The entrepreneur’s voice – chapter 4

The Entrepreneur’s Voice 


chapter 4


Born out of a passion for digital advertising, the duo, Eric Visser and Harmen Tjaarda have set about doing what they love doing most- combining creativity and technology to create amazing ad experiences.


With the vision of taking online advertising beyond the usual models, JustPremium worked to open more creative possibilities. In just 5 years, they’ve steadily built their business and accumulated some impressive accolades along the way:


-Growth of over 500%

-Successfully expanded to North America operation, opening a new headquarters in New York

-Ranked as one of the fastest growing businesses by The Deloitte Technology Fast 500™ 2017 program- one of the most respected benchmarks of fast-growing technology companies

-Joined the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group that seeks to develop best practice standards for online advertising.

“At JustPremium, we’re committed to bringing creativity to digital advertising. We believe better ad experiences benefit everybody – advertisers, publishers and consumers alike. So that’s what we deliver.”- Eric Visser, CEO


We asked JustPremium a few questions about the changes and challenges that they face and here’s what they have to say:


What were the main challenges that happened last year that you had to overcome?

JustPremium is a dynamically growing company with a worldwide scope. Any prompt expansion poses great opportunities, but also some challenges. For us, one of the biggest challenges for 2017 was to restructure our organization to support the further growth of our company across the globe.


What technology is changing your business?

Currently, Header Bidding is the technology that can be said to be a game-changer for JustPremium. It connects publishers to our Marketplace and for just four months it has doubled our advertising inventory. We already have approximately 22 publishers on board for header bidding and 22 to join in the coming weeks, and this number is growing by the day. Header Bidding has great benefits for both publishers and advertisers, as well as the industry as a whole.

What new technology would you like to see become mainstream and easily accessible in 2018? 

One of the things that we believe needs to become easily accessible in 2018 is data. Technology Vendors and Publishers should join forces to create and share one unique and unified user ID across all platforms in order to compete with the growing power of Google and Facebook.

How can design save your brand identity in co-working spaces

How Can Design Save Your Brand Identity in            Co-Working Spaces


by Yasanhalari


Civilisation affords humans to become expansive in their intellect and creativity. Living in an age where new trends and technologies proliferate, it’s worth looking at one that challenges the most valued of all, space—a delicate concept.

Space can mean different things to different people. For most, it conjures up that positive feeling of adequate freedom that allows us to express, yet at the same time safeguards our comfort, welfare and individuality without the fear of being restrained, enveloped or constrained by external pressure.

New movements can overturn everything we’re familiar with, including our workspace.  It distorts the point between ‘work and play’ and charms unfettered working people to gather in these newly defined offices called co-working space.

Like any tale of innovation, co-working space is born out of a gap between what consumers want and what they need- ‘something which is more than a café but less of an office’.


“But it’s the promise of innovation and community that makes coworking most appealing.  Behavioural studies have long shown that sharing and collaboration can lead to instances of creativity and innovation in the workplace.  It only makes sense that organizations and small businesses find that they gain more from working together, rather than alone.  This type of collaborative working doesn’t mean you surrender your independence and lose your individuality, but instead share resources and space – and in the process, find common ground with each other, lend expertise, and share ideas.” from Working in the UnOffice from Night Owls Press


So, how does this new trend, which disrupts our cosy idea of space, suddenly become popular?

Several factors come into play in catapulting this new trend. As property prices spiral, rents go through the roof, the gig economy grows bigger and businesses outgrow their ‘apartments’, many smaller organisations, freelancers and generally those who like a change in scenery are ditching home offices for co-working spaces.



Perhaps the rising demand of co-working spaces is also because these spaces have quickly evolved to provide workers with the mix of quiet areas, open plans spaces, formal and informal collaborative areas that help to make an office environment highly functional. 

Variety is also what makes it work. There’s something for everyone; from those who prefer basic to those who prefer fancy. Packed with benefits, it is easy to yield to its temptation–it can make you rethink about its benefits and consider how this ‘change’ could recharge and instil new inspiration in you.   

It’s little wonder that this new concept, which offers innovative, flexible, cost-effective, and inter-connected community workplace environments, is picking up speed even with larger organisations.

Companies such as Google & Facebook have led the way by investing heavily in their workspaces. These companies are educating the market to understand that if the environmental needs of their staff are met, this is where they get their biggest ROI.


Uniqueness in the time of coworking


Since co-working is here to stay, the next question is how do you protect and preserve your brand identity in a shared workspace?

Amy Picanço, Founder & Managing Director of Aym Design, illuminates us about brand identity and how to preserve a brand’s image in co-working spaces.

Her recent discourse on the co-working world takes on how the workplace has always attracted different design concepts intended to not only increase efficiency, productivity and happiness but also to retain brand identity.

“It is our job as designers to educate and help business navigate this new working environment.”- Amy Picanço

As a company that emphasises on a holistic approach, Aym Design takes special care to balance style, function and ergonomics. The working environment is very much a part of the brand distinctiveness, coherently working together to reflect the values and principles, internally as well as externally.

The co-working branding set, which includes your shared space’s name, logo, marketing materials and digital character, must work to tell a story.

The image you want to create and the culture you want to foster affects everything from the location of your space, overall layout to the final aesthetics –colours, furniture and furnishings, and the images you use on the walls.



The top three things that people want access to at work are natural light, greenery and mixed workings areas. Since offices are becoming places of collaboration and personal connections, it is only through design that a brand can co-exist, while maintaining uniqueness, in a co-working world.

Since the brand and the office space are intrinsically linked, the office environment should be considered a part of your brand package, clearly reflecting the mission, internally as well as externally.



Aym Design is currently in a phase of dynamic growth and their clientele span from international to local businesses. Their diverse and growing portfolio demonstrates their ability to cater to the distinct design needs of different businesses. 

If you want to learn more about brand identity, the importance of design in the workplace, or simply why designs need to be more than adding a beanbag, connect with Amy on social media or log on to their website at  








How to build a team with the courage to beat expectations

Photo credit: By Антон Зайцев (


How To Build A Team With The Courage To Beat Expectations

by  Rafael Aldon and Yasanhalari


With every World Cup, it’s easy to dissect what didn’t go well when our team is knocked out, and simply overlook what did go well when they won. 

The media stories of this year’s world cup were often about the super-stars that were expected to shine brightest; Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar and how they faltered, rather than the team performances that prevailed to the later stages.  

France left Russia as worthy winners, a strong team with strength and depth of experience and heaps of talent. But regardless of who your favourite team is, there is a lot to be learnt from the teams that over-performed to beat expectations with sides bereft of “super-stars”. Probably none more so than England.

England’s only world cup victory was over fifty years ago beating West Germany in 1966 and the last time they made it to the World Cup semi-finals was in 1990 – 28 years ago! They have been disastrously failing ever since.

Yet this year, despite fielding the youngest and least experienced squad of the 32 teams to make the finals,  they made it to the last four- and we can learn a lot from some of the techniques their manager, Gareth Southgate used to inspire this outcome.


Talent versus Experience


“Over the past few decades of underachievement, one of the most frustrating things about England has been how so many old-fashioned but relatively trivial issues get built up into massive talking points… only to mean absolutely nothing as the side suffer the same old, same old: a disappointingly early elimination from a tournament as they are ultimately outclassed.” (source: Independent)


One of the major topics whirling around this year’s World Cup build-up was why Southgate refrained from picking more experienced players but instead went for younger players, who ‘can be anything they want to be’.  He had the confidence in them to predict they might just cause a shock in the World Cup.

While other’s were building their tactics and formations around their strongest superstar players, Southgate set to find the right players for the formation and tactics that could win.

So, what is the obvious lesson here?

In an age where agility and adaptability rule, it’s important to note that instead of hiring purely based on experience, it’s important to look for ones with the potential and a malleability- that you can train to perform as a team.

Southgate reasoned that the new squad was not burdened by expectation or prior failures. “We’ve had a generation of hugely experienced players who have just finished, really, in the last two to four years,” Southgate said. He used that potential weakness to his advantage.

However, despite the team lacking experience at major tournament’s, he did not.   He knew what to expect and how to prepare the team both physically and psychologically. Southgate has had to live with the consequences of missing a penalty in the Semi-Final against Germany at Euro 96 and was determined that his players did not have to suffer similar character assassination by the tabloid press. 


Failure is the beginning, not the end


“Sometimes you have to go through difficult times as a team, and failures, to learn and to improve” – Gareth Southgate (source: Guardian)


Gareth Southgate talked about how the current players are no longer “being weighed down by the failures and stigmas of previous England teams.”

If Southgate and his team believed that past catastrophes are binding like a contract, they wouldn’t have revived hope of their fans and their country. They didn’t allow failure to dictate its terms and rules. They defied it and made new ones. England’s dismal record and reputation in the World Cup has changed.  They are back in the game and faith is being restored. It’s easy to get sucked into the whirling vortex of failure and possibly stay there. But, it boils down to perception and mindset which are not fixed but changeable. “failure is not falling down but refusing to get up”.

Likewise, in business, the same principle applies and in fact, according to Dr Ricardo Zozimo, lecturer in entrepreneurship at Lancaster University Management School, failure occurs often and plays a significant role in any entrepreneur’s life.

Just take a look at the many great entrepreneurs who bounced back from ‘failure’ to succeed: Sir James Dyson developed 5,126 prototypes that failed before making one that worked- it took him 15 years. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter was turned down by 12 publishers and was picked up by Bloomsbury which eventually sold more than 450 million copies. Thomas Edison could have given up after 3,000 failed attempts to create the long-burning incandescent light bulb. The list is endless.

Malcolm Gladwell in his interview with Wharton management professor Adam M. Grant beautifully put it that we are “misled by the narrowness of our assumptions about what constitutes an advantage in any given situation” (David and Goliath)


To achieve you have to believe!


“We’ve proved to ourselves and our country that is possible. Now we have a new benchmark. Many of these players have come of age on an international stage. I couldn’t be prouder.” – Gareth Southgate (source: Guardian)


It boils down to believing. Gareth believed in his team, the philosophy, and the approach before anything else.  

You can’t start something if you don’t believe in it. Belief is powerful- it’s central to the success of creating anything, including businesses. You can romanticise about a business idea, but if you don’t believe in it, there’s no chance of it seeing the light of day. Belief is one of the most important tools especially if you are a founder/owner of the business. 

As a business owner, you must believe that your business can and will succeed otherwise you’ll never inspire others to join your mission to make it a reality.

Believing is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Psychologists have found strong evidence for the impact of our beliefs and expectations on outcomes, particularly when we are convinced that our predictions will manifest, and even when we don’t necessarily consciously know that we hold the expectation. (source: positive psychology studies)

Studies have shown that self-fulfilling prophecies—The Pygmalion effect– a phenomenon which was first discovered in the classroom by Robert Rosenthal and Jacobson, works wonder on performance.

Simply put, the Pygmalion effect is when people perform according to what you believe them to perform which is what Gareth did, and his team performed up to the level that he expected of them.

The Pygmalion effect has been observed in several fields and one of the famous and interesting experiments was done in the army. In this experiment, 105 soldiers were given an assignment in a 15-week course. Before the programme started, the instructors were given a list of trainees.

However, each soldier had either a “high”, “regular” or “unknown” ranking, regardless of their actual ranking.

The study indicated that a soldier’s performance was improved by the expectations of the trainers: those soldiers who were ranked “high” outperformed everyone, while those who were ranked “average” scored the lowest and the group without any rank ended up in the middle. The difference in performance between the best and the worst group was 15 per cent.

This is a testament that our beliefs have the power to change our reality; what we believe can become true.




“The questions around us principally come down to character; the essential ability to withstand events that go against you.” – Independent


There’s no better way to inspire greatness than to lead by example and that’s what Gareth did. Even though the current England team wasn’t rated as highly as previous teams,  the firm confidence that Southgate instilled in them was able to move mountains. The team achieved against the odds to surpass a nation’s expectations.

Peter Handal, chief executive of New York City-based Dale Carnegie Training, a leadership-training company says that research shows that what matters most is that “leaders are able to create enthusiasm, empower their people, instil confidence and be inspiring to the people around them.”

When leading by example, they earn respect.  When leaders act and work in an ethical way, they model the character they want to see in others and that earns them the respect. According to Handal, those leaders who are seen and thought of as not “walking their talk” typically don’t get very far.


It’s hard not to admire a leader who managed to reverse his team’s fortunes in their favour by turning a position of what appeared to be a disadvantage, lack of experience and youth, into one of advantage.

At VenturesOne we keen to connect with great leaders of small and hungry teams who are keen to upset the competition with new innovative business models. If that sounds like you, please get in touch.







Winners hunt in packs: drawing business lessons from the big cats

Winners Hunt in Packs: Drawing Business Lessons from the Big Cats

by Yasanhalari


We sometimes take nature for granted, but the rule of “survival of the fittest” applies just as much to business as it does to the wilderness. Gripping documentaries from “Blue Planet” to “Life” showcase that we have a lot to learn from our natural environment.


We’ve all watched nature programmes at one time or another and we can’t help but notice that moment of smugness after the big cats make that precise-and-seamless-catch– it’s almost as if they’re grinning.

Well, why not? They aced it.

Business is becoming more about speed, agility and strategy, and who embodies all three naturally, if not the BIG CATS themselves?


So, forget Shark Tank, here are a few lessons you can spirit away directly from the plains of the Maasai Mara to help you stay ahead of the game.



Although big cats are the undisputed top predator, known to challenge strong opposition with fearlessness, their unforgiving environment doesn’t make it easy for them. If there’s one thing we can learn from these killing machines, it’s that strategy is paramount, whether it’s as an individual or in group ventures.

In group hunts, lionesses typically begin with a formation and they take seven different stalking roles which fall into ‘Left-Wing, Centre and Right-Wing positions’.



                                                 Source: ScienceDirect


The lionesses that take the wing positions often start the attack on the prey, while lionesses in the centre positions stay hidden until those in the wings position drive the prey their way, often leaving them no avenue of escape. This cooperative hunting style has a high probability of success.

Group hunts are carefully orchestrated events. The pride has a clear vision on how they aim to take on their prey, executing their killer STRATEGIC move to achieve their desired outcome whilst being flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances (more on that in a second). This style of hunting, which requires coordinated stalking, positioning and pursuit, cannot possibly succeed without adhering to this process.

The same rings true in business: vision must always come first.  The vision paves the way for the strategy, and with a clearly defined framework of how to achieve that, a business can confidently set along the strategic path that is aligned with its goals.

Say, what does a traveller need before planning the best routes? A map.

A vision acts as a map that helps the traveller chart his way through unfamiliar terrain. It shows the important roads and highways that cross the region, towns, villages and the surrounding landscape. Without such information, the traveller will easily lose his way.

However, it is utterly pointless to have a plan and but not execute it because, at the end of the day, a vision and strategy alone cannot help you. 

                                   Without execution, ‘vision’ is just another word for hallucination.” – Mark V. Hurd.

A good strategy only comes into play when a business allows its vulnerability to be stripped and searched; allowing gaps to be identified. Looking for ways to win can only result from an openness that one is not invincible.

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”- Michael Porter

Strategies can help look at the past and the present to approach the future. To survive and grow in the business world, resources, products and services alone are not enough to win- after all a business environment is just as unforgiving as the Serengeti plains.




                                                   Photo credit: memegenerator


Agility follows strategy very closely in terms of importance because, without it, it’d be like driving a fast car without gears and breaks.


So, let’s look at the Cheetah.

They have speed on their side, reaching 110 – 120 km/h, yet that alone is not sufficient to keep them ahead of the game.  They still need to add another subtler element to their hunting strategy. For the fastest land animal to hunt successfully, it will need more than speed.

A team of researchers observed five wild cheetahs in northern Botswana and discovered that despite reaching top speeds of nearly 60 mph (97 km/h), they rely on agility rather than fully relying on their breakneck strides to hunt down their prey.

Alan Wilson, a professor in the department of comparative biomedical sciences at The Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom said that what was more remarkable was the manoeuvrability and acceleration that they displayed.

Astonishing as it may sound, he also said that cheetahs do about half their top speed when they hunt, so they’re not moving extremely quickly.

The problem with agility is that it’s easy to understand it, it’s incredibly hard to practise it. The reason being rigidity is one of human’s fatal flaws. The reality is, bends and corners are inevitable and the ability to move around them is key to avoiding a disastrous break.


It matters that businesses are agile


Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. – George Bernard Shaw

For businesses to succeed, they will need more than a good product or technology- they will need that extra ability to change and adapt swiftly with ease.

We live in an age of change which is happening at warp speed and opportunities are going to be seized only by those who are ready and capable of adapting and moving with the changing tide. Responsiveness to change has a significant impact on the future of any business. More on this by way of illustration in our previous article.

Organisational agility: businesses that are structurally agile tend to show a degree of organisational intelligence which is the ability to “create knowledge and use it to strategically adapt to its environment or marketplace”.

The battle of centralised and decentralised continues but what we’re after is a balance between these two divergent approaches. As Aaron De Smet, Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, puts it: “You need to be both. You need stability and this dynamic capability.”

Agility is key to finding a happy medium between a centralised and decentralised structure.



      “It takes two flints to make a fire.”- Louisa May Alcott

Lionesses are powerful hunters. A lioness can weigh up to 158 kilograms at maximum and can reach speeds of 81 km/h. Although they have the capacity to hunt on their own yet they choose to hunt in a group.

We can turn to these untamed creatures for lessons in collaboration, contribution and coordination, but how they manage to communicate their common goal so well is beyond us.

Each member in the hunting group has a specific role, knows what to do and delivers without conflict. The point is that every lioness understands that commitment and alignment are critical.


Behind every successful business, there’s a team

Teamwork bears all the hallmarks of a successful work whether it’s a lioness or a business. It is rooted in one of the core principles to success SYNERGY, which is well encapsulated in this one sentence below:

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”- Aristotle

A team that works together is stronger because what one member lacks, another steps up to make up for it. When we operate in a great team, contributing and allowing others to contribute, we are more likely to succeed.

If you think business is a one-man show, then be prepared to be wiped out, there’s only so much one can do. The first step to building any successful business is to build a great team.  No matter how wonderfully gifted an entrepreneur is, the secret lies in the ability to share the vision, train and inspire a team that can help take the business to new heights.

One final quote from Isaac Newton which neatly sums up the point, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”


While we’re busy looking for inspiration from fellow humans, our wilder neighbours have much more to offer. The above points are just a glimpse of a fascinating world that prove that they have plenty of tricks up their paws.













Entrepreneurs: learning the elementary art of decision making

Entrepreneurs: Learning the Elementary Art of Decision Making


What can we pick up from the master of deduction himself?

by Yasanhalari 


Most successful entrepreneurs have made radical decisions, from Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and to the late Steve Jobs. Those decisions were considered crazy at the time and yet today they seem obvious.

And yes, it can’t get crazier than a car in orbit around Earth. When Elon Musk “doubled down” on Tesla by putting in $35 million in cash, his calculated move paid off because Tesla is now worth $2.5 billion and the company continues to track upwards.

Decision. Yes, it boils down to decisions. Let’s turn to SCIENCE for a definition.

“Scientific decision making is a systematic approach to collecting facts and applying logical decision-making techniques, instead of generalising from experience, intuition (guessing), or trial and error.”

Starting a business is just the beginning of many decisions. Entrepreneurs must constantly decide, whether big or small. Overwhelmed by the burden of making countless decisions, sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of shorter and easier alternative routes. However, this can lead to what is known in psychology as heuristics or mental shortcuts to make decisions. 

For the sake of convenience and speed, we use mental shortcuts in making simple decisions as they do not use as much cognitive resources.

Is there a model for making better decisions?

Well, we can’t escape the best exemplar of rational science as he strings along its logic and method in making ace decisions- none other than Holmes, Sherlock Holmes.

So, what can we possibly draw from a detective? Well, he runs a unique business as a consulting detective, doesn’t he?






One of the Holmesian line’s, “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear”, remains a classic.

This is one of his famous quotes as he makes a supersonic series of brilliant deductions. His tactic is simple – observe, deduce and when the impossible has been eliminated, whatever remains, even if it seems improbable, must be the truth.

 “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”- Sherlock

This is especially true when dealing with swiftly evolving markets and technologies. The ability to observe rather than just see can help entrepreneurs spot a gap in the market and exploit opportunities offered by technological innovation, where others may be blind to the vision. Entrepreneurs who rely on their abilities to observe, seize, and innovate will stay ahead of the competition.




Illustration: The story of Airbnb. In 2007, when Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, both 27, had just moved to San Francisco. They were struggling to pay their rent and were looking for a way to earn extra money. When a design conference came to San Francisco, they noticed that all hotel rooms in the city were booked. They decided to rent out three airbeds on their living-room floor and the promise of a breakfast.

They created which attracted their first guests. ‘As we were waving these people goodbye Joe and I looked at each other and thought, there’s got to be a bigger idea here,’Chesky said.


So, what do we learn here?


It wasn’t their primitive instinct, which is only useful for survival: food, shelter and defence, that propelled them in that direction. It was more. They observed a problem, got creative, followed through despite multiple rejections from VCs who didn’t see air mattresses on living rooms as the next hotel room.

This backs up the definition “pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled”

Photo: Designboom


Broke but not broken, the duo even turned to selling cereal. With their special designed Obama O’s and Cap’n McCains boxes, their bootstrapped marketing idea fetched them $30,000 to support their company.

Their decision was born out of their ability to observe and that allowed them to disrupt the multi-billion-dollar hospitality industry.





What is negative evidence? Oxford Dictionaries defines it as:

        “Evidence for a theory provided by the non-occurrence or absence of something”


What’s distinctive about Holmes is that he never succumbed to the snare of ‘easy facts’.  

His infamous line, “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” taken from The Adventure of Silver Blaze” perfectly sums up negative evidence. Sherlock looked for the most unobvious clue in successfully solving the murder mystery.

Illustration: Think Blockbuster. It was founded in 1985 and was one of the biggest names in the video rental space.

In 2004, Blockbuster employed 84,300 people worldwide and had 9,094 stores. However, come 2010, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy. They failed to embrace the digital model. Although its demise can’t be attributed to digital alone, but yes, it was one of the main reasons. When Netflix made an offer to sell their company to Blockbuster for US$50 million, the Blockbuster showed zilch interest. Fast forward to 2017, Netflix posted $11.7 billion in revenue and the CEO said that company will see $15 billion in revenue in 2018.


So, what do we learn here?


15 years of glory and success prevented them from seeing the need to change something that was working perfectly. The unobvious fact was the unseen change. They failed to anticipate the sea change. Even though they had an opportunity to be part of the wave, they blew it. When they realised that the tide had changed, it was too late- they were already drowning in its current.

To thrive in an ever-changing world, you must keep both eyes and ears open, free yourself from emotions and past successes and observe the world dispassionately and objectively.




 “It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”- Sherlock

One of the biggest pitfalls in human nature is the natural tendency to think we are always right, ignore evidence that contradicts our beliefs and only accept evidence that supports them.

 “If the facts don’t fit the frame, it’s the facts people reject, not the frame.”-  FrameWorks

Peter Wason, an English psychologist, calls it the Confirmation bias. It is one of the deadly sins- a treacherous human inclination to confirm our own pre-existing beliefs and views.

It is not only deceptive but it cripples the critical decision-making process. It overlooks all insights from data but instead focuses only on ones that produce ‘facts’ to suit the prevailing conclusions- a fatal flaw.


Illustration: Kodak is the best example of confirmation bias. They ignored the advent of digital age because if they had made themselves invincible for a hundred years, so they thought why heed the warnings?

Disruption is an opportunity and not a threat. Even if they had seen it as a threat, they would have at least followed the signs and made decisions in a more prescient way.

Simple basic heuristics.


So, what do we learn here?


The digital disruption could have opened new paths for Kodak. In fact, it would’ve been easier for them since they had the finances, resources, competencies and were already ‘in the market’. It was just a matter of renewing their approach to the new market.

To survive you must free yourself from the clutches of confirmation bias that blinds you to the reality of change. First things first, acknowledge that The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change. We cannot see the future with your eyes closed and our ears shut.



Conclude Like Sherlock


These are just a few takeaways from Holmes’ genius methods of arriving at a conclusion.

Sherlock will be as pleased as punch to know that our economy is moving closer and closer toward a complete data-driven decision rather than beliefs. Well, assuming that data is used intelligently for it to be of any use.

We need to replace heuristics with clever data.

Data is power and that power can be used to help make better decisions and distinguish between a working and a non-working plan.

Data is what it is. It provides objective answers that allow us to make informed decisions – we can finally stop guessing.

And because entrepreneurship is like skating on thin ice- every turn, every dime, every resource, every second and every decision matters.




Make better decisions: lessons from a fighter pilot and the honey badger.



Make Better Decisions: Lessons From a Fighter pilot and The Honey Badger.


by Rafael Aldon, Director VenturesOne



Imagine if your business could outmanoeuvre the competition with the same instinctive predatory agility as displayed by Daniel Riccardo in his breath-taking drive to win the Chinese Grand Prix this year. 

If you missed it, then take a quick look at the highlights because it was a masterclass in precision driving by the Australian and probably the most exciting F1 race in recent memory.

The beauty of sport (much like Mr Gump’s proverbial “box-o chocolates”) is that you never know what you are going to get.

As I perched on the plastic seat in stand H at the Shanghai International Circuit last Sunday, my brain was saying “this could be a 56 lap procession”. It was a brilliant sunny day with no chance of rain, which is the usual slippery catalyst for unpredictable races. But what transpired was anything but, and my view over the hairpin of turn 14 turned out to be the perfect location to witness the pivotal moments unfold.  

You may be thinking “What can you learn about decision making from watching a single bend on a race circuit?”. It turns out quite a lot, but first- I promised you a fighter pilot… 


Talk to me, Goose 



John Boyd served as a Colonel in the US Airforce and became a Military Strategist at the Pentagon in the late 20th Century. As a fighter pilot, he was undefeated and earned the nickname “40-Second Boyd” for his ability to win any dogfight in under a minute. Although he never academically published his work, his framework for strategic decision making known as the “OODA Loop” has prevailed in military, sporting and business contexts for years.


How OODA came to be


“It is said that the ideas behind the OODA Loop were set in motion during air-to-air combat exercises at Nellis Air Force Base in 1974 (Lind, 1985). During this time, Boyd was tasked to evaluate why U.S. pilots flying F-86s fared so well in air-to-air combat against enemy MiGs during the Korean War. During his investigation, Boyd discovered that the U.S. planes were actually inferior to the North Korean MiG-15s in almost all measures of performance.

However, two features of the F-86 allowed U.S. pilots to gain an advantage. First, thanks to a bubble-shaped canopy, U.S. pilots had better visibility enabling them to better attune themselves to their air environment. Second, the F-86s had powered hydraulic controls that allowed faster manoeuvre transitions. U.S. pilots used their superior situational awareness and ability to make rapid changes to force enemy MiGs into a series of manoeuvres from which they could not escape. The shock that set in when the enemy realized that they were in trouble only hastened the deadly outcome.  

Boyd recognized that the ability to cycle through observing, orienting, deciding, and acting faster than an opponent led to a considerable competitive advantage” 

(William S. Angerman, Captain, USAF – source)


OODA’ya like my Loop?


In its simplest form, OODA is a cycle of these four activities (Observing, Orientating, Deciding and Acting) that combined provide a model to ensure your strategy is resilient to change.



Figure 1- The OODA Loop (John Boyd)


Observation – the collection of data using the senses (in a business context this could be all sorts of business intelligence to understand your relative position to the competition).


Orientation – the analysis and synthesis of the data combined with previous experience and other factors to create a mental picture of the situational reality.


Decision– the output of the orientation stage is options, so the next step is the determination of a course of action based on current perspective.


Action – The physical execution and testing of the hypothesis made during the decision phase of the loop.


Although depicted as a series of steps this is, in reality, a continuously repeating cycle with steps of one loop feeding into the steps of another simultaneously. If that seems too abstract, then imagine what’s going on inside the heads of the F1 drivers duelling for position on the track.  This cycle would be happening millions of times during the race, as each driver ingests sensory information on their relative speed, track position, available grip etc and then processes it to plan and execute an overtake manoeuvre and respond to changes in their opponent’s reactions in real-time.

There’s been a lot of talk this season about the Mercedes engines having a ‘Party Mode’, but in China, Daniel Riccardo had his OODA Loop knob turned up to 11.  While benefitting from fresh tyres late in the race he was clinical and efficient in passing the competition from 6th on the grid for the win.

But that wasn’t the full story of the Chinese Grand Prix. From my seat, at Turn 14 I witnessed two critical OODA Loop failures that gave Ricciardo the chance of Victory, and one inspired OODA move by his team Red Bull Racing that set him up for the win.

These offer some insights and can be explained by diving a little further into Boyd’s theory.


It Started with a kiss.


(The Torro Rosso’s Collide – source)


“It should have been Sebastian Vettel’s day, but Ferrari were passive on strategy in the first phase of the race and got jumped by Valtteri Bottas. It should have been Bottas’ day after that, but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Safety Car came out.” (James Allen, source )

The safety car came out with 21 laps to go, due to an ambitious overtaking move from Pierre Gasly on his team-mate.  In trying to send his car up the inside of his colleague Brendon Hartley’s Torro Rosso, he misjudged and clattered into it sending Hartley spinning and sharp pieces of carbon fibre across the track.

In the post-race interviews a somewhat embarrassed looking Gasly explained:

“The team told me that they were going to switch our positions so I went on the inside of the back straight thinking he would give me space…Unfortunately, I don’t think he saw me and once I was on the inside there was nothing I could do.”


(Figure 2 –Detailed OODA Loop, source)


When we examine Boyd’s detailed OODA model it’s clear “Outside Information” plays an important role in the Observation stage. Gasly’s team radio gave him outside information that he would get to pass his team-mate, but critically it lacked where on the track the swap should take place. When his teammate left some space on the inside of the corner, Gasly went for it because he had misinterpreted this as a signal he might be let through. By the time he realized the move wasn’t on the cards, it was already too late.


Take Away- Outside Information is GOLD


“You gotta challenge all assumptions. If you don’t, what is doctrine on day one becomes dogma forever after.”  John Boyd


We live in a time where the speed of change is accelerating. Data is so abundant that some businesses are already struggling to assimilate internal data, so it’s easy to overlook Outside Information sources as a result.  History has taught us those market-leading companies that fail to see the big picture due to having internal blinkers on are set for a big upset at some point.   Outside Information not only provides vital perspective; it represents a huge opportunity for identifying competitive advantage.

I’ve experienced both sides of this coin. I spent 6 great years working at BlackBerry, who were brilliantly innovative and I’m delighted to see bouncing back after a rough few years. They really paid the price of leadership not paying proper attention to Outside Information. On the flipside, is my current involvement with a big data company that provides actionable intelligence using satellite and drone imagery, called Geospatial Insight. They deliver competitive advantage through Outside Information. Companies can access visual intelligence on their competition and even indicators on how parts of economies are performing. So today, any business leader worth his salts should be asking, What Outside Information are we using?” 


Red Bull’s Bold OODA Move in China.


The debris from the collision of the Torro Rosso’s was enough to trigger the safety car and Red Bull reacted brilliantly to bring both of their cars in for fresher tyres on the same lap. This seems unremarkable, like most strategy calls that pay off, almost obvious in hindsight but this was a high-risk and high-reward strategy with no margin for error.

They had just enough gap between their two drivers cars to not compromise either’s race if they executed the stops perfectly, and they did. Within 10 seconds they had changed all four tyres on both cars and lost minimal time to competitors that were impaired by following the safety car. Their drivers were now on fresh soft tyres that would prove faster than their competitors more worn medium compound tyres. In one flash of an inspired OODA cycle they had created a competitive advantage, game on!



Mad Max’s OODA Hiccups.


Red Bull Racing had given both of their drivers an enviable strategy of fresher and faster tyres, but they were going to have to overtake their competitors on the track. That’s never easy, and just like dogfighting fighter planes, it requires exceptional judgement and perfect execution at high speeds.

Ricciardo’s team-mate Max Verstappen is one of the most exciting talents in F1 today and has had some truly exceptional drives since joining the sport, but sadly for him (and Vettel) in China, things did not go to plan…

Although he was ahead of Ricciardo after their pitstops it wasn’t for long. He caught up with Lewis Hamilton in third with 17 laps to go on a fast and twisting section of the track. He immediately tried a “hero of zero”, low percentage chance of success move around the outside of the Mercedes driver and ran wide, allowing his team-mate to pass him while he was off the track.

However, the headline-grabbing OODA fail of the race was to come with 13 laps to go as he caught up with the Championship leading Ferrari driver, Sebastian Vettel. Verstappen saw Vettel struggling for grip and threw his Red Bull at the inside line. Unable to slow the car down enough, he struck Vettel into a spin and the outcome was a 10-second penalty for his efforts and the finishing result of 5th instead of the podium. 

So why did Ricciardo make winning decisions and Verstappen make losing ones when Verstappen had the advantage on track? Perhaps a glimpse into how we process our decision-making options will shed some light…


Orientation- Where the Magic Happens


“Orientation isn’t just a state you’re in; it’s a process. You’re always orienting.” John Boyd


Boyd’s model shows five factors involved during the Orient phase of OODA that provide a mental model to assign meaning to the Observation data. Boyd considered this phase the most critical part of the Loop as it entails awareness of both your position and that of your opponent.



Even without diving into these interconnected sections we can assert that the difference between the Red Bull drivers on the track in China was likely down to their mental mode during the Orient phase of OODA.

It would be lazy to infer that Verstappen’s relative performance was down to less “Previous Experience” given his age and time in the sport compared to Ricciardo. There have been times that he has outshone his more experienced team-mate so experience is only part of the formula. Perhaps his “Analysis” may have been coloured by the pressure to perform in China after having a relatively poor start to this season. 





At the start, Max’s direct approach paid off as he made up places in the first corners. Part of the entertainment of F1 is that we get some clues into the drivers’ mentality during the race through their team radio transmissions, and as he completed an overtake on Kimi Raikkonen Verstappen said;


“See you f*****g later son”, over the team radio.

Verstappen was clearly pumped-up, but his engineer was quick try to calm him down:

“Alright, don’t get greedy now mate. That’s good, settle down,” was the reply.


In the context of what was to transpire later, it’s a clue that Verstappen’s mental model may not have been optimal for challenges that lay ahead.


In comparison Daniel Ricciardo was relatively quiet over his radio throughout the race even while making numerous overtakes in the late stages, suggesting a more neutral state of focus.  His only outburst was “Get it Girl, Get it!” when he took the lead from Valtteri Bottas and realized the win was in the bag.


Verstappen was reflective after the race acknowledging his mistake, apologising directly to Vettel and his post-race comments were also interesting:

“I don’t think necessarily I need to be less aggressive or anything as it has nothing to do with being overly aggressive, maybe it’s just wanting too much.”


“Maybe I should just, not even calm down, but maybe oversee the situation a bit more. I don’t know why, I think I was quite good at that before but somehow this year, maybe with the previous two races not going your way you want to recover the points and it’s working against you at the moment. Of course, this is definitely not what I want. It’s a life lesson.”


It’s this sometimes painful process of self-analysis that transforms our future Orientation phases and allows us to come back stronger, more experienced and ultimately forges the foundations of future victories.

“Orientation shapes the way we interact with the environment…it shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act. In this sense, orientation shapes the character of present OODA loops, while the present loop shapes the character of future orientation.”

 (Frans Osinga – Science, Strategy and War)


It will be fascinating to see how the young Dutchman performs over the next few races. My bet is that Max will bounce back, even stronger! 


Take Away – ABO = Always Be Orienting


We all need resilience to succeed. In business, the way you build a resilient organisation is similar to the process Verstappen is going through now. You learn from failure. You don’t hide it; you embrace it.

You sit down, debrief, understand what went wrong and what could be better and go about making the changes. This is however only possible if the organisational culture allows for, or better still encourages, feedback loops. 

We can consume case studies on what has and hasn’t worked for other companies. Ideate new models, think through concepts, and test strategies that become ready to deploy when the need arises. Yet somehow, it’s bouncing back from failures that seem to offer the biggest net gains in the long run.

Steve Jobs summed it up well in his Stanford commencement speech. On the bitter experience of being fired from Apple, he said- “It was awful-tasting medicine, but the patient needed it.”


The Last Word from the “Honey Badger”


Just in case you were wondering where the Honey Badger features in all of this- it’s Daniel Ricciardo’s self-penned nickname. As Ricciardo explains it:


“He seems quite cute and cuddly, but he’s supposed to be the most fearless animal in the animal kingdom, and he’ll go after anything.”


If that’s not a brilliant mindset to have when making big decisions, I don’t know what is!