Mar 11, 2024

Progress, Profit, and Purpose

20 Years!

Endeavour Partners recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Unsurprisingly, it has evolved significantly over that time.

Profit with a purpose

There’s an interesting piece in The Information on Friday, that can help illustrate how we think about what we (now) do, and where we (now) stand.

It’s a profile of Hemant Taneja, the CEO of venture capital firm General Catalyst, who believes that profit must come with purpose. And who finds himself on the opposite side of this debate from Marc Andreesen of Andreesen Horowitz (a16z) and his ‘Techno Optimist Manifesto.’

Read it. I’d love to hear your reflections.

Marc’s seemingly completely unbounded—and as such I believe unfounded—optimism makes this very much a techno-‘maximalist’ manifesto. And while I agree with much of what he has to say about the power of technology, I do not embrace his advocacy for its direction being set solely by the unfettered and single-minded pursuit of profit, and the hope that thereby magically—through the mechanics of the market—we will get optimal outcomes.

And then also read Hemant’s HBR piece from about five years ago.

My take on this debate is heavily influenced by the inimitable Charles Handy, who brought a deeply humane perspective to management, in many books such as his extraordinarily prescient book The Future of Work, published (perhaps ironically) in 1984.

The companies that survive longest are the ones that work out what they uniquely can give to the world-not just growth or money but their excellence, their respect for others, or their ability to make people happy. Some call those things a soul.Charles Handy, organizational behaviorist.

We are past the era of the Friedman-esque model of the ‘joint stock company in which its single-minded reason for being, its only ‘raison d’être’ is the pursuit of profit, to the exclusion of all else. As he put it: “The [Only] Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.

Breakthrough innovation

Since our launch 20 years ago, our ‘lodestar’ (typically the Pole Star, although for us more the Southern Cross) has been a deep and profound belief in the power of technological innovation, as the only long-term pathway to prosperity.

Endeavour Partners believes passionately that we need BOTH more (technological) innovation, AND we also need ‘better’ innovation.

This is reflected on our two primary focuses: how to accelerate the pace of innovation, in particular through ‘breakthrough innovation’ (much better products that are creative combinations of established technologies, such as the Nokia 2110, the iPhone and other modern smartphones, Tesla and other BEVs, Uber and other on-demand mobility) AND at the same time deliver better innovation: meaningful, ethical, sustainable, humane, and resilient (this list reflects our evolving understanding of the impact of innovation). 

I’m really interested in discussing these issues with anyone and everyone; please reach out to me. Or we may be reaching out to you, because we have a couple of research programs underway on these important issues.

(If you’re interested in what breakthrough innovation is, and why it is so valuable and important, and how to make it happen, sign up for this year’s version of my course at MIT in July).

(Or, if you qualify, sign up for MIT’s outstanding Technology Leadership Program, in which Breakthrough Innovation is now one of the core elements of the program)

We have a particular focus on how to harness the power of digital technologies such as AI, and other deep technologies.

That led to the creation of the SPOC (it’s like a MOOC, but it’s small and private) at London Business School on The Business of AI, focused on how business leaders who are not technologists themselves can most effectively harness the power of AI, recently updated to reflect the impact of generative AI.

We complement this focus on more and better innovation by harnessing our specialized expertise and decades of experience with advanced technology, in particular digital technologies, to achieve good outcomes more widely where technology is important, in particular through work as experts on issues relating to competition and antitrust, public policy, intellectual property. And also through some of our pro bono work with leading not-for-profits, helping them confront the challenges of technological shifts.

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