myfirstminute in conversation with Dr Hermann Hauser
Our seed fund partners, firstminute capital, interviewed the immensely successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Dr Hermann Hauser.
With the help of a £10k loan from his local bank in the late 1970s, Dr Hauser co-founded Cambridge Processor Unit, the predecessor of the home computing icon, Acorn Computers. ARM Holding, the British tech giant, spun out of Acorn in 1990 and was acquired by SoftBank for £25bn in 2016, making it the largest European tech acquisition. Dr Hauser also co-founded Amadeus Capital in 1997, making hugely successful investments in the fields of deep tech, biotech and AI, among others.
Dr Hauser shared some of his views on technologies that are going to shape the world in the next 10 years and what traits to look for in successful leaders, as well as anecdotes from his career on how new ventures can take on incumbents.
At Founders Intelligence, we help business leaders reinvent their industries by tapping into insights from the tech and venture world; below are our key take-aways from the conversation with Dr Hauser:
Artificial intelligence and machine learning, blockchain technology, synthetic biology and quantum computing are the 4 technologies that are going to reshape the world in the next 10 years — but we have to distribute benefits to society
- This era of technological advancement is bringing a shift from first order calculus (where we have a binary view of the world) to a probabilistic approach
- AI/ML and quantum computing are going to usher in significant innovation in the coming years on par with past technological leaps for humanity
- Though existing blockchains are tainted by fraudulent activity, the productivity gains in business automation will be immense once KYC/AML issues are sorted. Similarly, in biotech we’re moving from gene sequencing to synthesis which will allow scientists to study genenomic defects with much greater control and tackle many clinically pressing issues
- As with all technological leaps, there are legitimate risks to assess and it is imperative that the benefits technology brings are shared amongst society. An example: we may need to think about translating productivity gains from automation intoto shorter working hours or 3 day weekends for the entire population, as opposed to less employment for some
Having a passionate and inspirational leader is key to success — whether you’re founding a startup, running a company or navigating a country through a global pandemic
- There is no single trait to look for in start-up founders, however successful founders backed by Amadeus over the years all share high energy and a deep passion for the fields in which they operate
- As companies grow, successful leaders understand how to get the best out of their people: Steve Jobs was not known for being the most technically able CEO amongst his peers, but he had a phenomenal ability to get the best out of smart and hard-working teams who were hard bent on delivering their best
- At a country level, people are more likely to follow leaders they trust. Dr Hauser praises New Zealand as an example of a country that has been able to comparatively limit the spread and consequent human cost of coronavirus. Their Prime Minister is popular, speaks clearly and took decisive action early
New ventures can take on dominant incumbents through a focus on strong teams and domain expertise — that’s how it has always happened
- With Intel refusing to adapt their microprocessors in the late 1970s, Dr Hauser’s Cambridge Processor Unit were forced to develop their own chip technology — in fact, a blessing that paved the way for their success. Key to Dr Hauser’s ability to challenge the incumbent was Cambridge Processor Unit’s “hoovering of talent”, hiring the best engineers from across Cambridge to build their own
- Apple’s 2007 iPhone was inferior to a Nokia in terms of traditional specs (battery life…) but a focus on user interface, design and the app platform drove their explosive success
- In today’s Big Tech-dominated world, with the commoditization of standard machine-learning algorithms, innovators are building viable ventures by leveraging their domain expertise. When the market and problem are big enough, there is more than enough space for new companies to thrive — even without technological superiority
Many thanks to Dr Hauser and firstminute for this fascinating conversation. We look forward to more myfirstminute chats in the coming weeks.