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Some of my reflections from working at a Next Big Thing, a venture studio for the Machine Economy, as Director of Ventures.

I think of myself as a founder. I have built several companies over the last 12 years, some more successful than others. But each company is always a huge learning experience. I joined Next Big Thing (NBT) — a company builder — because I was interested in learning more about the model. Specifically, my question was: how can an organization remove the fragility, whilst retaining the agility of early-stage ventures?

Over the last 6 months as part of…

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The Lake beneath Snowdon, taken on an early morning hike in 2018

This is a slightly edited piece I wrote for the Institute of Welsh Affairs, a think tank focused on improving life in Wales, about my experience of being Welsh.

I have arrived in countries twice as an immigrant.

Once, in a burgundy Peugeot estate that tended to overheat on motorways, swooping across the Severn Bridge and into Wales. In the background my dad swearing at traffic, my Mum with a big AA map across her lap. My brother and I fighting across the back seat.

I was raised in the Rhondda Valleys —oxidising coal skeletons beneath my feet. Even as a child I remember finding comfort in the symmetry of the landscape and houses, we lived in the extrusions of terraces pinched between folds of mountains. …

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Photo by Haythem Gataa on Unsplash

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Tunisia again for the 2019 Afric’up conference. It is clear that over the last 5 years the region has gone through a huge amount of change. These are my insights from this trip.

Provisor: I am not claiming to be an expert in the local ecosystem, but the first interactions often give the clearest feedback. Please challenge my views in the comments!

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Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

“We need an App” one of the phrases I dreaded hearing from healthcare leaders. Here’s my argument for why instead, you should focus on the plumbing.

The Context — Healthcare & Leadership

Industries with higher barriers to entry for technology are often late adopters. Healthcare is a good example for this. Though this can frustrate certain stakeholders (cough*startups*cough), there are advantages of coming later.

However these advantages are not the obvious ones of “the technology is better”. Technology will inevitably improve. Instead the advantages lie, in my opinion in the improved mental models for good delivery. The how/when/why, more than the what.

However, this requires the leadership to adopt those models. In healthcare, leadership is earned over decades. Meaning many of the people who end up running systems, have only ever experienced…

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Photo by Andrew Krueger on Unsplash

Everything looks simple in a blog article. But anyone who runs a startup searching for product market fit will know: stick or twist is often the hardest choice.

I’m guilty of it. You’re guilty of it. Every human is guilty of it. We are a social animal, so we embellish and refine our stories to maximise their impact on our peers. I can tell you a dozen anecdotes from my career, each one subtly tweaked for emotional resonance. Put this through the lens of “founder stories” and the urge to twist the narrative to “growth” and “success” becomes stronger.

A trope I find myself guilty of frequently is to highlight that there is “no failure”. There is only “learning”. The growth of my intellect. But if I’m honest…

I still don’t like touchscreens. Swipe is awkward.

I don’t like voice. I don’t remember what to say.

I don’t like gesture, it makes me feel foolish.

I really want to live in a world without all these interfaces that I have to learn and compare and relearn.

What I really want is intelligent or overt. I want a butler who figures it out before I ask or switches and buttons that clunk and thunk into satisfaction.

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Photo by Jason Coudriet on Unsplash

The most misleading thing about minimum viable products (MVPs) in my opinion, is the name. Fundamentally, they should not be a product, especially if you’re bootstrapping.

Why does this matter?

In short, assumptions. The assumption that something is a product, builds a false idea in the minds of the team building it. Without going too deeply into the semantics of the word, in the context of digital, I’m defining a product as:

“A discrete, complete solution to a stakeholder need”

We use products like this, all the time. We less frequently use MVPs, because as by their very purpose, they don’t scale. This means that for inexperienced teams, the idea of constitutes “minimum” and “viable” is skewed. …

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Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Hindsight is 20/20, so here are some “glasses” I’ve spent a lot of time and money constructing.

An important note: These are reflections, not facts, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future about them.

The Big List of Lessons

1. Starting with the wrong people

  • I started a health-tech business, with no time working in health
  • My co-founder (a scientist) had never run a team, let alone a company
  • We continued to hire people based on proximity, not relevance
  • We hired junior team members when we really needed more experienced hands

Lesson: The founding team IS the business. Fight hard with money, time and passion to get the very best people in the room on day 1. If you’ve never run a burger shop…

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

This article acts as a primer for companies seeking to create new innovations in partnership with public sector in the UK. It’s not always fun, but it can be hugely rewarding.

I’ve spent the last 5 years, working with ministers, civil servants and public services to create new innovations. Though rewarding, it’s not easy. This is part of a series of articles I’m writing to capture insights related to working with Public Sector. I’ve also written about policy for non-policy people and how public sector treats failure.

Understanding Public Sector

Unavoidable Challenges

Public sector tends to be seen as less innovative than private sector. This is probably true, but there are some good reasons for this:

  • Public Sector has to serve everyone — Google can ask you to use the latest browser to access it’s site…

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Photo by Josh Marshall on Unsplash

There is no standard model that will tell you everything you need to know about raising investment. This is to guide your thinking, to a realistic valuation and investment roadmap.

Note: There’s a glossary at the end with a load of terms you’ll likely need to be familiar with as you raise money, I also try to explain the concepts as they come up

The Model

The scenario is made up of a couple of simple concepts:

  • Pre-money valuation — This is how much you value the company at before news shares are issued to investors to increase the value
  • Dilution — This is how many new shares you issue, thus diluting your existing shareholders (usually measured in %age)
  • Options Pool — How many shares you add for employees as part of…

Warren Fauvel

I love startups, strategy and human centred design. 10 years building smart teams to solve tough problems. Lots of scars and great stories! Based in Berlin.

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