Miguel de Fontenay

Stop thinking big corporations are the future of startups …but rather ask : what if big corporations would give birth of the future most ambitious startup ?

For a very long time, my favorite painter has been Nicolas de Staël. Just look at his work: he proposed new ways of depicting life and dance, sport and landscapes, all in a free and provocative mix of colors, with a new sense of perspective and philosophy. His art has guided me in looking at the reality of life and business with a certain distance and freedom.

For more than 20 years I have had the opportunity to work with (and in) large corporations in various countries, and I have often been amazed at the amount of energy they dedicate to their management, and their continuous efforts to build resilience throughout economic, social and systemic turbulences. Through all of this, what they paid most heed to was balancing out profitability and revenue growth. This particular imperative has offered consulting professionals plenty of business opportunities during the past five decades — and believe me, I’ve spent many years as leader of consulting practices in CapGemini, Ernst & Young, Kurt Salmon and Mazars. They have increased their grip on boards and executive committees with numerous strategic advice, transformation recommendations, process improvements and performance measuring tools for all company departments.

But the world has changed – suddenly and dramatically. Before, it used to be all about "optimization". Now, it's "disruptive innovation". Before, we talked about “the traditional economy”. Now, we say “the digital tsunami”. Slow growth and declining competitiveness have accelerated the advent of a paradigm shift that places user experience at the heart of the economy. Speed and global domination are now of the essence.  Corporations have to meet two challenges that seem mutually exclusive. First they need to be profitable enough to satisfy the viability of their business, the stakeholders' short-term expectations and financial analysts’ obsession with measuring performance. Second, they dream of disruptive innovation, which requires long-term investment, access to capital and the right to fail and start over.  No magic wand can bring about innovation. No consulting proposal can lead to the deep transformation of business models from diminishing returns to increasing returns.

It's a revolution. The rift between the way corporate leaders have always done business and the way startups are passionately inventing new business models is growing increasingly fast. It's as if the old resilient model and the startup model were two parallel worlds with no intersection.

But I believe that a junction between these two worlds is not only possible but absolutely imperative. Let's build those bridges! It can be done if Entrepreneurs are given the respect and the means necessary to succeed. They must be freed from the usual corporate constraints - the managerial, financial, organizational, political and administrative constraints that prevent long-term vision. Once this is mutually accepted we, at TheFamily can help build the bridges between these two worlds.

And where do I fit in all this? Well, I’ve been a consultant and a manager, I'm an enthusiastic horse-rider and a passionate painter who has always believed that Michelangelo was right in saying, at age 87, “I’m still learning”, and who's found his place on the other side of the bridge, at TheFamily. And guess what? I love it.

So here is my investment thesis

I believe that industry leaders and Entrepreneurs share a need for freedom, and that most of them are visionary enough to favor an innovative future over old and obsolete business models. Artists are the best examples of how to use inspiration and creativity to transform the world by daring to create major ruptures. Today, a captain of industry can be bold only by becoming a real entrepreneur, by trusting startup founders, and adopting the artist’s way of leading innovations: forget all that you’ve learned and move forward. Now, my belief is that potentially serious corporates could give birth to future billion € companies.