This is a transcribed talk I gave at Pecha Kucha during Fintech Week on Models of Entrepreneurship.
Today I am going to talk about how ecosystems around the world are churning out models of entrepreneurship that are changing the world of work as we know it. You’re going to learn a few things from this: Models of entrepreneurship, what investing in people looks like, and how a banana started one of our portfolio companies.
Why are models of entrepreneurship important? To rephrase David Nordfors, technological disruption means we need as much innovation that helps us earn as there is innovation that helps us spend. The key to this is a commercial ecosystem that actually looks at humans as investment and development opportunities rather than cost centres. What does this mean for how we look at work?
The answer is greater investment into human capital through end to end solutions. What do end to end solutions mean? They can take various forms, and I will talk about 4 kinds I have seen, of increasing comprehensiveness.
The first, computing schools that take equity in you as a person through Income Share Agreements (we call this deferred income coding bootcamps). In this way, not only do they train you, but they are incentivised to help you achieve your actual development goal: to get a high-paying job.
The second, university with accelerator programs. These are institutions that develop your skills and help you to build an ecosystem to commercialize them. As an example: Shield.AI was founded in Harvard in 2015, and raised their 10m Series A from Andreessen Horowitz last year.
The third are startup generators. These are organizations like Antler and EF that help you at the initial stages of forming a company where it was once assumed that tasks like finding a cofounder, and testing your business idea, was something you could only do by yourself.
Last but not least are venture builders. These are organisations like Rocket Internet, Founders Factory and many others. These organizations are pure end to end company creators. They research the industry, come up with the business model, hire the founder, and centralise back-office functions like accounting, so the founder can solely focus on building the company.
There is a binding principle behind all of these models. There is a blurring between the functions of institutions, and a greater emphasis towards building networks between communities to reduce the cost of entrepreneurship.
So, in this new model, a school or program does not just educate. A university does not just impart a degree. Organisations helping you build startups no longer just give business advice — they help you find your cofounder. Venture Capital funds no longer just invest and give advice, they are a business partner.
These are models I believe will strongly affect our future workforce, because I’ve lived them. My first job out of university was with a venture builder, Rocket Internet, where they helped a basically clueless, recovering law student, learn basic principles of building a company. Working with Daraz, an e-commerce marketplace later bought by Alibaba, I was first brought to a Pakistan warehouse, where they taught me logistics and operations, where I eventually helped to set up the 100 person office in Sri Lanka.
I then joined Antler, a startup generator, where in Singapore, we bring together 200 founders a year to find co-founders, help them refine business ideas, and invest in the team and ideas that we think are the most attractive, helping people build companies from scratch.
So, what does investing into humans look like? How do people interact to create companies? What kind of problems did we end up solving?
One of the Antler entrepreneurs came up to Antler and told us this story: He bought a second-hand motorbike online, which ran great for a couple of weeks until it broke down. When the garage opened the engine, they found a banana jammed into the engine. Apparently, the viscosity of a banana was perfect to help the engine make that perfect purring sound. However, this was not a long-term solution, because it was a freaking banana. Together, we then built Motoran, a trusted secondhand marketplace for motorbikes in Indonesia.
I learnt a bit about what it took to help bring strangers together to build companies. The first was the ability for our entrepreneurs to have very honest, frank conversations about why they wanted to build companies, and what they were passionate in. The second was alcohol. This was our secret sauce. Alcohol brings people together in a way nothing else could, and helped strangers look each other in the eyes, pour out their raw motivations, and be able to say ‘I like this person on a really fundamental level and I want to build something with this person’. Much like marriage, in my opinion.
I believe models of entrepreneurship will become more end-to-end as the functions of organisations become more blurred, as they form interconnected channels for people to achieve their maximum entrepreneurial potential. That is an amazing future — people helping people earn.
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