For the da Vincis of Our Time*
During the past 18 months, I have discussed with hundreds of founders, investors, and operators. It has been inspiring to hear how well you have adapted to this new reality. For some of you, adaptation has unfortunately meant adversity, while, for many others, it has only implied acceleration. Most impressively though, I’m yet to meet an entrepreneur for whom it’s meant giving up.
The past 18 months have also proven just how fast previously rigid processes can be transformed. From the age-old backbone of the modern organization, its office, to the fundraising process, which hadn’t changed much since Don Valentine wrote his first checks in the early 70s, we’ve proven that things can – and in many cases should – be done differently.
Despite all the benefits of remote collaboration, I dare say many of us feel that something is lacking. We miss being surrounded by others who share the intense struggle of building a company. We long for the thrill of a serendipitous bump-in that could change the trajectory of our business. We resent how even the best virtual meeting curtails who we are and what we want to convey.
In short, we miss the human connection. This is the first reason for us to gather our community safely for Slush 2021.
Secondly, from the Black Death to the Spanish Flu and World Wars, times of crisis have provided fertile ground for systemic change. Right now, we’re in desperate need of such a leap. Up to about 1999, there was every reason to believe that human progress accelerated. With each passing year, humans got better, faster, and more resource-efficient at creating anew. Looking at the past 20 years, this becomes less clear.
Just consider the following examples:
- In 1996, commercial flights crossed the Atlantic in 3 hours. Today, that same journey takes 6-7 hours.
- Healthcare costs have skyrocketed around the Western world (particularly the US), yet human life expectancy is increasing no faster than before.
- In the natural sciences and engineering, every indicator of total investment – including public funding, PhDs granted, and research papers published – has increased many times over in the past half a century; yet, scientists rank today’s Nobel Prize-winning discoveries far less revolutionary than those of the 1960s and 70s.
At the same time, from climate change to radicalization and pandemics, we as humanity face more existential threats than we ever have. In fact, I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating when I say that our actions over the next decade will determine the course of humanity for generations to come. As they always have, entrepreneurs using technology to build scalable solutions will be at the core of creating the solutions that humanity needs.
However, to fully harness the power of young companies in pursuit of progress and put humanity back on a trajectory of exceptional strides, we need to reimagine how entrepreneurship works. Firstly, we need companies to be built by diverse individuals that work in collaboration with the smartest individuals from across society, including academia, governments & the arts. Secondly, we need those companies to take extraordinary risks that, if successful, change the future beyond recognition.
This new, heightened era of human ingenuity is what we call an Entrepreneurial Renaissance. It is the second reason for us to gather you and your most brilliant peers under one roof.
Welcome to the Entrepreneurial Renaissance, where we turn Helsinki into a modern-day Florence for two days on Dec 1–2, 2021. Tickets available Sep 1.
*Title was used in NVIDIA Co-Founder, President & CEO Jensen Huang’s recent GTC keynote. I found it both inspiring and fitting for this letter.