Heading up to Chamonix to participate in the 2017 Get-Together was like a return to our roots. The alpine town is Stéphanie’s home, where we held our first entrepreneur meet-up in February 2016, and this year, was the setting for the 2017 Get-Together: A Summit of Minds. As much as we love Chamonix in its own right, it was our close ties to the Monthly Barometer, the co-organizer of the Get-Together, which brought us here this time around.
The ‘ideas fair’ that is the Get-Together gathers investors, political leaders, CEOs, entrepreneurs and intellectuals from all over the world. Most of the participants are subscribers of the Monthly Barometer, a macro-economic and geo-political newsletter founded by Thierry Malleret and Philippe Bourguignon, our much-loved mentor. The OneRagtime community was further represented by Make.org and Marie Quantier, two startups we have successfully funded and are still working closely with today. This eclectic group shared a common purpose: to discuss and challenge the present state of the (business) world and come up with disruptive ideas to shape the future.
From a new world order to rethinking business:
The numerous topics covered throughout the summit aimed at giving us the tools to comprehend current global situations, in order to come up with solutions that are both in our own interest and that of society at large. What recurred in the discussions was the idea that we are in a period of drastic global change at many different levels. World politics is transforming with the hegemonic power shift from the US to China, who now holds $1.15 trillion of US government debt. Furthermore, we can see China setting the pace of global investment, directing its capital towards smaller and often ostracized countries in Central Asia and Africa (Zimbabwe, Uganda, Pakistan to name a few), meaning we have to start looking far beyond North America to keep up with present-day innovation.
Other issues of a demographic and environmental nature were brought to the stage as well. We discussed our ever-increasing energy consumption, due partly to the fact that 54% of the world population is now urban, which, coupled with the growing scarcity of natural resources, calls for a rapid and effective transition to renewable energies. Although the sector has already gained considerable momentum, investments dropped by 18% from 2015 to 2016, exposing a substantial funding gap as the number of renewable energy projects continues to rise.
As capitalist innovators and investors, we have a responsibility to acknowledge these fundamental issues and come up concrete and viable solutions for them. How can we serve current and future generations whilst still making profit?
For investors, the solution may lie within impact investing, a growing practice that has already reached $50 billion in global assets. Axel Dauchez (Make.org), spoke in Chamonix on how institutions can play a role in reshaping the corporate world to achieve a more sustainable form of capitalism. And as Stéphanie demonstrated in The Role of AI in Investment Decisions session, the power of machine learning can be leveraged to do just that.
Bridging the gap
From the entrepreneur side, much can be done, and we speak often about the importance of cooperation between start-ups and corporates. Large corporations often fail to respond to society’s need, steered by their primary focus of profit rather than human benefit. Start-ups, on the other hand, are often better positioned to respond effectively to the concerns that arise from ordinary life. Through technological innovation (and sometimes a stronger social conscience) they are driving solutions to what we actually want and need. Take +Simple, for example. The start-up we funded earlier this year is leveraging the power of AI to offer an affordable and accessible form of insurance to small businesses. Through its investments, OneRagtime is attempting to bridge the increasing inequality between the have and the have-nots – yet another problem that was raised during the Get-Together – by offering more equal opportunities in business.
This transformation of corporations by start-ups can start in the workplace, with the acknowledgment of the importance of soft skills as well as hard skills, as Romain pointed out during a session. By combining start-ups’ tech know-how and corporates’ capital, the potential for growth and change is huge. The real challenge? Connecting them. That is what OneRagtime prides itself in doing, with feet in both the corporate and entrepreneur worlds.
Building bridges and climbing (real and virtual) walls
The need for more communication, as well as the ability to listen properly, is an obvious yet often overlooked way to set the positive transformation of business into motion. And this can start with the simple idea of happiness at work, and the redefinition of priorities. The session Sophie moderated on Millennials and the way in which they envisage their future revealed this need for change within professional structures. Does a restrictive hierarchy in the workplace even make sense anymore?
Such questions were discussed at length during the 34 sessions, but also whilst rock climbing, an outdoor activity included in the programme. We share the Get-Together’s belief that meaningful encounters and great ideas are the fruit of a proactive attitude. This explains why we sponsored Thierry and Mary Anne Malleret’s book Ten Good Reasons to Go For a Walk. The book serves as a strong reminder that bringing about change is just like walking. Whether starting one’s own business or investing in a life-changing project, change can only happen one step at a time.