For the course How to Invest in Early-stage Startups, Fintech Institute partnered with Fintech District and Level 39. Together they created a course that explains how to invest in the best early-stage startups, choosing the new entrepreneurs that will lead the future of money. Peter Lazou is one of the professors and will be teaching about Social Impact and the Future of Impact Investing in Tech. We had the opportunity to interview him before the beginning of the course.
To kick this off, could you please give us a brief introduction about yourself and tell us where are you coming from?
I invest and advise early-stage startups, scale-ups, as well as venture-build new meaningful and enduring technology companies with the aspiration to build and launch ventures with aim to improve the lives of millions of people.
I am genuinely passionate about supporting entrepreneurs in any way I can, creating stories that bring alive the power of tech startups and along my journey of over 5 million miles, across 4 different continents, I have been privileged to have worked with some amazing and brilliant people.
I decided not to go to University back in the day but did study for for a degree in Applied Management and then a Masters in International Business through long distance learning after I exited out my first company in the 90s.
Over the years I have also designed groundbreaking & award-winning technologies in FinTech, Automotive, IoT/Wearables, with three successful company exits. I have a catalytic focus of inspiring and stimulating change in the way people think and do by pushing the boundaries of innovation and design, with a focus on shaping the future of connected convergence.
We are at the beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and my focus and appetite for the ventures that I advise and build are to be at the forefront of which will fundamentally change the way we live, work and relate to one another.
What is and how does it work Otherdots Foundation?
Otherdots builds and invests in grassroot startups that will inspire and impact communities globally, responding to the enormity of today’s scale of disruption. In essence, we find entrepreneurs from grass roots rural areas and emerging countries to help them build and grow their own startups from ground zero, which we invest in through our fund. We aim to deliver a triple bottom line, with venture-capital return, social/environmental impact and jobs.
Our initiative “Survival of life on the planet” is about finding new pathways to make real change and significant impact. A new generation is becoming energised over the urgent need to take radical action beyond climate emergency. Otherdots aims to play a role in the global campaign to help protect our childrens' future by restoring the balance between human beings and nature. This is a key initiative of ours. Public concern is growing on addressing the planetary emergency.The scale and threats are undeniable. We have a very short space of time to start to act.
Regarding Venture building, it is a new model for entrepreneurship and innovation. The model creates start-ups, from the start, onwards and upwards. Venture builders are not to be misinterpreted as accelerators or incubators in the traditional or operational sense of venture capital firms. Instead, their focus is simply the process of consistent start-up creation.
What is impact investing?
Business as usual is dead. Doing good is the new business. This means that the way that all industries are being disrupted is not only by creating new experiences around brands, but also by performing strongly on social and environmental issues.
Our interpretation is how to encourage leaders to think, act differently and thrive on change in this new era of disruption. The traditional investing model is outdated. Today’s generation are confronting massive global anxieties.
They see impact investing as a key driver for financial returns while contributing to making the world sustainable and a better place. Business has great new options to be a force for good.
Why is fintech important for social impact investing?
It plays an important role because it’s about enabling everyone to have a digital identity. It’s about giving data a voice. Also, Access to traditional banking can also be difficult geographically speaking. In many countries such as India and Africa for example, you can’t take the traditional banking model and reach everyone.
Now with fintech, people don’t have to travel to get a loan anymore. Access to mobile phones is extremely easy and affordable, so with fintech people can get access to finance right away. Fintech is also powering platforms that facilitate alternative investment opportunities, allowing investors to support ventures that deliver impact.
As interest in impact investing continues to grow, automated financial planning services will increasingly incorporate sustainable investments and may help to transform traditional investment approaches.
Is it possible to invest responsibly and still get a return?
There is no conflict between making money and making the world a better place. The conventional view on business is you have to choose - create business value or create social value.
Our approach creates both at the same time; in fact, we leverage both efforts to the advantage of those looking for a financial ROI and a social ROI: when done right, greater social impact and greater profits can be achieved when collaborating than if either side was working on their own in the conventional way.
Can you tell us something unique about the UK startup ecosystem?
Even with Brexit looming around the corner, the UK startup scene will still play a pivotal role on the global stage. The connectedness of world-leading clusters means that the UK can leverage strengths and support one another across the country, in order to succeed internationally.
Scaleups are certainly driving UK global tech advantage. Also, ambitious tech entrepreneurs across the country are more networked than ever, and they are accelerating growth through international connections. The UK is also a critical hub in the global tech ecosystem, and a strong economic performer.
This course will teach you how to invest in the best early-stage startups, choosing the new leaders of the future and seeking the next Unicorn.