“A venture is like your baby, and keeping cool about it is a challenge”
Matthieu van Haperen is Venture Architect at Stryber. He has worked on projects in proptech, fintech and healthcare. He gave some fruitful insights about life as a Venture Architect, it’s challenges and what keeps him excited about building Ventures.
What are you doing at Stryber? What is your role about?
I’m a Venture Architect. Each of the venture teams function as a founding team, without hierarchy. Each founding team member has its own specialty, like product, design, growth, etc. The VA is like the glue between all the different roles, being responsible for the general strategy and business side of the venture, stakeholder management, aligning the team etc.
What are you passionate about in your current role?
Building a new venture is all about execution. Execution means continuous testing and learning. This can only be done when the team functions at full speed, creating open, honest communication and an environment where everybody feels safe to experiment. I love the new learning that comes with each venture, both in navigating a new market or building the product, as well as team dynamics.
What are the main skills needed for your job? What makes a good VA?
You should know the different methods that exist to de-risk building a venture. With de-risking I mean that you should always try to do small experiments to improve your confidence that the venture will actually work. This means finding product market fit or having the right value proposition (product) for the right market. The best way to go about that is to have a hypothesis-based approach, where you try to falsify or prove the various key hypotheses of the venture and iterate continuously.
It’s crucial that you always keep an open mind and are not afraid to change opinions when the latest data show that the initial thinking was not correct. The best VAs have an opportunity mindset, keeping an open mind and always open to be challenged.
What are the biggest challenges? (in your role, in daily Stryber life)
Once you start working on a venture, you start identifying with it. It’s like your baby and keeping a cool mind about it is a challenge. We put many hours into learning a new market or product, and we grow it little by little. We want it to succeed. That’s why we have to take a step back once in a while, look at all the data, and make the right call. Deciding not to continue is hard on the team and takes quite a mental toll.
Was there any project where the data said “no” and you and the team decided to proceed?
No. Gut feel is not a correct data point. Of course it can happen that the data says no, and that you discover the experiment was not the right one. But if the data says no, you can not really defend the argument to continue building. This is what I meant earlier with the venture becoming your baby and having to keep a cool mind.
How do you define success?
Success is a fuzzy word. Of course, we would like to define success as bringing a successful venture to the market. But that is the wrong definition. Typically less than 10% of all ventures will find product-market fit and can be scaled.
Having a minimum number of successful ventures is a key success factor for the portfolio of all ventures that we develop, but it can not be the focus for individual ventures that the teams work on. We want to develop bold ideas, and some ideas are hard to execute on. If success would be defined as a successful venture, the teams would only go for the safe route.
Success is putting the right effort into each venture idea so that at each step we can confidently make the decision to continue or not.
Which project you have worked on was the biggest success and why?
I can not really define the biggest success. I’ve done so many different things, and from each, I’ve learned new things and enjoyed the teamwork. It would be easier to define failure. For me, failure would be a dysfunctional team or a project where we have not learned anything.
What is your secret recipe for the mix of startup speed and professionalism/quality?
It is the team and the people. It’s a mindset of continuous learning and being open to continuous improvement.
Is there a difference to the “normal” start-up structure, if so what are the biggest differences?
As a startup, you have very limited resources and assets. Being part of a corporate can give you the advantage to scale rapidly. This can be access to a client base, supply chain, legal team, etc. I’ve worked in “real” startups before, and the resource constraints can be very tough and a real limitation. On the other hand, being linked to a corporate can also limit you. We can not shoot anywhere, but we need to fit within the long-term strategy of the corporate.
Where do you educate yourself to stay up to date in your field?
It’s a fast-evolving field. The best way to stay up to date is by listening to podcasts or following the right people on twitter.
What’s your best advice for someone who’s looking for a job like you do?
Just do it.