Startup Fail, StartupYard Accelerator

Will Your Startup Fail in the Next 6 Months?

Why Do Startups Fail?

For every reason you can think of, and many more you can’t. If you’re starting a startup, the deck is stacked against you. If you’re not too early, you’re too late. If you don’t grow too fast, you’re growing too slowly.

Some of the smartest, hardest working founders fail. Brains and work ethic can’t always save you.

Okay, Now Give me the Bad News

90% of startups fail. That’s a fact of life, but it’s not a law of nature. Startup death is unrelenting, but not random.

The truth is, after 51 startups at StartupYard, and 29 companies accelerated since we took on a global focus, we’ve seen that there is one thing that kills startups dead faster than anything else.

It’s the failure to answer one simple question:

Where am I going to be in Six Months?

That may seem like an easy question. But it isn’t.

Startups that ask themselves this question, in a searching and honest manner, tend to do better –much better- than those that don’t.

Startups that survive don’t always know the answer to the Six-Month Question. But they do ask it. And they ask it all the time.

The Six-Month question is so important because failing to think about the consequences of your short term decisions is the fastest and easiest way to make stupid mistakes. It is the best way to waste your own time and energy.

If I take this decision today, whatever it may be, where will I then be in six months?

Everything You Do is a Choice

Acting is a choice. And failing to act is also a choice. When a door opens, you either go through it, or you close it. So ask yourself what will happen if you do either.

Consider someone who’s thinking about applying to StartupYard. This founder is faced with 3 possible answers to the six-month question.

  • Option One: Apply and Be Rejected

    • Total time invested: 2-3 hours (8 hours for finalists)
    • Potential risk: Minimal.

      1. Damage your ego
      2. Waste a day
    • Potential benefit: Meet and get feedback from the region’s leading investors, and top StartupYard mentors
    • Side benefits:

      1. spend 2-3 hours building a compelling application for any accelerator (not just StartupYard), and getting qualified feedback. Good for use with other investors as well.
      2. Learn how accelerators work. Make contacts with investors and mentors you can use later.
    • Where you’ll be: either on to your next venture, or continuing to use the feedback you gained by applying.
  • Option Two: Apply and Be Accepted

    • Total Time invested: 3 months
    • Potential risk: Minimal.

      1. Maybe launch slightly later than planned (but with a better strategy).
      2. Be forced to focus on the business instead of the product.
      3. Injured ego due to challenging feedback. A few unproductive mentor meetings (unavoidable).
    • Potential Benefits

      1. Make partnerships and sign customers you wouldn’t have access to otherwise (at least not this early).
      2. Get in-depth feedback from top industry mentors on your product before launching.
      3. Launch with the support of influential corporate partners.
      4. Gain investment faster than you could have on your own, with more founder-friendly terms and better positioned investors.
    • Side Benefits: Grow personally and professionally in a challenging environment, and force yourself to apply discipline to your business plan and product/market positioning.
    • Side Benefits

      1. A perk package worth over $1m, seed investment of €30K, and possibility of follow-on funding.
      2. Access to StartupYard’s mentor network for the life of your company.
      3. PR benefits of taking part in one of Europe’s best regarded accelerators
      4. A strong negotiating partner in StartupYard, that can help you get the best possible terms from future investors.
      5. A community of fellow founders who can become your support network for years to come.
    • Where you’ll be: Hopefully launched, funded, and growing. StartupYard startups who have raised funding since 2013 have secured, on average, €400K after the program. Over half of our alumni have been either funded, or acquired.
  • Option 3: Don’t Apply

    • Total Time Invested: 0 Hours
    • Potential Risk:

      1. Pass up all benefits of options 1 & 2.
      2. Increased risk of not closing investments and dying early
      3. Increased risk of launching the wrong product – or focusing on the wrong market.
      4. Increased costs of starting up (both in time and money).
      5. Be forced to deal with investors who are not a good fit for your vision; who don’t offer friendly terms.
    • Potential Benefits:

      1. Launch slightly earlier. Maybe.
      2. Nobody bothers you.
      3. You are in total control.
    • Side Benefits: None
    • Where you’ll be: Unknown. Statistically, likely dead.

And Then What?

Perhaps my breakdown is slightly skewed in our favor. But this comes from a depth of experience.

The six-month question is a vital part of what StartupYard does for our founders. The program focuses founders on achieving results that they can build upon. Constantly, they are challenged to answer: and then what?

You launch the beta: and then what? You close this investment: and then what?

Startups that have joined StartupYard after pondering option 3 have been some of StartupYard’s most successful to date. Companies like Rossum.ai, Neuron Soundware, and TeskaLabs all initially suspected that the program would be a waste of their collective time and energy.

Each has subsequently become a major proponent of StartupYard and of acceleration in general.

Where were they after 6 months?

TeskaLabs joined TechStars and raised a seed round for their IoT security platform within 6 months of attending StartupYard. They now have active customers like O2 and is a Cisco Solution Provider. The company is now based in London.

Neuron Soundware won Vodafone’s “Idea of the Year” within six months of attending StartupYard, and closed partnerships with Siemens and other major industry players. They raised seed investment less than a year later.

Rossum.ai raised investment on the final day of the StartupYard program, and were named (along with Neuron Soundware), among Forbes’ top 10 Czech startups in 2017- less than six months after joining StartupYard.

Do You Know Where You’ll be in Six Months?

If you know what you’re going to accomplish in the next six months, more power to you. I hope you do well.

But if you’re like most founders, you don’t know. You don’t know what your options are going to be; what opportunities you will have 6 months from now. You probably don’t have a reasonable, reliable way of checking to see if those plans are realistic.

And if you don’t, then ask yourself again: what can I do about that? What decision can I make today that will change that uncertainty?

I have one suggestion: apply to an accelerator. StartupYard closes our applications for Batch 8 on Friday night (June 30th), at Midnight.

Hurry up – it’s not too late.

You can now apply for StartupYard Batch #8.

  • Robots
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • VR/AR
  • IoT
  • Cryptography
  • Blockchain
Applications Open: Now
Applications Close: June 30th, 2017
Program starts: September 4th, 2017
Program ends: December 1st, 2017

4 Years and 29 Startups Later: Here’s Why StartupYard Works

This week our CEO Cedric Maloux and I sat down for a conversation about the struggles and the excitement of recruiting and working with amazing startups together for the past 4 years.

StartupYard this week announced our largest fundraise so far, of about €1 million for up to 20 new startups in 2017-2018. How did we get here? What have we learned? Here are the most interesting exchanges that came out of our discussion:

Hi Cedric, every week during the StartupYard program management meetings, you ask founders one question: “What are you struggling with right now?” I think it’s fair to start with the same question here:

Sleep! [Laughs].

I have two sources of stress when it comes to every StartupYard round, and this is now going to be my 5th time going through it. The biggest stress is Demo Day. Like a parent or a teacher watching their kids take the next big step in life, our whole team works very hard to make sure our founders and startups look great, professional, in control, and ready. But when they go out on that stage, our hands are off the wheel, and they are on their own. That’s a big scary moment for me, and for the founders. I don’t want them to feel that they’ve failed themselves.

The other stress is right now. We are looking for startups, talking to startups, trying to get the right startup founders to apply for our next round at StartupYard. We will invest in up to 20 companies in the next 12 months. I am always slightly panicked at the idea that we’ll miss one, or that one won’t find us, and will miss an opportunity that can really help them to succeed in business, and hopefully in life. I get real joy from making a difference in people’s lives, so I have that fear that I won’t do all I can.

What specifically are you afraid will happen, or not happen?

We can make the wrong choices. We have in the past – though not often, thankfully. StartupYard takes a big risk in trusting people we barely know, to be strong and committed and honest and open enough to go through a really demanding experience. It is very humbling. And I know we aren’t always right about people. We invest in founders, but you don’t really know someone until you spend every day, all day, with that person. Sometimes we’re not sure, and they turn out to be just amazing. Other times we are sure, and it turns out we were off.

So I’m stressed right now about those decisions, and knowing that later is too late.

So what helps you sleep at night, knowing that you’ll never be able to perfectly predict who will apply, and how they’ll perform?

Luckily we surround ourselves with really great advisors and investors. We have a great selection committee, who really get what we’re trying to do. They serve as a check against our biases and assumptions. We have been very lucky, but we also work very hard to remain humble, knowing we will make some mistakes.

In some way, every investment decision we make at StartupYard is a bit crazy from a normal perspective. We invest our time and money into people we have met maybe twice or three times. It takes a lot of faith. Among investors, accelerators like StartupYard are the ones with the least actionable data, KPIs or traction to judge in a startup. We have to believe our hearts and our noses. We have to trust in our experience and instincts more than other investors, who can point to solid numbers to tell the story. We go on much less.

Hearts and noses?

Yes. If you’re investing in a later stage, it’s all about numbers and trends. We can see trends, but we have very little in terms of numbers. So we also have to really understand people to make the right choices. I say our hearts and our noses, because our hearts are for people, but our noses are for opportunity. If we believe in someone, and we believe that there is an opportunity in what they’re doing, then that is enough for us.

Central Europe Accelerator

What makes you particularly fitted for a role like this?

I think a person can’t imagine what it takes to go from an idea to a profitable company unless they’ve done it, and experienced it themselves. I have done that multiple times in my life.

And unless you’ve experienced the opposite, which is failure, you probably think somewhere in the back of your mind that it can’t happen to you. I’ve also failed, publically. The last time one of my ventures was mentioned in Wired, it was in the context of the company going out of business.

So I know what that’s like to be notable enough to be in Wired, but still to fail. I have a deep technical background (I studied AI at University in the 1990s, when it wasn’t cool), and I’ve had a long career in sales. If a founder can’t sell; to employees, to co-founders, to investors, and customers, then he can’t make his ideas a reality.

So sales is not just about closing deals?

No. It’s about everything. Selling is essential. I’ve sold customer-facing services. I’ve sold B2B products to big corporations. I’ve sold my own company. Selling is an art. As we say, “telling isn’t selling.” You have to be able to not just talk about your ideas, but sell them.

Also, I learned a lot from running online businesses during the 2000 Internet bubble and the 2008 financial crisis. These things taught me the hard way about discipline in the fundamentals of business.

What was your hardest lesson through those experiences?

Cost understanding and control is at the heart of your company. You can only control one thing: your costs. Revenue projections, cost control: these are the things that get you through a crisis. It’s all about planning. Not your revenue, or development time, or investors, or customers. Just costs. Knowing when the money will run out. So financial hygiene is a top priority.

You’ve run companies. You’ve sold one company. So from that background, if you were starting a tech startup today, would you apply to an accelerator, even knowing everything you know?

Short answer, yes I would.

Long answer, I do have a few tech businesses on the side that I have started with other people, and with one, I’ve been encouraging the CEO to apply to an accelerator (though not StartupYard because it’s not in our area of focus). That should tell you what I think about accelerators, and not just about StartupYard.

If I was starting a business, I would go to one tomorrow, because no matter how much experience I have, I am limited by my own capacity as a human being. One thing that I’ve learned over the years, is that success doesn’t come from what you know, but from who you know. Your network is a vital ingredient for success.

A great startup has these things:  a hard problem to solve, a great solution, a clear value-proposition, a strong sales/marketing team, perfect timing, and great connections. You cannot be in control of every one of those things at any one time. You can however always work on your network. An accelerator connects you with people who help you seize opportunities and move fast when the time is right. Your connections help you discover weaknesses, and also opportunities. Knowing you need help is a strength, not a weakness.

Speaking of networks, StartupYard has quite a few corporations on its mentor list. Why do you focus so much on corporates during mentorship?

It’s a good question, and one we are asked a lot. Startups even tell us they would like to meet more people who are more like them. Usually when you meet a mentor, like at a competition or in a conference or at an incubator, or many other accelerators, they tend to be investors, or entrepreneurs.

It’s actually relatively easy to get a meeting with an investor or an entreprepreneur, which is why it’s easy to convince them to mentor startups. But, if you’re a B2B startup looking for early traction, you need to go door to door, talking to customers. And most of the time doing that, you’ll meet low level people.

What we decided early on, was to incorporate high-level corporate decision-makers, not just a lot of people, but leaders and C-level executives. The people who aren’t so much in the internal politics of their corporations, but are in a position to make things happen for startups. And we have many concrete examples of that working really well.

If the Chairman of the Board at a bank invites one of our startups to talk to his executives, that’s a meeting where people will be paying attention. It will have results. Not long ago, our mentors at Microsoft brought one of our startups to meet Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft, in Redmond. You won’t be able to name many early-stage companies who can get that meeting.

Yes, I was genuinely surprised when that happened too. The engagement from Microsoft was extraordinary. What do you think the corporate people get out of being startup mentors?

As it happens, those heads of industry share many of the qualities of startup founders. Ambition, drive, vision. So they love to be exposed to young founders and interact with them, not just about ideas, but about ways of working and thinking. The CEO of a global corporation told me a while ago that it’s his job to know what’s going on outside his company, because they are under constant attack from startups. You have to know your adversary.

We sometimes call corporations “dumb and slow,” but it would be a mistake to think that the people running them are either dumb or slow. Often the people at the top are thinking very far ahead, and when a startup is looking for the right stakeholder, the top is often the best place to start. Outside of our program, our founders would just never get meetings with such people. Even if they did, it would take years to get them all, and by then it wouldn’t matter.

I feel very proud of our mentor group. One mentor told me recently, that it was an honor to be included. That just made me feel very proud. We have spent years developing StartupYard as a platform, but we can’t rest on our achievements. We have to keep improving and building that network ever round, or it dies.

You said you can’t rest. What is your biggest difficulty when it comes to talking to founders about acceleration?

I would say we see two types. There is the founder who really understands the value accelerators can bring, and is eager to join. The other is the one who is more defensive; defensive of their ideas, of their priorities, of their sense of control and sometimes pride as well.

They may see joining an accelerator as a risk rather than an opportunity: that they risk wasting time. But often I think it’s just that they risk giving up control. Startup founders can be control freaks, as everyone knows, and we ask people to give up some of that control in order to grow, and that is a hard thing to ask of people who have always performed at a high level in their lives. Even the tiny amount of control we want them to give up can seem like a big, big change.

But if you’re so concerned about making the wrong choices, that you don’t act, then you risk never making decisions at all. Our biggest challenge is to show skeptics that the accelerator is called an “accelerator” for a reason, and it is not to slow them down or take up their time. That interrupting their process and refocusing them can actually save them time, and not waste it.

All our alumni will confirm this to you and in fact, they often talk about the empty period after the program. Once a founder told me he wished the program never stopped. And this was a startup which already had some revenue, but had skyrocketed with us.

You have to be a bit smart and a bit arrogant to start a business, but you need to let your intelligence prevail, and admit when you need other people. We all start as fools in life, and the only people who are doomed to remain fools are the ones who refuse to admit this, and don’t let themselves be questioned.

Some founders will tell us that all they need is cash.

That’s true. But when you ask them: “If all you need is cash, then why don’t you already have it?” They start telling you about their real problems – the reasons investors aren’t giving them money. It’s usually because they haven’t earned it yet. They don’t have enough data, they don’t have enough traction, or they don’t know how to sell to the investors.

You are absolutely right, and in an environment where cash is king, it’s sometimes difficult to explain to these people that to deserve cash you need to go through some steps.

What we find is that the act of just applying to StartupYard, and answering very specific questions about their business can help founders to realize what they don’t know. Even just forcing yourself to really answer these questions, you can begin to see that there are a lot of areas where you can grow and learn more.

So you need to bring people down a bit to build them up?

Yes. The acceleration process is challenging not just intellectually, but also emotionally for some people. But if you want to really run a global business, and meet your potential as an entrepreneur, that is the kind of challenge you will have to face, one way or the other.

We aren’t here to judge people and their ideas. The projects we look at are very early stage, and the people running them have a lot of room for mistakes and wrong roads. Our job as an accelerator and the job of our mentors is to support people who are taking these creative risks, exposing them to dangers and opportunities. We prepare them for taking good risks, and being aware of the dangers they will face.

Over the past 5 years, I have repeated certain things over and over again through every program. One of them is: “be careful, about what might happen if…”

To you, what is the biggest misconception about what StartupYard does for founders?

What I think some founders don’t expect is that the mentorship process, and the whole acceleration program, is aimed not just at their business, but at them as people. It would be waste of their time, and ours, if we spent our energy trying to make people into something they don’t want to be. So we pay very careful attention to discovering, with our founders, what it is in their hearts that they really are passionate about and want to do and to become.

So it’s not just about business for you?

There is a saying: “just business, not personal.” But I think this is very misleading. Growing a global business is all about who you are as a person. If you do something that is true to who you are, and who you want to be, that is infinitely better, for everyone involved, than if you’re just trying to make money. You can make money in a lot of ways, if that’s what you want. We want to help people to become their best selves as founders, and that means finding in them that special energy they possess that no one else does, and helping them to tap into it.

The biggest successes in business don’t think “It’s just business.” They know it’s about more than themselves or this one goal. It’s about relationships and it’s about being true to who you are.

Any last words?

Apply to StartupYard! Applications close June 30th, so I hope anyone who recognizes themselves in what we’ve talked about will consider applying now.

I can’t wait to be impressed.

You can now apply for StartupYard Batch #8.

  • Robots
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • VR/AR
  • IoT
  • Cryptography
  • Blockchain
Applications Open: Now
Applications Close: June 30th, 2017
Program starts: September 4th, 2017
Program ends: December 1st, 2017
 

exponential innovation

What Exponential Innovation Really Means

Last week, we announced a new series on the topic of Exponential Innovation. The piece began with a clear premise, which we restate here:

The central premise of our series on Exponential Innovation will be this: exponential growth in the complexity of technology, reflected in increasing computing power and capacity, the explosion of data and increasingly complex and powerful material sciences, is a reality in our society, and will have an ever increasing influence over society and the world economy for the foreseeable future.”

Exponential and Linear Innovation

An important part of talking about technological trends is addressing how and why exponential trends differ from linear trends. Why is technological progress exponential, and why does that make such a big difference in how we talk about the future?

 

innovation

 

It’s common in ordinary speech and thinking to envision most trends as being linear- in part because most of the “trends” we encounter on a daily basis appear to be linear in nature. Linear trends are easy to recognize: the population grows at a more or less steady rate, the price of a liter of milk increases fairly regularly over the years, and one’s age steadily increases.

So we are good at understanding linear trends, but not good at dealing with exponential ones. That’s because evolution has optimized the human brain for dealing with linear functions. These are far more important to our immediate survival than exponential functions are. Worse still, because our brains have been adapted to viewing trends in a linear way, we can very easily make the mistake of assuming that any trend we observe is a linear one.

As Ray Kurzweil put it in his book The Singularity is Near: “the subjective experience is the opposite of the objective reality:” what we experience in a linear fashion subjectively is different from what the data actually says. Because we think in terms of only one or two “steps” on a trend line, trends always appear to us to be more stable than they are.

Thus we predict the future based on an incomplete view of the data- assuming that the current rate of change is going to be continued, without noting that the previous rate of change has been accelerating.

singularity, innovation

Tim Urban also highlighted this predictive problem in his recent piece on the subject, and produced a helpful graph:

Kurzweil used a concrete example: In 1985, what then comprised the internet had about 2,000 “nodes,” or servers in its network. That was more than double what the number had been only a few years before.  If you asked computer specialists in 1985, how fast the internet was likely to grow over the next ten years, you would likely get some function of the past rate of change, projected into the future. If in 1985 there were 2,000 nodes, then we could expect that there would be up to 10,000 nodes by 1985, and perhaps 20,000 by 1995.

In the event, there were millions of nodes by 1995. How could the predictions be so wrong? Well, engineers in 1985 were dealing with the complexity of growing the internet using 1985 technology. But by 1990, new technology had effectively octupled the effectiveness of computers on a cost basis, and the internet had grown exponentially, doubling its own size every few years- rather than growing by 2000 nodes a year, it grew by 4,000, then 8,000, then by 16,000, and so on.

The engineers can be forgiven for seeing that as it concerned them and their work, they did not have the capacity to double the size of the internet in only two years. But because the growing size of the internet also allowed more people and more computer power to be applied to growing it even further, their predictions were based on incomplete assumptions. It would have been very hard indeed to octuple the size of the internet with 1985 technology. But every day that passed, the very same technology was also making that work easier to do.

Imagining An Exponential Future

So we understand that exponential trends make our normal predictive powers pretty weak. So what does your gut tell you about technology in the near future? How do you imagine the world of 2060?

Let’s try a thought experiment: suppose there are 3 Billion smartphones in the world today. Now suppose that all those smartphones have an average computing power of about 2 Gigaflops. An exponential progress curve suggests that within about 45 years from today, a device of the same cost of a modern smartphone should surpass the computing power of all smartphones in the world today. This means that by 2060, every human being should have access to the computing equivalent of the entire world’s personal computers from 2016 combined.

And that level of advancement will actually arrive much sooner than 2060: that year is only the time at which such computing power will be generally available at low cost.

Now, how do you imagine that people will be using that technology in 2060? Will it actually be that we will have smartphones capable of all the computational power of the entire world’s computers, in our pockets? What would we do with all that computational power?

You already can’t keep track of what your own personal computer is doing most of the time- it already does many things of which you are not actively aware. So in a world where all of those processes that are happening today, outside of human observation or awareness, all over the planet, could be happening in a device as small as a smartphone, what would a smartphone actually be used for? In a world of pervasive human-level or superhuman level AI, would it even be necessary to own such a device?

The answer for Kurzweil, and many other futurists, is no. A person would certainly not interact with future technologies in any of the same ways that we currently do. In the same way that we do not operate computers today using punchcards and levers, so too will we stop interacting with computers using keyboards, screens, mouses, or even our voices. At some point in the not too distant future, computers will cease to be treated as mere tools, and will instead become an extension of everything we do and interact with- they will be just another part of us.

The Exponential Is All Around Us

Exponential change is hard to see, because it also takes place over incredibly long time scales. While we can observe exponential trends that are on a human time scale, like the size of the internet, we can’t very well appreciate exponential trends that we are a smaller part of.

Kurzweil makes a compelling argument that the current exponential growth in technology and computing capacity is part of a trend that dates back to almost the beginning of the universe, but has concrete origins in the development of human civilization. The only difference is that we just happening to be living in a time when that trend has started to become a part of our perceptible reality.

Tim Urban, in that same piece on WaitButWhy, asks us to consider the life of a farmer from 1750. If you brought such a person to the world of 2016, what would his reaction to the modern world be? The modern world would be a fantastical, baffling, and overwhelming nightmare. Bright colored capsules that roar down the streets and overhead. Glowing boxes that speak and display images and make sounds, windows of light into other parts of the world, where you can talk to distant people instantaneously. Weapons that can bring the power of the sun to the surface of the world and open gateways to hell.

Would the shock of all that overwhelm him? Would he die from fright?

Next, he asks us to consider the following: if that farmer were to bring someone of a similar remove in history to his own time, taking a peasant from 1500 to the world of 1750, what would that farmer’s reaction be? Surely he would be mightily impressed, but nothing the farmer of 1750 could show that peasant would cause him to die of shock. There would be no apparent magic in anything he saw. Just impressive and exciting new technologies.

The fact is that if exponential innovations in technology continue, then the periods in which such technological changes occur will continue to grow shorter. The world of 2060 may be as shocking to a normal person of 2016, as the world of 2016 would be to a farmer from 1750. And Kurzweil’s contention is that superintelligent AI is the inevitable result of that progress.

Exponential Innovation: Then and Now 

In our next post, we’ll discuss the evolution of technology from the distant past to the present, and talk about what technology is capable of doing today. If we’re going to be discussing what technology’s effects will be on society in the near future, it will be important to touch on what we are already capable of doing.

If you’ve got an opinion, please share with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. We will include your reactions in future posts.

exponential innovation

Exponential Innovation: Preface

We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth.” – Vernon Vinge

Last week, StartupYard managing director Cedric Maloux spoke about “Exponential Innovation” at the “What About Innovation” meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Pristina, Kosovo, on the invitation of StartupYard alum Gjirafa.

The talk dealt with a simple, but broad based question: Is Exponential Innovation an Opportunity or a Threat to Society?

The talk proved to be very popular, and raised ideas that the StartupYard team felt should be explored in more depth. So, during spring and summer 2016, StartupYard will be working on a series of blog posts around this topic.

Exponential Innovation

The central premise of our series on Exponential Innovation will be this: exponential growth in the complexity of technology, reflected in increasing computing power and capacity, the explosion of data and increasingly complex and powerful material sciences, is a reality in our society, and will have an ever increasing influence over society and the world economy for the foreseeable future.

Exponential innovation raises important questions and concerns:

“What role will humans play in a society where most existing jobs can be done more efficiently by machines?”

“Is the current 40 hour model of work-based employment viable going forward?”

“What will be the roles of work and employment in the near future?”

“Which jobs are immediately at risk? Which ones are at risk long term?”

“What will be the role of education in a world where intellectual labor is increasingly automated?”

“How will innovation change the role of money in our lives, as the need for a traditional workforce decreases?”

“How will governments and societies adapt to rapid advances in artificial intelligence, and its growing role in business decision making?“

 

For more on this topic, check out this fascinating weekly newsletter from Azeem Azhar:

The Exponential View

 

Defining Our Purpose

For centuries, conversations around technological progress have been surrounded by, on the one hand, fear and apprehension about change, and on the other, excitement at the prospect of a better, happier, safer and more fulfilling life.

The world in the midst of the industrial revolution in 1840, and the world of 2016 are very different places, and yet these dual feelings of apprehension and expectation have not changed. In both eras, automation is viewed as both a threat and a deliverance. But whereas the industrial revolution replaced much routine manual work, the current technological revolution will replace many non-routine cognitive tasks.

At the same time, many of our startup founders and mentors express a certain fatalism about innovation. They say, in one form or another: “The robots will take our jobs, and so you’ll either have to own the robots, or you’ll have nothing.”

Is that really the case? Is it the inevitable outcome of rapid innovation?

Then, as now, governments and society had the capacity to evolve the function of money, ownership, and work to adapt to a changing technological reality. We are already seeing a rise in extreme political movements, from the mid-east to the Americas, fueled in large part by the diminishing role of the middle class in the new economy.

Will we see political changes as profound as those of the industrial revolution in the near future? Will innovations like Universal Basic Income (UBI), become essential elements of the new, post AI economy?

The primary purpose of this series will be not to argue in favor of one particular view of modern society, or to espouse one particular political or economic agenda. Instead, it will be to inspire conversations about pressing topics for the many millions of people, in Europe and around the world, who are facing a future that they find difficult to understand, and even harder to predict.

What are we, as workers, as entrepreneurs, as citizens, or as members of society and actors in our economy, working towards? What future are we building for ourselves? These questions are highly relevant to the work of StartupYard, and to every one of our members, alumni, mentors, partners, and investors, as well as the millions of people who will be touched by the technology we invest in, and help to foster.