As we have recently launched our new Eleven Founders Fund, all our friends and community keep asking us what we shall invest in. Below is an updated list, which outlines some of the areas of particular interest to us.
My original post on the subject took clues shamelessly from this YC list. Both actually continue to ring true (at least partially) even today. For YC their original list has evolved into something they now call Requests for Startups. Our second edition follows similar logic, including the opening disclaimer: “Many of the best ideas we’ve funded were ones that surprised us, not ones we were waiting for.”
So without further ado, here’s a list of some trends that matter to us, grouped by several overriding themes, each giving rise to a plethora of fundable ideas:
- Growing and Aging Population - The world population continues to grow, while life expectancy continues to rise. How can you feed, house and sustain all these people?
- Greener Future - There’s a lot of talking in this direction, but the world continues to burn more energy and throw away more stuff every year. We badly need innovations in greener energy generation and storage and more efficient energy utilisation and waste management and collection/recycling, etc.
- Friendlier and Smarter Cities - The population is not only growing but concentrating heavily in big cities and metropolis. Some of those have become very expensive, others heavily polluted, many are hardly commutable and overall they are growing less and less friendly and their citizens are neither happy nor content. It’s hard to work directly with large cities, but their problems are worth exploring and trying to tackle.
- Healthier Life - Healthcare is an old industry that’s ripe for disruption and there should be many opportunities in Med Tech. However beware that there’s very high perceived risk when dealing with people’s health and life, so tread carefully. A related topic is how do you take care of the growing number of elderly people.
BRAVE NEW WORLD
- Automatisation and its Effects - Many jobs are set to become obsolete, whether we like it or not and whether we think there will be new jobs created in other fields (not so likely as the first part). This will arguably lead to a growing idle class of people or at least more free time in general. How do you entertain them? Apart from the bleak prospect of VR escapism, there could be more options provided by the entertainment and leisure industries, as well as room for projects/causes, giving a sense of purpose to their volunteers.
- Education Innovation - There is a fundamental need for change in the education ways and what we teach our kids, if we want the skills, they acquire today, to remain relevant in the near future.
- Brick and Mortar - The advance of online retail has already started putting traditional stores out of business. The likely emergence of autonomous vehicles will eliminate the need for numerous parking spaces. How do you better utilize this freed up real estate?
- Taboos - Most investors (including ourselves) will generally shy away from certain taboo areas. However, because of this overall neglect, there is a whole enclave of hugely profitable and hugely ineffective industries, that are ripe for attack by startups. Our own industry begs for a proper VC in this domain.
- Enterprise-Grade Software for the Masses - Software continues to eat the world. Not everybody can sell to large enterprises, but many medium and smaller businesses have similar needs to their larger counterparts. The democratisation of once complex enterprise IT solutions and turning them into nimble SaaS products is already happening across the board and we expect the trend to continue.
- Reducing the Complexity of Choice - Simplicity is the new competitive advantage in a world of more. Articulating the personal preferences of each individual and matching it with the best product or service for him or her is no simple task, but whoever resolves it may challenge today’s behemoths.
- InsurTech and FinTech - There’s a lot of room for innovation and improvement in financial services. It is already happening, but startups are still only scratching the surface.
- Offline - Software is infinitely more scalable than almost any other industry, yet there should be much more offline world projects that utilize technology in an efficient manner that allows exponential growth as well.
- Mashups - or a combination of any of the above. As we used to say on our landing page: “We share the belief that great ideas happen at the brink of industries, technologies, sciences and societies”. AgriTech, in particular, offers huge potential for innovation with bio, tech, software and human aspects all involved.
You have probably noticed that the above list excludes some hyped about technologies such as AR/VR, blockchain, big data, AI, etc. The truth is we don’t care what technology you use, as long as you solve a real problem.
If you have a great idea in another domain, don’t be deterred. We admire people that relentlessly pursue their own vision. On the other hand, if your idea fits perfectly within any of the categories, that does not guarantee you success. On the contrary, we are more familiar with these areas and therefore more critical.
Last but not least have in mind that the most important thing for us is still the Team, its resilience, complementary skills, perseverance and passion.