Just like top chefs are never done — there are always iterations and new things to try in company building
I am still digesting all the insights and learnings from last week’s unforgettable trip to Silicon Valley and Seattle with Prince Daniel’s Fellowship. Thank you, all participants and organizers, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I can’t believe that I was blessed to join this journey together with all of you. Below, I tried to summarize some of my learnings.
The very first morning, we had the opportunity to meet Gustaf Alströmer, Group Partner at Y Combinator. YC is one of the most successful startup accelerators globally; they receive 18 000 applications a year and admit 800 companies. Currently hosting 60+ billion-dollar companies in their portfolio. So, what is the secret sauce beyond an impressive inbound flow? The most common advice they give to startups is to write code and talk to users, find product-market fit, and then grow. The main reason startups fail is that they get the above wrong. Secondly, the founders fight. Personally very excited and hopeful of finding out that YC seems to be increasing its focus on companies that drive the sustainability transformation. Funding 100 climate startups in the last four years, including Pachama, Heart Aerospace (Swedish), Remora, Seabound, Sinai, Living Carbon.
Another global leader in early-stage funding is Benchmark Capital. They are five partners that meet with 200 companies each every year and invest in one(!). Right now, they are specifically excited about Webb3 and the use of NFT to enhance consumer experiences and NFT tied to moving money around.
In early 2000 I was fortunate to enroll in the Californian university system, and yes, am I tempted to go back! We visited UCSF Mission Bay and learned that they currently hold 1050 active US patents and are one of the leaders in spinning out successful life science/healthcare companies. Sweden has a lot to learn from the US regarding cross-pollinating academia and innovative company building. I’m eager to learn new perspectives on the topic and have signed up for UCSF’s course” From idea to IPO.” It is open for the business community to enroll, and you can find it here.
We had the honor to interact with three(!) Nobel prize winners. Elizabeth Blackburn, The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009, let us in on her research on how stress reduces immune functions. Based on this, she questions who we should prioritize for booster shots and how we can plan smarter for future pandemics.
I can’t believe that I met up face to face with two of my all-time founder role models: Stina and her Yubico. Beautiful to hear her story and impressed by Yubico’s ongoing important work to help prevent cyberattacks on Ukraine. And, the one and only Anne Wojcicki, currently revolutionizing genetic research with 23 and Me. Anne encouraged all of us to read Glucose Revolution. Sharing that one of the perks that came out of this book is that nowadays, her three-year-old proactively eats a veggie before a candy to level sugar levels out;-). I have so much respect for these two women and their individual accomplishments.
Jensen is the CEO and founder of Nvidia and one of the most inspiring leaders I have ever met. Currently, at a market cap of 660 billion USD (larger than Sweden’s BNP), Nvidia is revolutionizing graphics processing units globally. Jensen started the company 30 years ago, and his energy and passion are still contagious. Jensen taught us that he built his company by reinforcing three main principles. One, “You pay employees off with hopes and dreams, and you get them excited by building those hopes and dreams together.” Two, “Make sure you always create the right conditions so that the most amazing people can do their lives work.” Three,” Just like a top chef in a restaurant, I’m never done; there are always improvements, iterations, and new things to try to improve the final delivery.”
We visited an Amazon fulfillment center in Seattle, and I’m still surprised that I didn’t get lost. Amazon currently holds 100 fulfillment centers in the US, and each site is the size of 32 soccer fields; it stores 30 million products and sends out 300 000 orders/day. This was a truly mind-blowing experience, even for me, who have limited logistics experience.
Next up was Microsoft’s Campus in Redmond, home of 90 000 employees(!). I found it specifically interesting to understand how thrilled their CTO is about low code as a substantial growth opportunity, something we all probably should leverage more.
Closing the trip, we were fortunate to visit Boeing in Seattle. The plant is hosted in the largest building on earth, large enough to fit the entire Disneyland, and the facility even has developed its own microclimate. We learned that sustainable aviation fuel will reduce the carbon footprint by 80%(can be done now, but still too expensive). Electric planes will completely change the look of aircraft as we know it. Boeing is investing in the needed new infrastructure; however, it is still about 10–20 years away.
Thank you, IVA, the steering group, and all participants for a fantastic experience that provided new insights, perspectives, energy, drive, inspiration, and connections. I also specifically want to thank everyone in the group for open and rewarding discussions on the bus trips.
I can’t wait to apply my insights to company building, investing, advising, and beyond. I hope we can all agree that tech is the primary accelerator in our global sustainability transformation.