Andy Cars, Lean Ventures: fall in love with the problem, not solution!

01/19/2017 | By Tetiana Siianko

This post originally appeared on

Andy is the founder of Lean Ventures, where he works with large companies to build their innovation capabilities. Focus is on innovation strategy, lean startup, business modelling and creating strong connections with the startup community. By drawing on the experience from working with hundreds of startup teams as a lean startup coach, mentor and business angel, Andy provides unique insights into what it takes to successfully innovate. Andy has also been involved in designing startup accelerator programs and advising on how to create and grow startup ecosystems both locally and internationally.

How did you start your career?

I started out as a sound engineer and producer in the 90-ies. In -95 I sold my first company to Bertelsmann Music Group and ended up working for them as an A&R (artist & repertoire). Since then I’ve directly participated in starting, growing and selling a few companies — no big exits or anything — but great fun nevertheless.

I’ve spent most of my 25 year career running my own entrepreneurial ventures and helping others succeed with theirs. I am not the type who fits the role of running “business as usual” projects in an established company working “9 to 5”. I’m more found of building stuff from scratch, tearing down and re-shaping what’s there, aiming to unlock much greater values compared to just pushing for more of the same or minor incremental improvements.

What other industries have you worked in besides the music industry?

I’ve worked with over 200 startup teams and 10+ large companies in industries ranging from cleantech, healthcare, telecom to the financial industry. After BMG I switched to the fincial industry, first working for a large bank and then as an investment manager at a small boutique venture capital firm.

What are you focusing on today?

Today I’m working with large companies helping them to get better at, and accelerating the pace, of innovation. There are many methods and tools out there, but we need to use them in practice. Big companies need to adopt the right mindset, break-down old barriers to innovation and really “walk the talk”.

As we know humans learn only from mistakes, could you tell us your biggest professional fuckup?

Depending on how you see it but from a financial point of view, I was fully invested during the dotcom crash and lost a lot of money. I was young and stupid. On a different level I feel that when I was working for BMG I should have pushed harder for change when we were discussing the importance of MP3s and the digitization of the music industry. The record company executives that I worked with at that time did not really see the threat. They felt that it would be the same as when cassettes came out. Initially people were scared that it would lead to lower record sales. The opposite happened. They thought it would be the same with MP3s. They were wrong. We should have spent more time discussing how these shifts would affect our industry and what new business models we could start experimenting with to adapt to these changes.

Why do you think there is so much buzz around fintech?

Well, in Stockholm we have a huge banking sector, so it becomes a natural focal point. There is also the same kind of feeling as when the internet came — that it will change everything. I’m not talking so much about Bitcoin itself as the blockchain technology behind bitcoin that is giving us the same kind of feeling small children have the days running up to Christmas and when they get to open all their presents. I’m very much looking forward to seeing all the applications and solutions that will come about as a result of the blockchain.

So you think that blockchain technology is the biggest gamechanger in fintech?

Absolutely, I am very excited about seeing how it will fundamentally change what we are doing today. We are talking about disruptions, not just incremental changes. And it’s up to these teams out there to start experimenting and developing solutions, understanding the problems and constraints and start changing the sector bit by bit.

Do you use bitcoins?

No, I don’t, but I have tried and I also have invested in it. But it’s not something I recommend for the faint-hearted. Bitcoin goes up and down like a roller-coaster. I recommend that you do not put most of your investments into Bitcoin!

Can you imagine a world with only cryptocurrencies that will take over traditional currencies?

Yes, I think this is the direction that we are moving towards.

Being very traditional and staggering entities, what do you think can help banks to survive?

The banking sector is facing tremendous challenges but also great opportunities. But to grab these opportunities they have to become even more agile. This means asking themselves if they think they have struck a good balance between “business as usual” and developing the business models of tomorrow. Basically developing entirely new ways of doing business that eventually will go on to replace their current ways.

I see a lot of activities in this sector, and yes they are investing into startups and running accelerator programs etc. But is it too little too late? Time will tell. My challenge to the banking industry would be to ask how many percent of their revenue is invested into developing potentially disruptive technologies and business models? If the answer is

0,01%, I would ask if they consider this to be a good balance or if perhaps some resources should be shifted or re-allocated.

Today a lot of startups are unbundling the business models of traditional banks doing many of the tasks better, cheaper, faster. If those startups starts to collaborate, then they can completely reinvent the banking sector as we know it.

How would you pitch fintech to a 6 years old kid?

You have to break it down to what is relevant for this particular 6 year old. But it would perhaps go something like this: ‘You probably have a weekly allowance, how much is it? 50 kronor? Ok. What do you do with this money? “I buy ice-cream” or “I give to the homeless”. Whatever it is that you’re doing, with “fintech” you will be able to do it better, faster, cheaper and with more trust and confidence than you can ever imagine. “So maybe I can get two ice creams for the same amount of money!”. Yes, maybe. J

Who is the Elon Musk of fintech on your opinion?

Elon Musk was the part of the PayPal mafia, so he was one of the co-founders of the initiating movement. In the US, you have Stripe, with the Collison’s. In Sweden I would say those at the forefront of fintech are the founders of Klarna and iZettle. I think they know a thing or two about fintech. Then ofcourse you also have Startupbootcamp here in Europe. They’re running a first-class accelerator program for startups in Copenhagen in the insurance industry, or insurtech, which is part of fintech. The mentors and coaches connected to that program are all super competent people. Startupbootcamp is connecting big banks and insurance companies with startups through their accelerator programs. There isn’t just one person out there to follow in fintech, there are lots of great minds to reach out to.

Speaking about Elon Musk, do you think that there will be banks on Mars?

I think by the time we get to Mars, and we start thinking about financial transactions, I don’t think there are going to be banks anymore, there will be something entirely different. Banks as we know them today, won’t exist. It’s very doubtful if we will need these huge institutions acting as middle-men in the future. The problems to be solved are how do we establish trust and validity around our asset transactions, how do we speed them up, reduce the costs and distribute the solutions for everyone to use. I don’t see the big institutions playing a part in that unless they completely re-think their current business models.

If you had a chance to meet, Ben Bernanke, what would you tell him?

I would not tell him much, I would rather be asking him lots and lots of questions. Doesn’t he seriously think that what they have been creating by running near zero percent interest rates for almost a decade has created an enormous asset bubble, and that’s plain wrong to do that? Aren’t they just shifting the problem in-front of themselves? I know he would probably give me a politically astute answer that would make my head spin, but nevertheless I see there is a huge risk in playing with the lives of millions of people who live hand-to-mouth. They’re the once who suffer greatly from the financial crisis. Not the rich, the rich will always manage well. How does he see his moral responsibility as a human?

What message would you send to wannabe entrepreneurs?

Find your purpose, find something that you are absolutely passionate about. Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. Because if you are only focusing on the money, it will lead to a very dry life. And if you’re only focusing on the solution you’ll probably end up wasting lots of time building stuff that no-one wants. We all have many problems, or jobs-to-be-done, but there are very few problems for which we are willing to offer some form of sacrifice. Don’t just pitch your idea or solution. Begin by understanding the problems your early adopters face, and make sure you understand them at a deeper level than your competitors. That’s were you’ll find the gold dust of innovation.

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