I’m almost back from the US (my body is and I’m confident my mind will catch up soon) so I thought I’d send the first summary of meetings and what I learned.

  • There is a LOT of investment money in the US at the moment. One of our clients in the Bitcoin space is raising another $30m even though they don’t need it. They figure when investors are competing to invest, companies get the most money for the least control….. it’s a market dynamic that hasn’t been seen for a while, and people are expecting the ‘froth’ to die down later this year.
  • The primary investment targets are… drum roll… tech and biotech startups.
  • I met with two tech startups.

One is a clever start up providing, via an app, butler and concierge services to Manhattan residents – with plans to expand globally. Hello Alfred is the brainchild of two female entrepreneurs (and before you ask why I’m drawing attention to the fact they’re shes – it’s because it’s rare and they are shining examples of excellent entrepreneurship and ability to raise funds). Check the link here www.helloalfred.com.

How are they running the project to start the company? Kanbo, enthusiasm and fun…. No other specific tools.

The second is a Bitcoin company – there is a lot of money around for this space. Blockchain already has offices in NYC, London, SF and Luxembourg…..and clients are anyone with a desire to manage their bitcoins. It’s the brainchild of a tech genius who ceded control to a CEO almost as soon as he knew it was going to be a ‘real’ business. He chose a CEO who is young, male (I mentioned female re Alfreds so I have to be balanced) and very aggressive about winning – I learned a thing or two about the sport of business from this guy!. The CEO came to the role from being an investor so that speaks to his confidence. Big banks (JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs), financial institutions and now the Nasdaq are investing in platforms for Bitcoins…… It seems bitcoins have reached a tipping point, or, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. The link is www.blockchain.com and there’s also some cool press coverage (not all of which is good, but it is interesting and if you speak geek you’ll ‘get’ it!).

How are these guys running the project that is their company? Dedicated, co-located teams of tech geniuses organised by and reporting to excellent PMs. The tools? Basecamp and Jira… oh, and before you ask… no Gantt chart. In fact when I enquired I was told “no one serious is using them”. I am lucky I speak geek, tech and startup so I wasn’t considered another ‘startup tourist’… and yes that’s a thing as big companies try to work out how to get the same edge as startups… I have the answer…

What do these two startups have in common?

  • They’re hiring, not that you want to move to NYC of course. Annual leave is unlimited. Yes that’s right. No limits BUT you have to get the job done (I’m thinking this means actually fewer leave days will be taken).
  • The offices are fresh, relaxed non-standard – no cube farms, couches are ok to work on and no tables in meeting rooms.
  • Typical employees are refugees from the big end of town. There is a mass move from big to nimble – even if it means longer hours and less immediate financial reward.
  • The age profile is (well let’s just say sub 40), the gender profile is 60/40 male/female and both companies have gender equity policies (in the US it’s very litigious at the mere suggestion of inequity and it’s the companies that suffer not the complainant – oh how do we make it so here?).
  • Hiring and firing are taken equally seriously and any corruption of the culture wanted by the CEO is dealt with promptly – and some might say ruthlessly.
    Not one person spoke about a focus on ROI for investors and the investors are not the bogeymen they are sometimes characterized in Australia. In fact both CEO’s take the attitude that the investors are resources for help and neither feel in the least bit scared of them.

Ok, that’s probably enough for today, any questions please send them to me and I’ll do my best to give/get sensible answers. I’ll be back with the next instalment soon.