Our CEO Claire Burge spoke at BDL Accelerate in Lebanon last week, the largest startup conference in the Middle East. What did we take from the experience?
No stranger to the main stage, Claire addressed the audience at BDL Accelerate last Thursday on our company vision for the future of work.
The reality is, the world is chaotic, which means we’re going to have to accept that we can’t understand or control everything that is happening. We need to adapt and change.
Chaos and Meaning: The Future of Work
It seems counterintuitive, but the very definition of chaos implies a sense of order, it’s just not one that is easy to explain. Like space, the universe, or the Big Bang Theory.
So what does this mean for us as we hurtle into the future? It means realising that we need to be thinking strategically about the future, if we’re going to stay relevant as companies and individuals.
BDL Accelerate: Our Main Takeaways
As a CEO, Claire’s engagement with the audience while on stage was only part of the reason she attended the conference. In addition to that, learning more about the startup industry, networking with key players in the industry and being able to talk to successful entrepreneurs all over the world presented a valuable learning opportunity.
To get some more insight into Claire’s experience as a speaker and attendee at BDL Accelerate, we asked her for a brief, high-level overview of what she focused on and what she learnt:
Claire’s main foci at BDL Accelerate:
- Chief Technological Officer (CTO) and developer sessions
- Fundraising and investment
Claire’s main learnings and takeaways from the event:
- What it really takes to build a billion dollar company: In a presentation by Keith Teare, co-founder of TechCrunch, he broke down the data behind successful companies, and gave an insight into the numbers that really back up the success of these kinds of companies.
- The changing role of a CTO: In a presentation by Henri Asseily, from Leap Ventures, the audience was given an opportunity to ask him questions about his 25 years of working as a Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Claire asked him about the conversations he’d had with CEO’s in the past and how he would change them given his experience. He replied that he would educate CEO’s more about the role of a CTO, and how it isn’t just about coding or systems architecture, but that it’s more of a strategic and business role.
- Startup funding and investment: At the conference, Claire spoke to experienced CEO’s and asked for advice about funding, what mistakes they’d made and who they thought the wrong type of investors were.
To expand on these topics, for the benefit of our team and readers, we did a bit more research to flesh out some of the ideas and topics mentioned above:
What does it take to really build a billion dollar company?
In the startup world there is a lot of talk about unicorns, or private companies that are valued at 1 billion dollars and more. Companies like Uber, Snapchat and Pinterest, to name a few.
Although we don’t have access to the exact talk that Teare gave last week yet, here is a recording of a talk on unicorns that he gave at a conference in Iceland last year that gives some insight into the topic:
In this talk, Teare explains the way these kinds of businesses are funded, and that really, investors are hunting for the next unicorn. Who are these unicorns though? Here is a recent list of unicorns, from data analytics companies like Uptake Technologies to Jessica Alba’s eco-friendly baby care range, The Honest Company.
The changing role of a CTO
What is the role of a CTO exactly? While traditionally responsible for the technological side of a business, how is this role going to change as all businesses become technology focused?
As Asseily’s comments above indicate, to be an effective startup, the role of the CTO needs to shift from just developing a product and being involved in the technology itself to more of a strategic and decision-making role. According to a number of different executives from different industries, the changing role of a CTO involves being able to make better use of data for business decisions, as well as focusing on security, customers and processes.
Startup funding and investment
With different stages of funding, from seed, to venture and then growth, how do you manage funding and investment effectively as a startup? While it’s great to get advice ahead of time, the reality is that it’s only by making huge mistakes that we really learn.
As Claire’s proactivity in getting advice suggests, one of the main pieces of advice on startup fundraising is about finding not only investors, but mentors, who can help guide you and give advice, based on their own experience. As a company, we have some incredible mentors, who continue to support us as we grow.
We’ve learnt a lot this year (see our Company Lessons Learned series), and with expansion into new markets, we’re guaranteed to learn a lot more.
What are your thoughts on unicorns, the changing roles of startup executives and startup funding? Share your advice, comments and thoughts in the comments below.