I love tech. I live and breathe it; from my meditation device that tracks my heart-rate variability, to my heavy app consumption, to the amazing drift button in my car. I love the sweet sauce it brings to my life. To support it, I’ve invested in over 20 hi-tech businesses and grown countless others. About 60 percent of my network operate in the tech universe somewhere. But, this universe is just a bubble, I needed to step outside of this universe, and back to business 1.0 to realise this fact.
I’m just returning from a speaking gig at the New Zealand Venture Capital Association’s annual conference – in NZ’s Las Vegas: Queenstown (I love both places for the record). I knew about a dozen people going in, and met another 30 or so while there. The VCA in NZ is in reality, mainly Private Equity. In other words, they utilise investors’ money to buy in part – or in totality – someone else’s company. They then hope to maximise the value from this business to take it through to a profitable sale, or profit-making position. You know, like good Gordon Gecko’s (I say this hoping that this 30-year-old film still resonates through its awful recent remake).
As the self-proclaimed AI guy, I get regular invitations to talk about the exponential technology space. Big Data, AI, IoT, Blockchain and so on. As you now know, this is an incredibly exciting space, and I love it like a camel loves a drink after a sandstorm. Plus, I love being able to address groups about, well, anything. But I especially love combining these two of my passions.
Whenever I speak at a place, I try to talk to people beforehand to get a vibe about the group. What language do they use? Do they communicate using big words or small? Ideas or experiences? Fast or slow? And, most importantly, what do they know about my subject already? This allows me to to target the message and deliver it in a way that’s comfortable to the audience, ya know, blend in. I’m going to talk to a bunch of academics very differently to a group of social media marketers after all.
So, what I found about the VC/PE dudes (wow, and I thought tech was male dominated – there were only about five percent women there!!), was that along with being very bright, amenable and curious, was that they generally knew absolutely sweet F. all about technology. You know that thing where you begin discussing a subject and the person you’re talking to leans out, makes things up or tries to draw loose and inappropriate comparisons? Well, that’s what I experienced.
But that’s okay. What they did know about, in spades, was business 1.0. The action in this arena is in FMCG, import/export, manufacturing and primary produce. Leveraged buyouts, corporate finance, asset stripping and cash baby! As an active investor this all resonates with me. I had so much fun.
This makes sense you say? Well of course it does, but I had temporarily forgotten that the world doesn’t know or maybe even care about the tech wave that’s enveloping them. Heady times and bold claims. Well, yes it is and, yes they are. This group was simply a good representation of the world that sits outside my bubble. My warm, small, and insulated bubble. They’re not ill-informed, they just have other concerns and passions, and this is Business 1.0! I imagine a tech world where these very smart business 1.0 people embraced the exponential tech era, what changes could then occur….. My parting thought is: Should I know more about what they’re doing? Or should they be more informed about what is likely to be the most disruptive period in history? I don’t know, but I do know that the Private Equity space in NZ is vibrant, in good hands, and hell, do they know how to party.
By Josh Comrie, CEO and Co-Founder of Ambit