Our investment in Covee

What is the future of work? This is a challenging question especially when posed by your 8 year old son. Trying to explain the likely impact of AI, work displacement and the breakdown of traditional corporate structures is complex, spooky and in the case of the latter, plain boring. However, the concept of universal basic income gets a far more enthusiastic response “so I’ll get paid to stay at home and play all day, right”?

Even for supposed industry experts, unraveling the interplay of these technology, society and policy megatrends is a mind-bending feat. However, we can be confident of some fundamentals:

  • Human work will continue to be forced up the value chain.
  • We will become more flexible and mobile in our work. The decline of the traditional ‘career’ will accelerate.
  • The supply of data scientists to make sense and derive value from exponential growth will continue to be outpaced by demand.
  • Corporate structures will erode as decentralised, autonomous organisations (DAOs) emerge.

A number of groundbreaking start-ups, looking to shape and capitalise on these trends have emerged. In 2014, Upwork launched to connect businesses with freelancers. Quantopian was the first crowd-sourced hedge fund followed by Numerai with its token-based reward variant. Last year, corporate-slayer Aragon raised $25m in 15 minutes to build its dApp that allows anyone to create and manage a decentralised organisation. Its slick “fight for freedom” video taps into millennial disillusion with corporate greed the need to redistribute control and reward.

Since I became part of the LocalGlobe team two years ago, these are all companies and issues that have intrigued us. We have collectively reviewed countless decks and plans in and around this, and the broader decentralisation space, but we’re proud to say Covee is the first we’ve backed. Covee’s mission is a bold one “to build a global, future of work platform for knowledge workers where smart contracts replace corporations and team governance is self-organised and decentralised”.

How will they do this? First, take some of the world’s most complex problems like radiomics (machine learning meets cancer diagnostics) and cryptocurrency arbitrage. Second, bring together global domain experts, mathematicians and data scientists with the requisite skills. Third, allow them to collaborate on a blockchain platform using tokens and an expertly defined smart contract system to encourage and reward individual participation.

Our conviction came from a number of sources. First, the team. Call us old fashioned but even in this rule-breaking crypto / blockchain era, we continue to focus first and foremost on the quality of the founders. Marcel (centre), Raphael (left) and Jochen (right) have accumulated years of highly relevant experience in hedge funds, blockchain development, cryptocurrencies and financial policy. All backed-up with stellar PhDs.

Second, the sheer scale and ambition of the project. Covee is not just looking to disrupt the $94bn hedge fund industry but the broader, $1.2tn professional services / knowledge work sector. Covee is to Palantir what Palantir was to McKinsey.

Third, credibility and reach. Not just appealing to the anti-establishment millennial, we believe Covee will be equally attractive to the talented, mid-career ML engineer seeking a more challenging and independent way of working. Further, Marcel and team present a credible face to the ‘traditional corporates’, research institutes and software giants who will be among the main beneficiaries of Covee’s network.

Now based in Zurich, the Covee team are working on regulatory approval for their utility token prior to a pre-sale later this year. We are delighted to be joined in the investment by Atlantic Labs and angels Johannes Reck (founder and CEO of GetYourGuide), Jetstone Asset Management CEO Ahmad Butt and other private investors.

What does all this mean for my 8 year old son? Whilst there is justifiable fear and uncertainty in the narrative surrounding the future of work, as I imagine a future for Generation Alpha (or whatever it ends up being called), much is attractive. Highly flexible, location-agnostic work with skilled co-workers and truly objective rewards for individual contribution. Will he really miss the dreary commute to work, corporate politics, subjective pay rises and team bonding exercises?

For more: Marcel’s story, TechCrunch article

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