LØRN Case #C1097
The future of remote work - and unicorns
In this #LØRN episode we get to have a chat with entrepreneur, investor, author, and public speaker (to mention a few), Matt Smith. And yes, in this conversation we talk more about how it is to define his role when wearing these many hats. We also dig deeper into his experience on investing in two unicorns’ companies and his perspective about Norway as a venture country. Matt has been traveling around Europe for the last 12 months but is now joining us from his home in Cape Town. His travels give us good insight into what he believes is the future of remote work.

Matthew Smith

Author, Public Speaker, Entrepreneur

Lunicorn

"I work at my highest level when I go into co-working spaces, better than at home. I like being around people that are working, and I absorb the energy. But I believe everyone will benefit of a blend, and to have a choice, he said."

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En LØRN CASE er en kort og praktisk, lett og morsom, innovasjonshistorie. Den er fortalt på 30 minutter, er samtalebasert, og virker like bra som podkast, video eller tekst. Lytt og lær der det passer deg best! Vi dekker 15 tematiske områder om teknologi, innovasjon og ledelse, og 10 perspektiver som gründer, forsker etc. På denne siden kan du lytte, se eller lese gratis, men vi anbefaler deg å registrere deg, slik at vi kan lage personaliserte læringsstier for nettopp deg. 

Vi vil gjerne hjelpe deg komme i gang og fortsette å drive med livslang læring.

En LØRN CASE er en kort og praktisk, lett og morsom, innovasjonshistorie. Den er fortalt på 30 minutter, er samtalebasert, og virker like bra som podkast, video eller tekst. Lytt og lær der det passer deg best! Vi dekker 15 tematiske områder om teknologi, innovasjon og ledelse, og 10 perspektiver som gründer, forsker etc. På denne siden kan du lytte, se eller lese gratis, men vi anbefaler deg å registrere deg, slik at vi kan lage personaliserte læringsstier for nettopp deg. Vi vil gjerne hjelpe deg komme i gang og fortsette å drive med livslang læring.

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Background and career-path:

I was born in South Africa in 1990, moved to London in 98, and have been based out of Oslo since 2017.

My career started in growth-stage venture capital at Conde Nast, where I was part of a small team investing in lifestyle tech companies out of London. Our notable investments are the unicorns; Farfetch ($23bn) & Vestiaire Collective ($1.2bn) amongst others. Following this I spent 2 years working with several startups Positive Luxury, Style.com and the X-Prize (Elon Musk funded) winning edtech startup Onebillion.org.

Then I moved to Oslo to build and lead the investment programs for Angel Challenge, running 12 programs around Norway teaching people how to become angel investors through an angel accelerator program. I then followed my entrepreneurial interests and founded a media company (The Lunicorn), to bring entertainment to the innovation industry. My short-form documentaries have been viewed over 2 million times, and I’ve worked with the likes of Microsoft, DNB, the European Commission and the German government. In November 2020, the company was acquired by Atender.io.

 

Any special hobbies?

Running is a religion to me. Generocity, It might be a strange thing to say but I practice generosity as a hobby

Your professional dream?

To host tonight’s show or late-night show.

Your project at work, and why is it important?

I have created a live show for corporates: In a world where remote work is becoming the norm, it has never been more important to create a community amongst your employees.

The show is designed to create a connection between attendees, where 2 teams made up of 2-3 employees from different departments are the stars of the show, cheered on by an audience of their peers. Answering fun and informative questions, intended to get everyone to know one another better, and build bridges to company culture as I tailor the event to your organization and industry with relevant intellectual humor.

Emphasizing the diversity in skills and characters outside of job titles and responsibilities. It is a completely fresh and new take on corporate events and leaves everyone unified by an unforgettable experience.

Think the Tonight Show with Jimmy Falon comes to your company for one evening!

So this year, why not invest in your company culture through humor, with a night they will never forget.

Your purpose?

I have an interesting life realization and framework I’ve come up with about how I now say no to anything that doesn’t fit into my 3 life principles. I came up with this as I like many have done and still do so many things, author, founder, speaker – so when someone says what do you do… how do I answer that?

So I came up with a framework;

Your passion: what do you live for?

Your purpose: what do you stand for?

Your profession: what do you live from?

And I say no to anything that doesn’t fit into these three.

For me my answers are:

Passion – being on stage

Purpose – I can move the needle in the space of ending stigmas and taboos about men’s mental and sexual health

Profession – public speaking

Any interesting dilemmas?

We kill time, as time is killing us.

Your view on skills for the future?

I believe we will no longer sell time but sell skills.

Who/what inspire you?

I’m inspired by anyone who is passionate about what they do.

Nelson Mandela, Trevor Noah.

Background and career-path:

I was born in South Africa in 1990, moved to London in 98, and have been based out of Oslo since 2017.

My career started in growth-stage venture capital at Conde Nast, where I was part of a small team investing in lifestyle tech companies out of London. Our notable investments are the unicorns; Farfetch ($23bn) & Vestiaire Collective ($1.2bn) amongst others. Following this I spent 2 years working with several startups Positive Luxury, Style.com and the X-Prize (Elon Musk funded) winning edtech startup Onebillion.org.

Then I moved to Oslo to build and lead the investment programs for Angel Challenge, running 12 programs around Norway teaching people how to become angel investors through an angel accelerator program. I then followed my entrepreneurial interests and founded a media company (The Lunicorn), to bring entertainment to the innovation industry. My short-form documentaries have been viewed over 2 million times, and I’ve worked with the likes of Microsoft, DNB, the European Commission and the German government. In November 2020, the company was acquired by Atender.io.

 

Any special hobbies?

Running is a religion to me. Generocity, It might be a strange thing to say but I practice generosity as a hobby

Your professional dream?

To host tonight’s show or late-night show.

Your project at work, and why is it important?

I have created a live show for corporates: In a world where remote work is becoming the norm, it has never been more important to create a community amongst your employees.

The show is designed to create a connection between attendees, where 2 teams made up of 2-3 employees from different departments are the stars of the show, cheered on by an audience of their peers. Answering fun and informative questions, intended to get everyone to know one another better, and build bridges to company culture as I tailor the event to your organization and industry with relevant intellectual humor.

Emphasizing the diversity in skills and characters outside of job titles and responsibilities. It is a completely fresh and new take on corporate events and leaves everyone unified by an unforgettable experience.

Think the Tonight Show with Jimmy Falon comes to your company for one evening!

So this year, why not invest in your company culture through humor, with a night they will never forget.

Your purpose?

I have an interesting life realization and framework I’ve come up with about how I now say no to anything that doesn’t fit into my 3 life principles. I came up with this as I like many have done and still do so many things, author, founder, speaker – so when someone says what do you do… how do I answer that?

So I came up with a framework;

Your passion: what do you live for?

Your purpose: what do you stand for?

Your profession: what do you live from?

And I say no to anything that doesn’t fit into these three.

For me my answers are:

Passion – being on stage

Purpose – I can move the needle in the space of ending stigmas and taboos about men’s mental and sexual health

Profession – public speaking

Any interesting dilemmas?

We kill time, as time is killing us.

Your view on skills for the future?

I believe we will no longer sell time but sell skills.

Who/what inspire you?

I’m inspired by anyone who is passionate about what they do.

Nelson Mandela, Trevor Noah.

Vis mer
Tema: Moderne ledelse
Organisasjon: Lunicorn
Perspektiv: Storbedrift
Dato: 211018
Sted: INTL-CAPE TOWN
Vert: Silvija Seres

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Venture capitalRemote work
New life realization and framework

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Tekst for Case #C1097

Velkommen til Lørn.Tech - en læringsdugnad om teknologi og samfunn. Med Silvija Seres og venner.

 

Silvija Seres: Hello and welcome to a LØRN conversation with the intention to learn and inspire. I'm Silvija Seres and my guest today is Matt Smith. Welcome, Matt.

 

Matthew Smith: And hello from Cape Town. Like my nice little background there.

 

Silvija: I'm very jealous. I can see the weather and I was going to ask you something Matt, we just had a conversation before the recording and we realized it's actually not very easy to classify you, but from what we've managed to land on, you are a speaker and an investor and an author and you have just sold a company called Lunicorn. Is that correctly summarized?

 

Matt: That's correct. But it's a mouthful. Right. And I think that goes for many of you, probably watching and listening to this as well, that you do certain things throughout your life. And so what is it that you say you do? Not all of us have the luck of being something like an accountant or a lawyer where you can just give that one word answer, which everyone understands. Right.

 

Silvija: Very cool. So I have multiple hats as well. But the other question I have is: are you in Cape Town, but you have lived in Norway or you have just visited?

 

Matt: No, I'm technically still living in Norway, so I'm a resident in Norway. I've been that for five years now and moved in 2017. But I'm originally from South Africa. So actually this is coming home to me, coming back to South Africa in Cape Town. I spent most of my life in London, hence my British accent, which tends to trick people. Or as most Norwegians think, I'm Australian. I think there's a confusion with the accents there.

 

Silvija: You are too sunny for a British guy. I guess that's true. So you say that you grew up in the UK and then you moved to Norway for work.

 

Matt: I mean, actually I moved to Norway. I did move technically for work, but the reason that I decided to look for work in Norway is the reason that 99% of foreigners in Norway are for, which is obviously for love. I'm sure you probably know that. I was dating a Norwegian in London and she wanted to move home, as many of them do, because it's a beautiful place. So that's in 2017 when I moved to Oslo and fortunately I managed to get a job before I arrived. So I started to run Angel Challenge, an early stage investor accelerator on January the seventh, 2017, to be precise.

 

Silvija: I participated in the Angel Challenge, probably the first time it ran. I think it's five years ago or approximately that. Tell us a little bit about the project. It's a great concept.

 

Matt: It is a fantastic concept. I'll take it from the problem statement that I saw with what they're solving, which is that previously in London, I'd been involved in several startups but before then I had been a venture capitalist. When you're a venture capitalist, you're on the buy side, people come to you. So you're the ones sitting and listening versus the person pitching. But the funny thing is, when I was an entrepreneur following that, I was raising early stage angel investment money, basically from people like yourself, Silvija. And there's no guarantee now, of course, you know what you're doing. But I was a first time entrepreneur, meaning that I was learning as I was going. But there's often a thing we forget about with angel investors. Just because they have liquid capital available to invest, does it mean that they also know what they're doing with it? Because that money could come from a doctor, an accountant, whatever, inherited the money or be an entrepreneur themselves. So you have a lot of individuals who would like to invest in startups and become angels. But their first time, such as I was the first time founder. So where do they get their education? Because there's so much infrastructure that exists to support founders, but very little, if any, to support investors because, "oh, you can invest, you must know what you're doing because you're on the buy side."

 

Matt: So I need to tell you everything and dance around you. So that's what Angel Challenge did. Founded by two really pioneering Norwegian entrepreneurs, Maia and Ben, who also as a couple is quite a nice little story there with two beautiful daughters, and I was very lucky. They actually did beta of that program, which I think you were part of, in 2016. And I was fortunate, having had my investment background in London and venture to move to Norway at that right timing. Talk about luck. Luck of timing. They needed someone young and fun, who understood how to manage an investment process. And I basically spent the next almost two years teaching a classroom of 20 to 30 private individuals who wanted to become angel investors but had never done it before. So that's Angel Challenge, really awesome investor accelerator, if you will, if you're familiar with the accelerator concept.

 

Silvija: Yeah. So one of the advantages there is also that you get exposed to a lot of good companies, but you also learn a little bit more about what smart money means because it’s one thing getting money into a company, the other thing is actually helping that company survive for long enough so you can see your money.

 

Matt: Exactly the age old dilemma.

 

Silvija: So tell us a little bit your perspective on Norway as a venture country with your great question in view.

 

Matt: Yeah, great question because I'm an outside in inside out now because I've had so many years there. So one thing I was extremely fortunate about when I moved to Norway in 2016, 2017 was I was leaving London in a saturated title market. Obviously it's London, Frankfurt, Berlin, the big kind of tech European markets. And I moved to Norway and all of a sudden the tech kind of ball had just started rolling in sort of 2010/2011 with Kahoot and a few others being founded. And they were getting their early traction of momentum coming out of MTSU and Trondheim. And obviously what happens is there's a thing called the entrepreneurial cycle. Have you heard of this concept? I'm going to explain it for the benefit of anyone who hasn't. It's basically that you have these first round entrepreneurs like the Johann Brands and those who create the first big unicorns in that company in that country. And now they say it takes them anything from 5 to 8 years to reach a success level. During that, they gain notarization. They become poster boys and girls for the ecosystem. Other entrepreneurs are inspired by them. So you have this wave of the first entrepreneurs who all of a sudden become successful and they make money for the people who invested money in them.

 

Matt: So all of a sudden there's a multitude as a pyramid of success that comes out at a diminishing rate, right? So you have the founders at the top, the Holy Grail, then you have the employees who maybe had equity who then go and start companies. You have the investors who invested. You now make that 10 or 20 times on that investment, then go and invest that in another ten companies. So Norway, when I moved there, had just got to that peak of the first entrepreneurial cycle being completed, and that's completed when the entrepreneurs, the founders sell their businesses, they make a liquidation event, meaning there's a waterfall payout down that pyramid. Everybody gets a payout, the inspiration is shown and all of a sudden it's a multiplier effect. So that first wave of success, say it was two entrepreneurs, create 50 different multiplier effects, 20 angel investors, 20 entrepreneurs, ten new people who want to create tech companies. And that's where I think Norway's coming into its second round of entrepreneurial cycle success. Now, for example, look at San Francisco. They're in their 10th round of success because the cycle takes on average 5 to 8 years to complete. And as we go on the time frame, it decreases.

 

Silvija: I'll tell you my side of things. And I think that Norway is still not there. And the problem is that the people who have made money on really good, good, good entrepreneurial processes before usually start their new thing, but I don't see them spreading. So the best people want to be entrepreneurs and they love doing their own thing and they want to focus and they know they have to focus. So I wish that there was a larger set of financial investors that really do really early stage. But we are a country that got very rich on property and on shipping and oil and it's difficult to re-educate the investors.

 

Matt: That's very true. That's right. And that's why programs like Angel Challenge exist. But there's an interesting point here as well that you made, which I'd like to bring to the surface as well, which is what is the real bottleneck with innovation? Which is those taking the step and the leap to create businesses. Of course, there's a funding gap in the early stage. I agree with you on that one. You have to know where to go and who to speak to. However, I still think Norway, when I moved there, still had this ingrained mindset which can work against you because the people aren't there. You can go and get a job in any business and earn five or 600,000 not straight out of university like that. Where else in the world can you do that? Seriously, in London I was working in venture capital, earning half of that with two degrees postgrad in finance from the best school in the world. That was in London. It was because it's more competitive, right? Because the people, they could pick whoever they wanted. And I was working in the top job. So Norway has created a kind of safety blanket, but at the same time, that safety blanket should be there for innovation because if you fail, you'll just go into one of those jobs like that. Everybody gets a job and you are only more hirable if you try something like this than if you don't. And lastly, I'll just say this: the cost to create a company has come down 100 times in the last 20 years. The time, energy and cost required. So there has never been a better time to create a technology company than today. Would you agree?

 

Silvija: That there has never been a better time? And the question is whether we can get enough sense of urgency? Once you have your job at five or 600,000nok and you think of it as an absolute human right, whether you do any innovation or disruption or not. Then the incentive to do innovation or disruption is not that great.

 

Matt: That's exactly it. Because, in Norway as well, there's also the cultural conditioning that everyone should own a flat. I've never found any country where people who were friends of mine at 22 years old are buying flats while they're students. How is that possible? It's incredible. It's because the cost price of flats was at the right level and everyone's parents were part of the boom economy, meaning that they all had 500,000 just to get a kid, get a mortgage. Which is just incredible. And we should be so grateful to have it. I'm not complaining at all. Let's acknowledge it and say, hey, this is a "inopia". But this utopia needs to become an innovation utopia. That is a word that I just created because it is the best setup to do that, because no one is going to fail in London. It's dog eat dog in the US, it's dog eat dog and there's no health care, whereas in Norway you're going to be so covered. If you do something innovative and fail, that learning is going to price you more in the next round if you want to go get a job or not or become another entrepreneur.

 

Silvija: I think that we are on the right track. I think if we want to protect our utopia, which it really is, and I don't think that people appreciate how incredibly lucky and privileged we are to live in a country where your health really is covered. It is covered by a very, very rich and very knowledgeable sector and so's your pension, and so is your security and so is your education. And if we are going to keep what we have, we have to become and stay competitive with some of the largest digital companies in the world that are going to start competing in the same sector because there is so much money to be made in all of these poor sectors that I mentioned. And so my personal mission is to try to inspire Norway to realize what sort of competition we are actually in. And it's not very easy to be taken seriously.

 

Matt: I could imagine.

 

Silvija: So you've invested and you've invested in two unicorns. Tell us about those two companies and how do you discover them early enough?

 

Matt: Yeah. So I was very fortunate. That was my first job straight out of business school, straight out of my masters, I was fortunate enough to get a job in. I mean, I say lucky. I also made my own luck because I went out and found them and got the jobs right. Conde Nast Investments, which doesn't mean anything to most people. It's one of those kinds of parent companies to a lot of companies. It owns Vogue Magazine, GQ, Vanity Fair and 120 other titles around the world. A 120 year old family owned business from New York. They set up a venture fund basically out of London called Conde Nast Investments, the $200 million corporate venture fund investing in digital media and tech companies within the lifestyle space. Covering the brand. It was a really fun job to have my first job out of university, a super young, 20 to 23 years old or whatever, investing 1 to $10 Million tickets. I could write checks to 1 to $10 million following on in series B and seriously rounds and FARFETCH was one of the first ones, which was a startup that was basically then simply putting luxury brands and boutiques online, effectively e-commerce and putting their inventory online, creating an e-shop, etc, but we're talking about products that cost tens of thousands, right? We're not talking about your typical e-commerce platform on Etsy or Shopify.

 

Matt: We're talking about someone going on there and buying an average order value of $1,000 so that business basically cornered a market, a market that's effectively recession proof because you're dealing with the top 0.01%. You know who's going online and buying a bag. Everybody's billionaires. And they basically gave billionaires an e-commerce platform so they didn't have to go to their local boutique wherever in the world they live. So Farfetch was an incredible startup run by an amazing Portuguese founder called Jose Nieves, who had worked in the industry. Now, that interesting investment came about because this gentleman had been working in boutiques for a decade before that and had seen other shops around him effectively go online and thought, why can't we do that? But obviously the mindset of the fashion industry was NO! I mean, you're dealing with couture here. We don't sell that online. The ladies walk in and they have some champagne. And there was a real valid question there about how can we recreate an in-store experience online? And in reality, you can't. And in reality, it didn't actually necessarily matter for those specific experiences. So Jose created an e-commerce platform called Farfetch, which allows you to buy these products online and did extremely well because there's a $23 billion business today.

 

Matt: And I led with a team, the series B investment in them on 20th March 2013 and then the series C. And it's a beautiful story because Jose's been a real advocate to be a change maker within the fashion industry from an employee employment perspective. It's definitely been one of the drivers in the Lisbon startup ecosystem's growth because again he has been the Johan Brand to Oslo, to Lisbon and Portugal basically. So that was Farfetch. The other startup was Vestiaire Collective, which is a Parisian startup. I won't get too much into detail about those specific ones, but in general, you never know a startup is going to be a unicorn. You know, I remember precisely writing an investment memorandum to our board to allow me to do the follow-on investment in Farfetch, the series D or whatever it was, and trying to convince them to say this is going to be a $1,000,000,000 business in two years. And it beat me by one because within one year it was $1,000,000,000 business. That was in 2014. I think it's 2021 and they're worth $23 billion listed on the Nasdaq right now.

 

Matt: And we were still convincing people that, look, we put so much money into this business. Yes, it's grown to X, yes, it's growing, but it's still losing 30 million a year because that's what startups do. Negative growth is value and innovation growth. So you never know what startup is going to be a unicorn or not. All you need to do is back the right people. And that's what you hear time and time again. But Jose's ability to find ways. To make capital outside of raising capital was astonishing. I remember him pitching me or pitching us, I was junior at the time, his new way for a revolving credit facility for the business that would allow them to tap into it. It was brilliant. And he was always looking at other ways, okay, we can't sell products or if we can't increase that, that's been optimized. How can I optimize my ability to raise money outside of equity capital, credit capital, debt capital? And he was always making sure that the lights were going to be on, regardless of whether you had to come to his investors for money or we had to go to the bank for money. Just being very smart.

 

Silvija: I am very fascinated because, here you had the two examples that grew to a $1,000,000,000 valuation through a negative bottom line. That was accepted and that was even celebrated. So, again, back to Norway. My impression is that you talk to finance people here and well, nice to have angels, but it doesn't add up to that much. So when you go to people with deep pockets in Norway, try to sell them on the company that loses value. I mean, you really have to be your own brand.

 

Matt: It is true. And maybe it's right, but it's all reflective on the experiences of the people you're pitching to. So either you have to be the first leading educator or you have to be an informer. So you have to educate them that this is the way and use examples. And unfortunately, if you are a founder in that kind of position, you are more often a first mover. Therefore, you are educating your market, you are informing and educating your market, and that is just part of your job. That is why it only takes the kind of founders who can manage that kind of stakeholder communication in a way that is believable. Because with Jose, of course people were still saying, we're putting tens of millions of dollars into this business. Yet this year it was -17 million. I get their funding growth. They could be profitable by next Friday if they want it. Right, but they're not. And I think actually there was a report I read recently that I think they've done that now. They're profitable. I don't know if you read that they've paid $250 Million in revenue I think the other month anyway. But we don't need to get into that.

 

Silvija: They really have tapped into a real need and the real opportunity that just exploded during Corona. So there's this, you know, two sides of the unicorn. But I guess it's a part of being able to envision something that big.

 

Matt: Let me say one thing just to finish that point off as well in support of what you just said. So yeah. That no matter what it is you're trying to do, one of the most important things is your ability to convince people that it's going to be a success. That's it. Like it's phrasing. It comes down to how your phrase conviction is believable. And unfortunately, that has everything to do with the way you look, the way you talk, the way you carry yourself. And you just need to put that little, little thought in their mind that we know what this actually really could be. I believe in this person's vision. I buy the BS I bought. You need to make them buy the BS because it is BS because no one knows. And I think obviously Norwegians are such truthful and honest people that they might want to say, I can't promise anything, but you need to let hey, we are going to be big. I know we are. I've said that to investors and also failed. And they don't go, Matt, why did you lie to us? They said, "Oh, tough, tough. We're still with you" They're not still with me because I failed on a promise. But they're still with me because I didn't go. Hey, guys. Yeah, I've been. Follow me. I'm going to show you some stuff. Give me your money. And then failed and spent the money on myself or whatever else. No, I really tried. And that is unfortunately what the game is about. Actually, that is fortunately what the game is about. What other industry can you back someone's vision and back someone's heart, back someone's energy, back someone's ability, be part of that journey and learn from it too. It's this beautiful game that we're in.

 

Silvija: Silvija agreed. So we kind of touched on this point of remote work. And you say that you have only lived in Airbnbs for the last 12 months and that includes Barcelona, Lisbon, split Oslo and Cape Town. And this way of living translates also to a new way of working. Can you tell us a little bit more about where you see remote work going?

 

Matt: Fantastic and topical question. Silvija, thanks for asking that one. I've been around. It's a luxury problem that I have. It's enjoyable. I'm not going to lie. But I'm not going to I'm not gonna apologize either, because I've made this happen. I've made my life this way. But how do you work this way? It's a really good question, because I struggle to really get into a flow until I'm sort of comfortable in a setting. I'm not a migratory person I guess. Anyway, when I was in Barcelona I was interviewing the founder guy called Xavi or a founder of a startup, I would say real estate startup called Monday, not Monday, as in that other service that we're all familiar with. But it's like ,for those Norwegians and Oslo based people listening and watching, it's like mesh. It's a network of co-working spaces. They made a really interesting realization because they launched two years before 2020. What happened in 2020? We won't talk about it anymore. And they did the normal thing that startup co-working spaces do. Let's get a prime location, let's make it really cool. Let's make it our own uniqueness. But they all kind of live the same. But we're grateful because they're nice anyway. And they did that and they got two prime locations in the best diagonal in Barcelona and all this kind of stuff, one in Madrid opening and it was succeeding because it's a good way to stay model and they were managing it well, efficiently.

 

Matt: And then what they realized was, they had teams like, for example, Deloitte, Deloitte Digital took like hot, hot desk seats there. They had a big central office say there were 3000 people working at Deloitte in Barcelona. So they had a big central office. It's Deloitte. They have to have Main Street, big sign, big logo, big fancy building, most expensive square footage space. And what Monday did was they looked at those 3000 employees, where do they work? Where do they live? In Barcelona. They're all commuting into the Deloitte office, obviously. Now they're not because we're doing remote parts office space. They realize that it's a heat map. Just to make it simple, if you guys were imagining Oslo, just to make that as an example. So, you just got that kind of ring around the opening of the Fjord by Schulman. They did the heat map of the employees and they said, okay, well, 5% of the rich partners all live in Frogner. So there's only a few living there. They live quite close to the office anyway. They can almost walk. But the vast majority, the bell curve of the normal distribution, are living in gridlock and sometimes up in those neighboring neighborhoods.

 

Matt: And that's obviously a typical trait with any business and any kind of age bracket group demographic in any city around the world. So what they said is that Deloitte obviously has 3000 seats in the center of Barcelona. Now everyone's going remote. They can reduce that office size to 500 and have just a fancy office for meetings and winning over new clients. And instead of starting new co-working spaces in the city center because no one's commuting in as often anymore, they started creating these little cluster like satellite co-working spaces where those 2000 other employees are living, and created three smaller co-working spaces there. So they went against the logic of typical co-working spaces and said, instead of building a co-working space in the city center, let's build three in the most populated neighborhoods of our client Deloitte, and give all those people a office effectively to go to that they can effectively walk to from home, meaning that they don't have to commute in to go to the office. But let's be honest, if you have kids and things like that, you need to get out for a day or two, right? You need to have someone to go to, whether it's just for social interactions or it's actually to work with other colleagues. So that's where I see the future of work going from a remote work perspective that co-working companies are now going to be fighting not for the high street best locations.

 

Matt: They're going to be fighting for the beachfront. They're going to be fighting for your neighbor's house to turn that into a co-working space, because now everyone in that catchment area, like within a three, 400 meters, 500 meters, can go to that co-working space from that business because that business has bought a bunch of seats there, meaning that they don't have to store, don't have to commute. I can still go pick my kids up whenever I need or do whatever I want to do. Get the groceries, dry cleaning, whatever in my life entails, walk the dog, go home for lunch. But I can still go work in an environment that is actually engineered and geared for work. Not retrofitted, like where I'm sitting right now. I've tried to make this into an office where I'm looking at a beautiful view which is hard to not look at because this ocean is right behind my laptop right now. So I hope I made my point there that co-working and remote work is going to move where coworking is going to be decentralized and urbanized and people are going to be wanting to go to co-working spaces down the road, not downtown in the center of town anymore.

 

Silvija: I have to build on that. I live in a kind of a weird dream of a house looking at the sea, as well as a host of ladybugs on my window for some reason. So there must be some luck coming my way soon! And I think actually putting up co-working spaces somewhere close to good transportation would be absolutely amazing. And you know, we worked in Lørn for three years now from our home. We need an office at least one or two days a week simply to see each other and chat about all the other stuff that you can't get to in a team meeting. And I think this hybrid way of working where we've mixed our personal lives with our work lives, there is no going back, but we need to have some sort of a physical meeting point. I think it's going to be super relevant and super interesting. And for Norway, this whole idea of creating something like that in the mountains where maybe people will go to their cottages. But it's wonderful to be able to go skiing a couple of days, a couple of hours every day. But you still want to have the feeling of an office rather than being in your log cabin. I think that's such a big opportunity now for distributing work in this country. And I hope somebody gets on to the idea now. I agree.

 

Matt: Because we all are innately herd animals. We are so having us working in an environment where other people are working in that work environment, actually, at least for me and I know that's not true for everyone, everyone's subjective. Some love this, some some hate it. But I really work at my highest level when I go into a co-working space of some kind, 1 to 3 days a week. I will work better there than I work here, even though I'm managing my time the same. I just really enjoy being around people that are working. I absorb that energy. Maybe that's my personality type, but I know that I'm not alone and I think that everyone will benefit from a blend to have the choice. The dream is to have the choice. That is the beauty of human success. Your success in life allows you to choose things and to have convenience. We've all been given that. So I think we should have the choice.

 

Silvija: There's a really interesting article I was just reading by McKinsey a couple of days ago saying that there is actually a huge turnover. And the companies that are most successful in keeping their best employees still on, the best employees are the first ones to leave if they don't like the setup, are the companies that have this flexibility choice that are the ones that do the top pickings.

 

Matt: Exactly. Make people feel free. Make people feel that they choose their decisions instead of having to beg for holidays and beg for this. And I always hated that mentality because I typically always had my own businesses or worked alone. But maybe it's my issue with authority. I'm not sure having to ask permission all the time is good. I don't know. I just don't enjoy having to do that. And I feel like if you have the flexibility to go and work in a space that's been provided for you and you feel like you own your own time, loyalty levels grow. And I've experienced that with my own businesses, with my own employees, that I'm a very lenient boss and that I'm like, "Yeah, I mean, of course, of course, of course you can do that. I trust you". I've been proven wrong, but for the most part, I've been proven right.

 

Silvija: So we have about 5 minutes left. Going back to maybe your issue with authority, I'd like to get to that. The reason I'm fascinated is I'm wondering about two things. One is this future of leadership, if you would like to say a few words about that. So how do you lead in such a decentralized setting physically but also functionally, if it's not to become an anarchy?

 

Matt: That is the golden million dollar question, isn't it? I don't have an answer that is probably going to add any value. However, I'll say this that I personally always believe in leading by example and leading with trust because trust is the only reason.  If you go back in time. Offices were created as they are because they come from why schools were created. Schools were created to create workers for the factories. That's why they set the timing. The same 9 to 5 and made them wear uniforms. Authority was then to prove that you don't fight against the leader. If you go back even further in history, what authority came from the landowner? I, Lord Matthew Smith, own this land and you all work for me. And they could all uprise, and they did very rarely. But those are like civil wars. Why did the majority never uprise against the minority? Because of this form of authority that was created, whether it be from a royal perspective. But this has just been ingrained through society to where we are today, and that's a business needs to have everyone sitting on a floor working together. Of course, now we don't think it's for that reason, but it is that we know people are working because we're paying them to do that work.

 

Matt: So how do you trump this? How do you get rid of this ingrained generational chain? I call it a generational change. They get passed on from each generation. I think it's simply about trust. And the only way you gain trust is to earn trust. And the only way you earn trust is to give trust and be proven wrong or proven right. So leading by example is the way to do it, by giving people, Hey, I trust you. And obviously there are good eggs and there are bad eggs, but I guarantee you, if you open a box of eggs, 12, one might be bad and 11 will be good. So we just have to unfortunately learn the hard way by giving people that trust from the beginning and saying, Hey, Silvija, I believe and I trust you. We're going full remote. Let's see what happens. We're going to figure out the problems as we go, but that's when communication becomes so much more important and that's when obviously you need to have a leader that is easy to communicate to, easy to get to, easy to approach, not being too stiff upper lip and coming from a generation of the fifties where a leader was someone that was shunned upon and scared of.

 

Silvija: I hear you. And at the same time, I'm struggling at the moment because we have this very decentralized organization. And I think that it's wonderful and you can have a lot of trust but in the end the same two people end up doing all the work. But I think you're onto something very central when you talk about communication, because I think that communication needs to be directional, not functional. So we are very good at saying, well, this is the plan and this is how you do it, but I think explaining to people why you want to do something and maybe giving them a couple of examples of what good looks like. And then being very kind of continuous about checking that you're on the right track, correct? It's incredibly difficult when you yourself don't know exactly where you're going.

 

Matt: I love that you gave that example because I also question you. You said there are two people in the group that still do all the work. Is that really because they're doing all the work or is that because they can't give up the responsibility for others to do it right because it's not on their timeline. So they're like, No one's doing it, so I'm just going to do it because I've definitely had a problem and I've struggled with honestly thinking that I'm surrounded by idiots and only because I'm judging their output on my timeline. But I've given them the freedom to do it with a deadline. So it really comes down to communicating, as you said, clear direction about what is the deadline, when do I need what delivered? When do I need what delivered? Because I might think you're going to give me a presentation of 12 slides and you might give me five bullet points defined. But how you got to the five bullet points, we might do the same way and it might be the same answer, but the way that I envisage the communication of information. It's not the way that you envisage it. You might be right. You're doing the 8020 rule, right, 20% effort in 80% output, which is correct.

 

Matt: I might be thinking, no, I want to see something pretty because I come from a consulting background. So to land on that just at its core, which is a beautiful thing that you said as well, I've learned one thing which was actually at the beginning of COVID when I got called by the European Commission to host all these live shows for them. I did 150 live broadcasts, and seven weeks after that I didn't know I was getting into that, but it was an amazing, incredible experience. And what came with that was me, one professional getting put into a group with a bunch of other high performing professionals, all outstanding at what they did. But no one had ever done this before. No one had a clear idea of who was really owning it. So people were making mistakes. So what we realized was we paused for a second and we said, "Hey, everyone is outstanding. And that's why they've all been called to do this. This is like the A-Team having been called to put this together. We need to be empathetic with everyone. Do not judge anyone here right now on this project. That's their professionalism because everyone is doing this for the first time".

 

Matt: So I think actually, as you said, with your example of everyone going remote, maybe not yourself because you guys have been doing it for a while, but for others, other organizations, there needs to be this thing that not everyone has the answer. If the boss says, this is what we're doing, the boss also could be trying something and we shouldn't hold that boss to the point because the boss isn't the best boss that's ever lived, because no one is until they are the best boss that's ever lived. Everyone's learning and evolving. And if you ask the best boss that's ever lived, they'd say they're still learning and evolving. So I think there's one human element we should take from 2020, which is to have empathy for everyone and understand, hey, if your boss is the person that is giving the direction and they give bad direction, fine. Don't say, "Oh, this place is a shit show. I can't work here and the bosses don't know what they're doing." Instead say, "All right, well, they're trying to figure it out, but maybe I've learned from someone else a better idea and is having that dialogue." So that's where the communication comes in to say, "Hey, this is working, this isn't working, but not like, Oh, this is not working."

 

Matt: It's like, "Hey, I don't think this is lucky for me. Let's open the conversation to a positive thing." Instead of like, "Oh God, you know, the bosses or I'm messing up." Anyway, my point is empathy, empathy, empathy, empathy. That's a really important thing to do and have those conversations as early as possible. We could have done that on that project if we knew earlier. I would say in hindsight we should have said, "Hey, everyone, just chill. You know, we're all going to do the best job we can. Don't be angry with people. Don't F and blind and who said what, when? Why was it not done?." Let's just be empathetic and let's just talk to each other like, "Hey, Silvija. Yeah? I didn't get that project from you on Friday. That's fine. Was the deadline too soon? What can we help you with?" And then you're saying, "Matt, so sorry. Actually not sorry because I'm confused about what I'm doing. I didn't even get it." Oh, there you go. Simple solution. We're all friends in this. We're all human beings. Why do we have to hold everyone so accountable with a gun against their head for projects that really don't matter?

 

Silvija: I think that's a good practice for all of us. Perhaps after Corona.

 

Matt: Yeah.

 

Silvija: So it was really a pleasure talking to you. I hope you enjoy Cape Town for a while and then you come back to us in Norway and help us create our innovation opia.

 

Matt: I love it. Innovation, We're going to coin that. You and me, Silvija. I love it. Tooth and Puck. Yale School of Law. So I will definitely be back. You will never get rid of me. Trust me. And thank you for watching and listening, everyone. Thank you, Julie, for organizing. And, Silvija, you are fantastic. I'm so glad I finally got to have a chat with you.

 

Silvija: It was wonderful talking to you as well, Matt. Thank you.

 

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Quiz for Case #C1097

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C1097 LØRNSOC The future of remote work - and unicorns - med Matthew Smith

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In Matt’s view of Norway as a venture country he highlights?

2 / 3

Matts stated that Norway is coming into the second round of entrepreneurial cycle success – compared to San Francisco that is on its 10 round. How many years does the cycle take on average to be completed by businesses (before it increases)?

3 / 3

In 2020 Matt sold his company – but what was it called?

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