This week on our Founder Feature series we are talking to Felix Staeritz, best-selling author, digital leader, and co-founder of FoundersLane. FoundersLane is the largest independent Corporate Venture Builder (CVB) in climate and health in the world.
Driven by a burning passion to change the world for the better, leaving behind a better future for generations to come, Felix set out to solve our major societal challenges with innovation.
Read more in the interview below to learn about how FoundersLane came into existence, and how the mission to change the future is progressing.
Q: Who are you and what is your story?
A: I am the Co-founder and CEO of FoundersLane. With over 20 years’ experience as an entrepreneur, I’ve guided a number of companies through to IPO and have helped fund various startups through my work as an angel investor, venture capitalist and within private equity. It was through these experiences that I started to recognise the limitations of VC-financed startups, innovation hubs and accelerators in delivering impactful solutions at speed to the world’s greatest challenges.
My desire to combine the strengths of corporations and entrepreneurs, with the aim of creating and implementing innovative solutions in a short period of time, drove me to start FoundersLane. As a proud father and a member of the Board of Digital Leaders of the World Economic Forum, my core concern is to solve our major societal challenges with innovation and to co-creating a better future for generations to come.
Q: Could you tell us about your company and what you’re striving to achieve?
A: FoundersLane is the largest independent Corporate Venture Builder (CVB) in climate and health in the world. We are pioneering an approach that combines the networks, assets and resources of large enterprises with the innovative drive and digital know-how of experienced entrepreneurs in order to come up with strategically-relevant new digital business models. It is an approach we have proven works, and one that is gaining traction, particularly within highly-regulated and science-based industries where red tape has become a major barrier. We’re aiming to create €1bn worth of start-ups by the end of 2022 and are seeking to help solve some of the greatest challenges our world is facing today, including the climate and healthcare crises.
Q: What’s most exciting about your traction to date?
A: We have more than 20 years of experience in building new enterprises by leveraging the power of established companies to build new digital business models in health and climate. To date, the team at FoundersLane has cumulatively built more than $30bn in enterprise value and we have seen tremendous success using the CVB model.
We believe that CVB – which complements corporate venture capital and other innovation vehicles – is the only effective way to build long-lasting and sustainable business innovations. This hybrid model has proven to deliver fast-paced solutions to help tackle the most pressing health and climate challenges we currently face, bringing about lasting change that will effectively help save the world.
A good example of this would be Solytic, a firm that deploys AI and data analytics to optimise solar panel performance. Solytic was co-created with Vattenfall, the multinational power company, using the CVB model and has recently hit key milestones of 100,000+ connected solar panels in over 42 countries worldwide.
Q: What are your biggest threats?
A: Complacency remains our biggest threat today. In a corporate setting, that complacency often manifests itself in a lack of involvement from senior leadership in innovation initiatives. What we need is a new model of hybrid leadership where dedicated innovation teams drive these initiatives forward but with significant support and time investment from board members.
When it comes to solving social challenges such as climate change or upgrading the healthcare system, the problems we face are systemic. This means that various areas of our society – government institutions, businesses, users and researchers – must work together to implement suitable solutions quickly and on a large scale.
Startups repeatedly encounter resistance and all too often legislators seek to rein them in and force them to operate in a certain way. Additionally, the biggest challenges we face are emerging from complex, highly-regulated and science-based areas – such as climate and health. Insurance companies, regulations around clinical trials, hospitals – all of these are difficult areas to fundamentally change overnight. If you want to make progress in these areas, you need to be persuasive, create networks of people and, above all, you need to start acting now.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: What keeps me up is the fact that If we don’t act now and begin innovating in a sustainable way, we’ll leave the next generation with a huge amount of debt and a broken healthcare system, both of which it will take them a lifetime – if not longer – to fix. And that’s before we even talk about ongoing crises like climate change. It’s vital to invest in digital transformation and innovations now to avoid this. To solve these challenges we need strategic direction, we need scale, and, above all, we need speed.
Q: What are your goals in the short, mid and long-term?
A: In the short term, we want to inspire organisations to take action and stop being complacent. We can’t afford to waste any more time. We need to create new sustainable innovations and digital business models that deliver impactful results, and we need to do so fast. This is part of the reason why we’ve founded the Fightback community to spread learnings and best practices.
Medium term, we are committed to driving and realising initial positive impact from these innovations and digital businesses. These innovations will help address the biggest issues of our time, like climate change and fragile healthcare systems. This will require considered and immediate action in order for us to really begin tackling these challenges – and to keep the momentum going beyond the initial benefits we will see. At FoundersLane we want to become the number one platform to exchange ideas and create meaningful innovations in a collaborative way, instead of just hiring consultants to address basic business questions.
Longer-term, our mission is to create a better future for generations to come, including my and everyone else’s kids. For this, we need to build cross-industry alliances and collaboratively innovate in a meaningful and impactful way. Now is the time to invest in digital transformation and innovations so that our kids don’t have to sacrifice most of their money to pay off coronavirus debts and to try and keep our healthcare systems alive. That’s our duty today.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to budding innovators taking the same journey?
A: Tackling the pressing social challenges we currently face will require more than small adjustments here and there. The clock is ticking and we need radical innovations that evolve out of the status quo.
Budding innovators, startups and corporates need to rethink innovation to go beyond lab experiments and implement new solutions in the marketplace with real customers and rapid scaling.
Why? Our old systems aren’t equipped to handle the size and speed of these ever-evolving challenges. According to Atomico’s State of European Tech report, about two-thirds of academics, researchers and journalists believe that tech entrepreneurs will contribute more to solving social challenges in the coming years than European governments. Yet, the innovative power of start-ups has its limits. They cannot be our only big bet.
The solution: Hybrid ventures that redefine the cooperation between tech entrepreneurs and corporations. Innovation becomes a board-level problem and is no longer just the result of a post-it session by the business development team. Innovation needs to trickle through an enterprise from the top down.
Q: Do you have a plan B if your venture isn’t successful?
A: The reality is that failure is always part of any journey. Some of the most impressive innovations to date were the direct result of initiatives failing and sparking ideas for new projects. The important thing is to take learnings from that experience and then keep moving forward. That being said, frameworks like CVB can help bring an additional level of stability to the innovation process and minimise the risk of failure in each phase.
Now, if we’re talking about the bigger mission that we are on, there isn’t a plan B. If it wasn’t obvious before, it is clear now that our interconnected, interdependent world is crying out for determined, concerted action, across countries, continents and industries. There’s no time to lose. We have one world, one planet, and we need to make sure we mobilize all our resources and talents to do what needs to be done, quickly, creatively and decisively. We’ve got one shot at this and our fightback needs to start now.
Learn more about FoundersLane and their mission to create a better world by visiting their website: www.founderslane.com