Tuesday, October 26, 2021

As business technology explodes, founders seek double bottom line

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The pandemic has changed everything, including business technology and the startup landscape. And like companies that depend on data more than ever, Valor Ventures has been collecting data to track the changing landscape. In particular, the investor team has been talking with early founders about the use of emerging technologies and how they are approaching their businesses and investments.

The firm, which focuses on early-stage startups, is based in Atlanta, Georgia, where founding general partner Lisa Calhoun says it “creates a real melting pot of ideas.” Most notably, you’ve noticed that the founders are aiming for a “double bottom line,” where they are profitable and have a positive impact on the world.

To learn more, VentureBeat spoke with Calhoun about the role of big data in today’s changing startup landscape, other high-level trends she’s observed, and what she’s been most excited about these days.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

VentureBeat: If you had to sum it up, how would you describe the current landscape of startups and investments around enterprise technologies?

Lisa Calhoun: Exploding. Enterprise technology is in a next wave of development, and we’ve seen that AI tools, thinking, and infrastructure are really starting to change the level of transparency a business can use to function. Therefore, companies are more agile and stronger than ever. And add to that the fact that a pandemic is imposing new layers of digital transparency in all horizontal processes, from hiring to day-to-day work, the transition in and out of a company, and the basic processes of how to track of what who does. So it is a very exciting time to be an early stage investor. And whenever there are many disruptions, as there certainly are now globally, there is a lot of money.

VentureBeat: And, of course, the pandemic has only accelerated digital transformation, and in seven years, according to Gartner. So it was really fast, like you said. What role would you say big data has been playing specifically, and how do you expect it to evolve in the coming years?

Calhoun: What is so interesting about change, and also true of big data, is that it is not linear. For several years we were on a plateau of sorts with incremental improvements around how organizations use their data. And now, due to the pandemic and the response to the crisis, we are in a complete shift about the importance of making data more accessible, viewable, and actionable in real time across the organization. And that is exciting. So it’s starting explorations into things like how we can use data in FinTech, on the blockchain, and in security to make businesses more resilient and sustainable than ever.

I will point out one more thing that we find really interesting, and that is the interplay of climate change and big data. You see organizations that need to respond to legal compliance as a minimum, if not a moral imperative for climate sustainability. And that’s also driving an urgent level of data transformation.

VentureBeat: What are some other high-end trends you’ve seen emerging lately?

Calhoun: Well, one of the biggest trends, which is so obvious that people don’t think about talking about it, even though it’s a fundamental change, is that the demographics of the United States just made the curve around a majority- minority. in almost all urban centers. That’s certainly true for places like Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, and it still works. So now we are an urban majority by culture of origin, and the same dynamism that has driven things like music and athletics in this country is now capable of driving culture and creating opportunity for everyone. What I think is most important about that is that due to this demographic transformation, we are on the cusp of one of the greatest opportunities to create new net wealth in populations that have historically had a lack of access to capital and opportunities to create wealth. wealth. And it will be transformative in our culture.

VentureBeat: That’s great. And when you see new startups appear and raise funds, what are the main types of challenges that they seem to be solving or tackling on their own?

Calhoun: My team has spoken with several dozen founders and we tracked all of these conversations in great detail in our CRM for Salesforce, allowing us to query our data and observe these trends. This is a regular process for us, and one that has caught our attention recently is how difficult the founders say it is to find the right early stage investor.

This is because we are in a time of unprecedented disruption, but many, if not most, of today’s venture capitalists were raised and invested in periods of greater stability. The vast majority of venture capitalists remain white male investors in an age when all of our cities are a minority majority and the environment is far more important to founders today than it was 5 or 10 years ago.

Today’s founders are looking for value alignment and leadership and they want investors who really understand what they are trying to change in the world and why it is broken. They want investors who are truly close to the founder’s perspective, who have operating experience in a multicultural economy, and who share many of the same values ​​as the founding team around issues like climate change, inclusion, data privacy and other truly top-of-the-line issues. in technology today. So there is a little cultural disconnect between many of today’s best founders and a lot of early-stage venture capital. And I think we’ll see that trend continue for several years until we reach a new normal in venture capital.

VentureBeat: That’s really interesting and I see how it reflects the broader cultural shifts. Now, are there any developments in data and business technology that you are particularly excited about these days?

Calhoun: One of the things that excites me the most is the specificity in healthcare that has been unlocked by genomic SaaS platforms. Earlier this year, for example, we led the seed round for a company called Allelica Whose platform labs use to help match a drug to its specific DNA. Therefore, your doctor can choose the drugs, among the many drugs on the market for your problem, that will best suit you and your genome. The genomic SaaS environment is truly exciting, and to take it one step further, the way the founders of healthcare technology today are democratizing healthcare is very inspiring. And we are seeing weekly presentations of things that you would not have thought could exist but do exist, are trying to grow and literally save the world. These founders are concerned with a double bottom line, and it is very clear in their business models and how they treat employees, but also in the products they are building.

VentureBeat: And that goes back to what we said earlier about founders looking for investors aligned with their values. Now before we finish, do you have any predictions for what the next few years will be like?

Calhoun: My entire team believes that the next trillion dollar market cap company will be built on the foundation of a diverse and inclusive world. It won’t be nice to have it; It will be critical to the way the product is built in terms of its data structure, data privacy, leadership, and company vision. This is what America really needs on a cultural and demographic level. And that’s where the future is.

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