. Many people with my background do one of two things:
- Become a classic investor, building a large portfolio of angel- or VC investments. That is very exciting, and you get to help all kinds of entrepreneurs, but my issue is that I don't think I'm ready for such a passive role. Any investor would say that they "add value hands-on", etc., but the truth is that with a portfolio of 15-20 investments and spending most of the time chasing new deals, then they are not really close to the action (and typically doesn't have any real, hands-on experience related to your challenges, but that's another story). And I don't like being distanced to what I'm doing, and the people involved.
- Become a CEO for a big company. Well, first of all, there are not really that many companies based in Copenhagen where it makes sense for me to get involved full time as CEO, and I'm not interested in moving my family to another country for a long period of time. Secondly, the reason why I enjoyed running JUST EAT even though it was a 1,000-man company was that I had been there from when it was a small 35-man Danish company, so I had directly or indirectly hired almost every single manager in the company, and I had skewed the company culture exactly in the direction that I felt was right for the company - and me! Chances are, that if I got on board another company that was already big, then I wouldn't be a great fit for the culture and all kinds of "culture wars" would have to take place (had enough of that in the initial phase, when I joined JUST EAT five years ago). Thirdly, working for one company only would not leverage all the knowledge I have today about leading, developing, internationalizing and scaling companies. That is a skill set that is still a scarce resource in Europe, so I might as well leverage it across several companies.