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Steve's ITK: Pro-vaxxer

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Steve's ITK

November 29 · Issue #65 · View online

Steve's In The Know: Thoughts from a European tech insider.


"Stevie" (the dog) stares into the Steve-verse
"Stevie" (the dog) stares into the Steve-verse
Opening thought: Self preservation
During the first national lockdown, I remember having a Zoom call with some of the guys from university, including one who works in pharma and three in film and television. The mood on the call was warm and supportive but definitely a tad subdued. All productions were suspended and we discussed the short term prospects (or lack thereof) in the film and TV industry. ‘What’s the chance of a vaccine?’ one of the guys asked. ‘I don’t think there’ll be one for years - if ever,’ came the reply from the most qualified person on the call. Besides, he said, coronavirus-type vaccines are really difficult and history is littered with failed attempts at them.
Then I chimed in disagreeing. My optimism, I explained, was based on what I’d been seeing in tech: the combination of “deep” tech and medical science and what I perceived as an acceleration in treatment discovery and disease understanding.
My thinking – and it was obviously contingent on swallowing whole things told to me over the years by various VCs and founders alike as well as a subconscious bias in the name of self preservation – was that if enough human and computer brain power - and money - was thrown at the problem space, the impossible might now be possible.
With a slew of promising vaccine news stories in the last few weeks, it looks like I might just be right and sometime next year I can end my self-imposed lockdown and shield in less extreme ways. I haven’t left the house since the beginning of March or possibly earlier (I didn’t see the significance at the time to mark my calendar) and so it won’t be long before I celebrate my first lockdown anniversary. ‘Whatever you do, don’t leave the house before March 2021,’ said a publicist friend of mine, spotting the perfect profile pitch.
A YEAR SPENT IN LOCKDOWN: THE JOURNALIST SWAPPING SHOE LEATHER FOR INTERNET TETHER.
Admittedly, I never was very good at writing headlines.
Things I wrote recently
WeGift, the ‘incentive marketing’ platform, collects $8M in new funding
Dija, a new delivery startup from former Deliveroo employees, is closing in on a $20M round led by Blossom
Caura, the app for UK car owners, begins offering insurance
7 things we just learned about Sequoia’s European expansion plans
Hulu UX teardown: 5 user experience fails and how to fix them
Why is GoCardless COO Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas pivoting to become a full-time VC?
Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost explains the strategy behind acquiring Spacemaker
Juni, the banking platform for e-commerce and online marketing companies, raises €2M seed
Spacemaker, AI software for urban development, is acquired by Autodesk for $240M
Sales CRM Pipedrive takes majority investment from Vista Equity Partners to reach unicorn status
Railsbank, the Banking-as-a-Service, raises $37M in growth funding
Challenger bank Starling is out raising a new £200M funding round
Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas, angel investor and COO of GoCardless, is joining Index as partner
E-commerce startup Heroes raises $65M in equity and debt to become the Thrasio of Europe
Starling Bank founder Anne Boden says new book ‘isn’t a memoir’
Boom raises $7M Series A in bid to become the ‘Amazon for commercial photography’
Nordic challenger bank Lunar raises €40M Series C, plans to enter the ‘buy now, pay later’ space
Adyen alumni raise €2.6M seed to launch Silverflow, a ‘cloud-native’ card payments processor
Acapela, from the founder of Dubsmash, hopes ‘asynchronous meetings’ can end Zoom fatigue
Trilo lets merchants offer rewards to customers choosing bank-to-bank payments
Closing thought: Big on the Zoom circuit
As events went virtual, I remember moaning to a VC that, while the world suddenly seemed infinitely more accessible for a person like me that finds traveling to conferences difficult to nearly impossible, my (or my agent’s!) phone wasn’t exactly ringing. It’s probably just a lag, they said. As it turns out, they were right.
By the end of the year a quick tally shows I’ve moderated or been interviewed at 11 virtual events/podcasts. My normal ratio is about 2-3 per year. Better still, several of these appearances were paid gigs. If this is the new normal, I better reapply for that Amex card (I’ve been turned down twice, the fuckers). Several of those virtual events happened this month, including three I want to especially highlight.
The biggest in audience size and feedback saw me interview two partners at VC firm Sequoia on behalf of Slush. I’ve wanted to do a Slush event for ages but the conference is normally held in Helsinki. I ain’t getting on no plane, fool! The topic was Sequoia’s expansion to Europe and I definitely didn’t hold back.
The second was an interview with Hiroki Takeuchi, the founder of fintech GoCardless. It included a special twist where, with 20 minutes to go, he turned the tables and interviewed me. A reporter at a rival publication messaged afterwards describing the event as “journalistic heroin”. “I need this all the time,” she wrote. The street price of O’Hear journalism just doubled. 
Finally – and possibly the most fun – was appearing on The Way We Roll podcast. It’s sort of disability-related but I was invited on to plug my album. What eventually ensued was a very personal conversation about what it was like growing up as a disabled kid, struggling to initially get a job, how music became my friend and the journey I’ve been on politically. ‘This is like an audio version of ITK,’ is how one friend described the show. Please do check it out.
Bonus: Which European VC was overheard telling a colleague ‘Steve f***ing destroyed Sequoia, it was beautiful to watch!’
Sign up to the Atomico 2020 State of European Tech Report event
"What I learned in 2020: Founder perspective"   Panelists: Sebastian Siemiatkowski, founder of Klarna, and Naren Shaam, founder of Omio. Moderated by Steve O’Hear.
"What I learned in 2020: Founder perspective" Panelists: Sebastian Siemiatkowski, founder of Klarna, and Naren Shaam, founder of Omio. Moderated by Steve O’Hear.
While I still have your attention: don’t forget to book your free place on Atomico’s State of European Tech Report virtual event on the 8th of December. I’m moderating what is shaping up to be a great panel and – frankly – with a very decent lineup all round, I’m merely a supporting act.
See you then,
Steve
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