If you squint, you can see it in the distance. A new class of startup is coming. What began as mounting anxiety over the downsides of automation, manipulated news and an overall dizzying pace of technological change is giving way to a growing appetite for fresh and credible answers. A window for opportunity is opening for the companies that can effectively engage the fears and pain points of a society adapting to automation and the unintended side effects of technologically mediated networks. Brands contributing to a greater sense of individual agency over our own digital safety and personal futures are in a position to win greater mind-share and market share right now.
Guided by the challenges and lessons of web 2.0, this GDPR native new crop of products’ founders will be expected to develop ethical (& regulatory) foresight. Bilateral transparency — between end users and companies — will be the price of consumer goodwill. Leaders can garner loyalty by building a reflective and accountable point of view into new brands. These founders (and the investors who earn their trust) are currently at a competitive advantage in attracting /retaining talent and responding to the demand reflected in the zeitgeist.
And this is where new investment comes in. VC’s and other startup investors have a role to play in this innovation shift. Movements like the Founders for Change are among the more public indications of an investment market gap — unmet demand from new, top tier founders seeking investors who are business savvy, values aligned, and psychographically representative of large and evolving markets. This gap combined with tech driven innovations in fundraising has created a swiftly tilting market dynamic between VC’s and founders. Consumers are demanding more from companies as founders demand more from investors.
While the entire ecosystem processes these new realities, both founders and investors have greater incentive than ever to seek outside perspective to illuminate blind spots early rather than charging ahead with business as usual. As the industry evolves we all have something to learn. Humility becomes a bankable asset.
Real deal alignment between end user and founder and investor will be the gold standard. There will be no ‘hack’ for sustainable trust, it will have to be built from scratch.