Why I have a portfolio career, as a Venture Capitalist

By Fusion by Fresco Capital,

By Eriko Suzuki, Partner at Fresco Capital

I am a portfolio worker and a Venture Capitalist.

I am both Partner at Fresco Capital, a mission focused global early stage startup investor and Director at Mistletoe’s Investment Group, a social impact investor founded by Taizo Son, the younger brother of Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son.

As we all know, new ways of work have been evolving. The financial crisis which occurred exactly 10 years ago, propelled employers to look for lower cost labor and employees to think more flexibly, and their needs were matched and enabled through the development of digital platforms. Today, we not only see freelancers who work from project to project, but also parallel workers or portfolio workers who take on multiple tasks and roles simultaneously. Such ways of work are now more proactively embraced by millennials and generation z cohorts who value work flexibility.

Yet, even in the US and Silicon Valley, I have not come across a fellow portfolio worker or “contributor” type Venture Capitalist.

How did I get here?

I personally “strumbled” (a combination of struggling, hustling and stumbling) into this portfolio worker career, through my journey to find meaningful work whilst also raising a family.

I started my career in investment banking as I wanted to acquire business skills to one day build a socially impactful enterprise. I also had my first child and worked banking hours whilst raising him, but eventually decided to join a large global luxury retail company for more manageable hours. However, the 9–5 arrangement put me on a “mommy track”, and I felt unable to gain the deep operational experience to one day launch that social enterprise. So I jumped on the opportunity to bring a US drone startup to Japan as country manager.

Then, as the startup pivoted and I searched for my next “gig”, I stumbled upon Mistletoe, a social impact VC at which I could combine my skills in finance and technology to support socially impactful businesses.

It was finally finding this ideal job, that gave me the impetus or a no more excuses attitude, to make things work. At the time of my joining, Mistletoe did not have any employees working flexible hours etc., but I set about to make such a culture.

This experience lead me to write my book, “How we live will be how we work” (Daiwashobo, 2018), in which one of the key message is to find work that you are passionate about, and make work work.

Soon after, I also joined Fresco, to further pursue all of my passions, and become a portfolio worker VC. At Fresco, I am able to support mission driven global minded entrepreneurs through a more traditional VC investing model and also help bring about large scale change by helping our investors which are large corporations better embrace technology and innovation.

Why portfolio working is the future

I am truly grateful that Fresco and Mistletoe appreciate me for walking the walk as an investor in future of work trends, and I personally swear by this portfolio worker VC career.

It was on a recent panel at a Tech in Asia conference, that I became even more convinced.

The panel was on “Japan’s startup ecosystem” and as we were joined by the Chief Strategy Officer of a large VC firm and early investor of Mercari, a flea market platform which recently went public only 5 years after its establishment with a $3.6bn market cap, we had all anticipated to talk about “hot” investment trends or latest exits, etc.

Instead, we spent 30 minutes talking about people and one of the key points of the panel was that “winners” like Mercari is increasingly hiring portfolio workers. The best people are often already hired, but can be convinced to join other projects on a part time basis, and such people contribute significant value even in a this part time capacity.

In fact, attracting such multitalented polymaths through attractive work environments, is the key to growth and success, even for all of Japan’s innovation ecosystem.

Companies or projects which do not allow their employees to work flexibly and do not hire portfolio workers will see their demise as they will further and further be disabled to hire and attract talent.

We are in a world where the winners-take-all the best talent.

(Our lively panel at Tech in Asia Tokyo)

I also thought this can be true for the ones being hired as well.

Recently, I have been contemplating taking on yet another portfolio work, particularly in the crypto/blockchain space which I am also passionate about.

Very luckily, I have received several offers to join exciting teams and projects even in my part time capacity. Extrapolating from my lucky scenario, I wondered if we are entering an era in which a few highly qualified individuals will hold multiple portfolio roles at multiple organizations, while others may not even be able to get a single role.

Multi-hired individuals will enjoy a network effect of sorts, because through their multiple roles, they can accumulate more networks, connections, and information which will also enable them to be more sensitive to the winds of the market and acquire the best and most updated know-how and skills.

On the contrary, individuals working on only one role might have less opportunities to update their skills and thus can more easily become irrelevant or outdated.

The hired get more hired.

A winners-take-all-jobs world.

(My image of a winner takes all world of talent and of jobs)

Of course, there is a finite number of portfolio work one person can take on, at least with the current state of human augmentation tech. Nevertheless, while we shun the giant Amazons and Facebooks today (and hence my fascination with blockchain decentralized technologies which help to disintermediate such forces), we may indeed enter the era of GAFA of people instead.

Whilst I prefer to see a world in which almost everyone is involved in several projects across the globe which are most fitting to them, which are relatively evenly disperesed and equitably decentralized, we may indeed see “superpeople” who become contributors to multiple projects and even run companies, foundations, build products, designing, etc. all at the same time all to themselves.

How to be a portfolio worker

So what should we do?

The message is simple.

Start flexing your portfolio worker muscles sooner rather than later.

Start small, as indeed juggling multiple roles is not easy and context switching requires focus and self-discipline. One could even start for probono projects or by working on small moonlighting hobby passion projects

I am also still learning and iterating these processes.

However, I believe one of the most important skills are open and active communication.

I personally strive to have open and real time communication on job descriptions and KPIs.

Open and transparent communication is also important in clarifying access to information. In lieu of bureaucratic red tape and overzealous firewalls, we can cultivate a culture for respecting security and confidentiality. For my personal case, I openly communicate to our portfolio companies that I work for more than one VC and that should they feel any conflicts or concerns, I will seek their guidance and thoughts.

One might also think that heavy self promotion and branding is necessary for portfolio work.

Though it may be true, I am an introvert and often feel very uncomfortable doing such things, so instead I try to be hyper-authentic. I openly express both perhaps my strengths but also my weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and luckily, I have found that this has lead to building more sincere networks and long-lasting relationships.

Finally again, I am still learning, and am bound to make mistakes.

However, I also try to embrace this fact. We are all pioneers in this new way of work.

And as I say “we”, I hope to connect to more people in this way of work.

If you are a closeted portfolio worker VC please reach out.

Additionally, we at Fresco invest globally in the future of work, so if you find such platforms for the future, which I would imagine will be decentralized and equitable platforms which highlight each individual’s unique skillsets and experiences and connect them to projects globally, please also reach out!

(Ending with my book. Cover artwork by Tomoko Yamashita.

An image of an opening inviting to another space, or is it a guiding minaret?)


Why I have a portfolio career, as a Venture Capitalist was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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AI Powered Robots are now a Thing

By Stephen Forte,

At CES earlier this month there was a lot on display including a jetpack, a holographic wall, a 65'’ TV that rolled up when you are not using it, and full sized drones that folded up and fit in your (cargo) pocket. What stood out for me was the robotics section. These robots really stood out because they were powered by artificial intelligence, or AI.

Robots are defined by first being able to sense, then compute the inputs of those sensors, and lastly actuate based on the results of those computations. Sounds fancy, but the elevator at the Aria Hotel at CES is considered a robot as it has sensors to see how full the elevator is, computes the weight limits, and acts by skipping floors if the elevator is “full” all while sending a new elevator car to the floors it skipped. No AI involved, just a robot using data to respond to a set of pre-defined instructions.

AI typically doesn't have any physical presence other than the supercomputer that it runs on. Twenty years ago, IBM’s Deep Blue defeated reigning chess champion Garry Kasparov, however, it was a computer telling a human what moves to make on its behalf (no different than you interacting with Siri or Alexa on your phone.)

Not much changed when 20 years later, Google/DeepMind’s AlphaGo defeated Lee Sedol in the Chinese game of Go (significant as the amount of moves compared to chess are astronomical.) Again, you had a supercomputer AI being controlled by a human.

What makes the robots at CES so compelling is that they combine robotics and AI. While in the movies for decades, this is a relatively new concept. Most robots just react to a set of pre-determined instructions based on data collected by their sensors (including self-driving cars, they just have a really, really sophisticated set of instructions and sensors).

The first robot that caught my eye was Omron’s AI powered robot playing ping pong against attendees of CES. While this is a cute example, the AI would read your facial expressions, body language, and other surroundings as well as use sensors to track the ball and react to the shot . If you are a level 1 player, the robot will play you at a level 1 skillset, if you are level 100 player, the robot will play you at the level 100 skillset. No human standing in for Omron.

Sure, robots playing ping pong are cute, but why is this important? Omron has no intention to enter their robot in the Olympics, however, their pick and place machine could very well take over every factory in the world, doing QA better than humans on the assembly line using a robotic AI.

Another pick and place AI robot, built buy Soft Robotics, can be controlled remotely by in a web browser or mobile app, allowing the factory managers to be replaced remotely as well as line workers.

The robots were not limited to the factory floor or the ping pong table, but also in the ocean where Qysea’s Fifish will make decisions that send back digital video.

One Step Closer to Skynet?

Yes.

But while the movies make us fear the Terminator and Skynet, the implications of these robots at CES are far more immediate and real. Millions of jobs will be displaced in the next decade due to AI. While I’m bullish on the long term employment opportunities, the short term will be chaotic at best.

All the systems that power the world are not equipped to handle the future that is being ushered in by technology. Be it the SEC responding to cryptocurrency, cable news responding to Donald Trump, the FDA responding to digital health startups, or Universities trying to prepare our youth, we need to take a hard look what powers society and take action. Else Skynet will take over…


AI Powered Robots are now a Thing was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

2 Inspiring Educators with Lessons About Learning for Everyone

By Tytus Michalski,

At the recent Yidan Prize Summit, I had a chance to hear from Professor Carol S. Dweck and Vicky Colbert who were chosen as the first ever Laureates of this award. It’s about time that the top education practitioners are treated as superstars, though they were both extremely humble despite all the attention.

Vicky Colbert is the founder and director of Fundación Escuela Nueva. With roots in rural Colombia from 1975, her practical approach has been changing lives ever since. As one person commented during the awards video of classrooms using the philosophy: “the kids look so happy!”

The most well known work of Professor Carol S. Dweck of Stanford is about psychological mindset, especially the difference between a growth and a fixed mindset. As the awards event made clear, her overall contribution and influence in terms of both ideas and implementation across education is both broad and deep.

Importantly, their speeches and discussion contained lessons for us all — here are some of my key takeaways from their talks over the two day event.

1. Education of children transforms society today, not just in the future

It’s obvious that our children will one day be the leaders of society and so by definition education is key to transforming the future. But the message from the two Laureates is that children can be agents of change for society today — right now. Under this approach, children are proactive participants in social reform. Vicky gave an example of how children were important participants for improving healthcare awareness and treatment in rural parts of Colombia.

2. Expanding the status quo is not the goal

Governments love to talk about how they are spending more money on education. The unfortunate problem is that simple expansion of the current system is not the answer. The global education system has badly lagged changes in the rest of society. More of the public and private sector investment should be focused on better, not simply bigger.

3. The right to learn is global — across culture, religion, race

A clear message from the Yidan Prize event was the universal importance of education across all traditional boundaries of culture, religion, and race. Of course there are always local nuances when it comes to implementation but the core desire to learn and right to learn transcend barriers.

4. Problem solving focus

When asked about what the goal of learning and education should be, the answers from Carol and Vicky emphasized solving practical problems in today’s world. That has absolutely been our philosophy at Fresco Capital and I hope we have more students, educators, and parents who embrace this goal.

5. Co-operative learning and teamwork

If we aspire to have leaders of society who understand the benefits of co-operation, wouldn’t it make sense to start that habit at a young age? Both Laureates highlighted the power of team based learning in contrast to the traditional emphasis on individual performance. They also led by example by exploring collaboration opportunities across their respective areas of focus during the conference.

6. Teacher and student roles should change

The role of teachers needs to change. To be clear, the message is not about replacing teachers with technology. Instead, students should be more active learners. This then allows teachers to support and listen to children as they learn.

7. Test theories in real life

There are many elegant theories about learning and education. Both of these educators are consistent in their rigorous approach to use real life for testing theories. They are not content with ideas alone — the focus is tangible outcomes and results.

8. Opportunity to think big

The most inspiring lesson was to see these very successful leaders accept their awards, and then very quickly focus on thinking bigger for an even larger impact on society. Far from being content and satisfied, their curiosity and determination remains unwavering.

The first Yidan Prize Laureates set a high bar for everyone else involved in learning and education (which technically includes all of us). If we each reach just a fraction of their impact, we have the potential to create an exponential positive compound effect for generations into the future.


2 Inspiring Educators with Lessons About Learning for Everyone was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Capitalism 2.0

By Stephen Forte,

How a New Era of Business Reponds to Changes in Markets, Demographics, and Technolgy with Profits and a Mission

By: Stephen Forte and Gretta Whalen

Image courtesy of Nokero, Inc

Note: this is an abridged version, download the full white paper here.

Introduction

The monumental advances of the last century — the automobile, the airplane, the personal computer and mobile phone, and the Internet — can almost certainly be attributed to a regulation of supply and demand by Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand.” The father of capitalism proposed the theory in 1776, positing that “enlightened self-interest” naturally produces the best outcomes for all. The notion of choice under scarcity (supply and demand) went unquestioned until recently, as the market has been experiencing a slow but cataclysmic shift. More products are digital and experiential; they’re comprised of bits and bytes and stored in the cloud, not assembled in factories and sold in stores. The march of progress has rendered our concept of supply and demand obsolete.

Even more recently, British economist Ronald Coase posited that it’s in a company’s best interest to expand and become a “firm” — a vast entity owned collectively by shareholders — in order to lower their costs and increase efficiency. Nearly four decades later, Michael Jensen and Dean William Meckling’s 1976 paper “Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure” led, indirectly, to a period of corporate growth in which shareholders shaped the effects of capitalism and customers were often overlooked and underserved.

Consequently, capitalism — a system intended to meet demands and dispense opportunities — served the greater good with less and less efficacy. Management focused on increasing shareholder wealth (as well as their own) and societies eased into an era of abundance. Desperate to increase shareholder benefits and secure their positions, executives acted against their broader self-interests and ended up harming their customers, their employees, the world’s most vulnerable populations, and themselves.

Meanwhile, a massive decline in regulation (beginning in the 1970s and continuing in the 1990s) pshed society toward economic instability through a series of smaller scale booms and recessions. The steady evolution of technology protected society largely from a great depression, but since that same technology is rendering the theories of Smith and Coase obsolete, we’re approaching a tipping point. The decline of the spirit of capitalism is reverberating slowly, but surely, around the world, drawing the ire of its usual critics, and prompting the strong commentary of more unexpected voices, too.

Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home

In 2015, Pope Francis wrote a groundbreaking encyclical entitled, “Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home.” It’s a detailed censure of humanity’s collective failure to care for the environment while pursuing capitalistic interests, the effects of which have only hastened a global, and potentially catastrophic, climate crisis.

His Holiness’s letter is somber, but not without optimism. He begins and ends with a plea to begin a new conversation about the future of the planet, one that includes everyone, because it affects everyone. It’s a clarion call, an appeal to the entire human family — and young people in particular — to cooperate in an effort to “redress the damage caused by human abuse” and offer solutions to the “sufferings of the excluded.”

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development,” he said. “For we know that things can change.”

Pope Francis wasn’t the first of his faith to plead with humanity to be more mindful of the planet and the human family that inhabits it. In the 1970s, Pope Benedict asked believers to “recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless.” Bartholomew pointed to the ethical and spiritual implications of environmental problems, advising that we replace “consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing.

The Laudato Si’ coincided with a watershed moment: capitalism is at a crossroads. Previously focused only on shareholders and profit margins, not consumers, faltering businesses have required governments to intervene on behalf of children, workers, the environment, and businesses deemed “too big to fail.” With the new capitalism — Capitalism 2.0 — entrepreneurs are choosing to be driven by both mission and profit. The culture of the firm has been disrupted. The new Gig Economy, driven largely by freelancers, means the firm has a lower survival rate, which leaves more opportunities for startup companies to transform the corporate space.

The principles of Capitalism 2.0 are currently unfolding thanks to The Laudato Si’ Challenge (named by His Eminence Cardinal Turkson and inspired by the November 2016 Right Now! Conference), which is assisting startups as they expand their solutions to the world’s boldest challenges. The challenge includes a call-to-action for businesses to lead the way in care for our common home by protecting the ecological diversity of the Earth and humankind. The Laudato Si’ Challenge is one of a number of strategies to stimulate mission-driven efforts that are addressing threats to humanity like climate change, but is one of the only initiatives that prioritizes social enterprise efforts that are driven to achieve a mission and turn a profit.

The Past

Pope Francis’s encyclical touches on a number of problems resulting from the pursuit of progress that is unfortunately often accompanied by a general disregard for the planet. His holiness mentions the following scourges specifically: pollution, throwaway culture, climate, water, loss of biodiversity, decline in human life, breakdown in society, global inequality, and weak responses to the difficulties at hand. While we’ve made advances in technology, that progress has come at the expense of people living in developing countries. We deplete their natural resources and exports while making no effort to replace them. Meanwhile, the jobs we’ve relied on for generations are getting outsourced or dying out forcing many former workers below the poverty line. Experts such as Roger Martin, author of Fixing the Game, believe this gradual decline started when executives centered their attention on shareholders instead of consumers.

A pervasive emphasis on the expectations market has reduced shareholder value, created misplaced and ill-advised incentives, generated inauthenticity in our executives, and introduced parasitic market players. The moral authority of business diminishes with each passing year, as customers, employees, and average citizens grow increasingly appalled by the behavior of business and the seeming greed of its leaders. At the same time, the period between market meltdowns is shrinking, Capital markets — and the whole of the American capitalist system — hang in the balance.

Thus, the corporate world is plagued by continuing scandals. Executive compensation has increased while corporate performance has declined, and many executives have lost sight of the psychologically and economically rewarding business of creating value.

But that’s all starting to change.

The Present

In its relatively short lifespan, Capitalism 2.0 has emerged with two promising strains: the cross-subsidy model (or 1:1 model), in which consumers can effectively donate a product for every purchase they make, and the mission-driven model.

The 1:1 enterprise model, espoused by TOMS, Warby Parker, Bombas, WeWood, and so many more, has endured its share of criticism for giving humanitarian aid at the expense of economic advancement in the developing world. Still, this model launched a broader interest among business owners in social entrepreneurship, even carving out space for businesses that are not just socially conscious, but propelled entirely by a belief that sustainable solutions for problems like hunger, waste, water, and climate change can be as lucrative as foot-, eye-, and wrist-wear — perhaps even moreso. Enter the mission-driven enterprise, typified by companies like Tesla and the nine startups who are participating in The Laudato Si’ Challenge. These are the representatives of Capitalism 2.0 who embrace double sustainability and are pioneering models that enable solvency for businesses and for humanity as a whole.

Auxiliary virtues of Capitalism 2.0 include transparency and accountability. Johnson & Johnson demonstrated these values during the Tylenol crisis of 1982. Within a week of the first death that came as a result of tampering in the Chicago area, Johnson & Johnson ordered a recall of every single bottle of Tylenol in existence. They put an immediate stop to all production, all advertising. Undoubtedly, the moves came at a tremendous profit loss, but the company credo explicitly names the “first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services. In meeting their needs everything we do must be of high quality.” Putting customers first allowed Johnson & Johnson to survive a devastating tragedy and continue to serve the people who rely on them to manufacture impeccable products.

Similarly, Proctor & Gamble has long abided by a customer-first credo:

We will provide branded products and services of superior quality and value that improve the lives of the world’s consumers, now and for generations to come. As a result, consumers will reward us with leadership sales, profit and value creation, allowing our people, our shareholders and the communities in which we live and work to prosper.

The customer-first philosophy, long considered optional by executives desperate to meet shareholders expectations, is becoming the rule rather than the exception because it’s better for people, and it’s better for pocketbooks.

The Future

Each technological revolution introduces a class of professionals that were unimaginable just a generation before. Workers in the Industrial Revolution couldn’t fathom a world that required automotive technicians, airline pilots, and telephone operators, and members of the Greatest Generation are mystified by professional titles like “Growth Marketer” and “Data Scientist.” Our grandparents came of age in a society that still factored farming into the GDP. Today, there aren’t enough people doing farm work to factor it into unemployment statistics.

Just as farmers from the 1850s couldn’t predict the factories of late 19th century, and how turn of the 20th century manufacturers could foresee changes that would result from auto and aviation industries would, we similarly can’t imagine the jobs that will exist in 25 or 50 years. The Information Age will usher in more jobs than ever before; the nature of those jobs remains to be seen.

As it has for centuries, this turnover will likely produce a painful cycle wherein jobs are lost, replaced, and lost again. The magnitude of the economic turmoil will depend on how disruptive the new technologies are. Artificial intelligence, robotics, and machine learning are profoundly disruptive, which means our communities are experiencing, and will continue to experience, financial discomfort, political unrest, socioeconomic uncertainty. A laid-off coal miner West Virginia can’t fill a software engineering position in Silicon Valley, for instance. These are the people who will need our financial, educational, and emotional support as they gain the skills they need to compete in a new economy.

Nevertheless, history will show that the Information Age was much more constructive than not — and actually became one of the biggest job creators of all time. Moreover, if we place our focus on what consumers need, we can ensure that our entrepreneurial endeavors will be relevant and profitable, and that laborers will find meaning and fulfillment in solving problems for a living, whether on a small or grand scale.

This is the vision of The Laudato Si’ Challenge. Nine startup companies, selected from a set of more than 300 applicants, traveled to the Vatican to refine and accelerate their mission-driven enterprises. Each one endeavors to combat one (or more) of the devastating threats to the world today, at an affordable price.

  • Mandulis Energy — Renewable energy that turns agricultural waste into electricity and clean cooking fuel.
  • Nokero — Efficient solar powered lights to decrease indoor air pollution from kerosene.
  • Smart Yields — An app that allows farmers to have insights into how to grow crops and improve efficiencies of current crops.
  • Rise Products — Upcycles waste from breweries into high protein, low carb, cholesterol free, artisan flour.
  • Aqus — First income-generating water filter that is designed to be affordable to people in developing worlds.
  • Innov8tia — Patented microwave technology that changes toxic sludge into clean water and energy.
  • ProTrash — Pays people for recyclables with cash cards that can only be used for food, medicine, or other necessities.
  • Scooterino — The only ride-share service using scooters in Europe.
  • papr — Creates paperless workflows for enterprises using “File > Print.”

Conclusion

Capitalism 2.0 is just that: capitalism. But instead of prioritizing shareholder value at the cost of efficiency, transparency, and accountability, the new generation of entrepreneurs will prioritize the customer experience first and their broader mission (a close) second. This is not just the most moral way to run a company, it’s also the most profitable.

The ushering in of Capitalism 2.0 will not be without turbulence. There will be disruption, as there always is when society moves from one technological phase to the next. Some jobs will disappear. Some workers will be displaced. But as the New Era of Business supersedes the shareholder driven status quo, it will find novel ways to serve its customers, and better ways to educate, train, and utilize its workers.

Meanwhile, The Laudato Si’ Challenge will provide funding and mentoring for the young entrepreneurs who are answering the Pope’s clarion call to care better for our common home, Earth, and its most vulnerable people. Today, this approach to business is still novel. In ten years, it will be standard practice. And hopefully, the next generation will never imagine that Capitalism was done any other way.


Capitalism 2.0 was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Rise of Capitalism 2.0

By Stephen Forte,
Photo via StockSnap

For the last 200-plus years, capitalism has essentially been guided by one central tenet: delivering the most value to shareholders as possible.

Capitalism, of course, is not perfect.

So while companies scrambled to increase value for their shareholders, they did all sorts of atrocious things — forcing the government (or unions) to intervene on behalf of the citizenry.

In 1938, for example, the Fair Labor Standards Act became the law of the land, ostensibly outlawing child labor. In 1970, along came the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which was designed to improve workplace conditions. The Family and Medical Leave Act became law in 1993, enabling workers to take extended breaks from their jobs for medical and family reasons without having to worry about becoming unemployed. There have also been laws passed to regulate the environment and prevent securities fraud.

The list goes on and on.

Focusing on the Wrong Thing

When companies are guided solely by maximizing shareholder value, management tends to focus on the wrong thing.

This is why you get Enron-style scandals, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the tech overlords spying on you and other booms and busts that end up wiping out everyone’s savings.

This is also why you get United dragging people off of planes.

There must be a better way forward.

Something Needs to Change

Capitalism, as it’s currently conceived, is far from perfect. Something needs to change — and everybody understands this.

This is why Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump — who actually had very similar messages — were so popular last election cycle. Both were a reaction to what is broken with the traditional model.

Capitalism is great — don’t get me wrong. But the misguidedness of focusing exclusively on maximizing shareholder value is what is broken.

Here’s where Bernie and others at war with capitalism get it wrong: Instead of focusing on the entire philosophy, they should be focusing on the shareholder value part of the equation.

Capitalism 2.0

I believe we’re in the middle of a defining moment. Capitalism is evolving into what I call Capitalism 2.0.

Capitalism 2.0 is straight up capitalism — but with a twist. Instead of focusing solely on shareholder value, companies operating under this model will prioritize the customer experience first and their contributions to society second.

By focusing on these two areas, shareholder value will automatically increase.

This is the philosophy of the Laudato Si’ Challenge accelerator, which I’m happy to be a part of.

We accepted nine startups that not only are going to get rich by focusing on the customer, they will add enormous social value doing so.

It’s truly a win-win-win for everyone involved — and even those who aren’t.

Ultimately, I envision a world where all companies operate this way.

Right now, it’s mostly just the startups built by the younger generation that are focusing on more than mere profits.

But give it 10 years.

Don’t be surprised when you look around and see that every company — even the ones that have been around forever — is operating similarly.


The Rise of Capitalism 2.0 was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

AI Will (Not) Steal All Your Jobs

By Stephen Forte,
Photo by PixaBay User: GDJ

Thomas Malthus was the original proponent of the notion that there will be no jobs and no food in the future — and he made this prediction all the way back in the late 1700’s.

However, his wasn’t a prophecy of intelligent robots stomping out the little guy, but instead a commentary on the impending economic juggernaut that was the machine age.

“The industrial revolution will automate all the jobs and nobody will have anything to do!” he said. And really, can you knock the man for his anxious foretelling?

Back in the 1700’s, farming was virtually the entire economy. If they calculated GDP, farming would have been like 90% of GDP. Our friend Thomas was just reading the writing on the wall. His only mistake was being epically, embarrassingly wrong.

The industrial revolution was the greatest job creation engine of all time.

It created jobs that were unimaginable only 30 years earlier — much in the same way that Web Designers, Growth Marketers, and Data Scientists, were all unimaginable occupations 30 years ago. In fact, so many people all over the world switched from farm work to industrial work that today, farming isn’t a factor in a developed nation’s GDP and is left out of unemployment statistics. It literally got written out of the books.

Time marches on though.

Now we are exiting the Industrial Revolution and teetering on the cusp of truly entering the Information Age, a brand new era powered by connectivity and this big group of little people you keep reading about called Millennials.

And with this new era, again, the naysayers have come out in droves warning us to be wary of these new machines that want all our jobs.

Now sure, self-driving cars will eliminate the taxi (and Uber) driver, and machine learning will take away software developer jobs. Robots will serve coffee, iPads will teach our children, and I’ll be able to use a tricorder instead of going to the doctor. These are the things we’ve been promised.

So nobody will have a job in the future, right?

Well, hang on.

Just as our farmer from the 1800’s couldn’t have imagined the factory that he’d be working at in the next decade, or how someone from the early 1900’s couldn’t have imagined how the auto and aviation industries would dramatically shrink the world, or even how someone from 2000 couldn’t have imagined the digital marketing jobs that exist today, we similarly can’t imagine the jobs that will exist in 25 or 50 years.

The Information Age will usher in more jobs than humanity has ever seen before. We just don’t know what they will be yet.

Keep in mind though, that these jobs will come in a cycle — as they have for centuries. First jobs will be lost, and then they will be replaced a few times over. The magnitude of this progression is dependent on how disruptive the technology is — and AI, robotics, machine learning — these things are going to be exceptionally disruptive.

So sure, in the short term we will witness tremendous pain. We already are to some extent, and it’s causing a great divide to open within our country, and around the world.

Just as a laid off coal miner in Pennsylvania or an unemployed auto worker in Detroit can’t move to Silicon Valley and fill the open engineering roles out here, unskilled labor in central Britain can’t move to fill the tech jobs in London.

What do these things (partially) lead to? One has orange hair and the other has made it way cheaper to travel to England.

So yes, there will be tremendous upheaval of the status quo as we transition away from jobs that have sustained many over the past century — and those people will need assistance, not just financially, but also emotionally. Furthermore, they will need a new education to bestow them with the skills required to be competitive in the new economy.

Nevertheless, in the long term — say 50 years from now — we will look back and see that the Information Age was not the harbinger of humanity’s gainfully-employed doom, but instead a revolution that went on to become the new most powerful job creation engine of all time.


AI Will (Not) Steal All Your Jobs was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Why Everything Will Be Disrupted — And What Your Startup Can Do to Win

By Fusion by Fresco Capital,

Taken together, the evolution of technology, macroeconomic trends, and political shifts all point to the same conclusion: We’re nearing the end of a cycle. It’s only a matter of time before the industrial age disappears altogether, giving rise to the information age.

As we become even more submerged in this new fast-paced digital age, it’s becoming increasingly clear that everything will be disrupted sooner or later — even doctors and lawyers.

In the past, the old rules of economies centered on the concept of “choice under scarcity” — which is how “supply and demand” became a phrase everyone knows. But things are changing in the new economy. Now, it’s about “choice under abundance.”

Customers — in every sense of the word — have more choices than ever before. Consumers can compare a ton of brands in a few minutes, and companies have their pick of freelancers and contractors on a project-by-project basis.

For this reason, the job market is shaping up to be dramatically different in the coming years. In many ways, the gig economy is already here. But by 2020, experts predict as many as half of U.S. workers will be freelancers.

Beyond the change in the job market, we can also expect international barriers to break down further thanks to new technologies. Syrian refugees, for example, were able to get across Europe and find their neighbors and families thanks to smartphones, Facebook, and WhatsApp.

How can companies survive this changing business, technological, and economic landscape?

How Startups Can Win

Succeeding in this new age requires an immersion in the technologies and understanding of the economic implications inherent in the information age. Quite simply, companies need to prepare for disruption because it’ll happen sooner or later. Don’t hide behind regulation (e.g., San Francisco). You’ll eventually get burned.

If you’re a startup, go attack the areas where regulation meets technologies. While venture capitalists used to not invest in these battleground areas, that’s precisely where the opportunity lies these days.

Case in point? Uber, which is now valued at $80 billion.

The company lives in gray areas. In the early days, there was an argument as to whether the ridesharing company should be able to pick up and drop off customers at New York City-area airports. After the New York City Taxi Commission said that Uber shouldn’t be able to serve airports because drivers were uninsured, Uber ponied up money to get their drivers insured and cover costs associated with legal representation.

What’s more, when Mayor Bill de Blasio was threatening to cap the number of drivers Uber could have in New York City, the company released a feature on its app that showed how long it would take to hail an Uber if the proposal succeeded. De Blasio eventually capitulated. Uber had too much support to fight.

It seems quite plausible that the successful companies of tomorrow will all have an Uber-like policy that toes the line and tests regulations — giving customers what they want before politicians can take it away from them for the sake of the status quo.

Change Is Everywhere

Ten years ago, who would have thought that the restaurant industry could be drastically changed by technology? But here we are. There are manytablet-driven restaurants. As any restaurant owner knows, margins are tight. The use of tablets lessens operating expenses and reduces the frequency of errors.

Technology has also disrupted the coffee shop (well, at least Starbucks). Though in my opinion the Starbucks app leaves a lot to be desired, I still use it because it beats waiting in line.

Thanks to outsourcing software and platforms, higher-end jobs — like design specification managers and systems architects — are becoming increasingly available. This is great news for workers and companies alike. Engaged on-demand talent is closer than you think.

The economy has changed; this is your new way of looking at it. The more prepared you are for disruption — and certainly the more aggressively you pursue the opportunity to be the disruptor — the more likely your company will live to see brighter days.

Photo by flickr user Tsahi Levent-Levi

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