Activant's Greene Street Observer No.10

Prioritizing face-to-face interactions in a world of technology, and Money 20/20 festivities

Prioritizing face-to-face interactions in a world of technology

Founders, Partners, and Friends,

After perusing the National Museum in London, one can’t but help notice how paintings went from representing stories, religious symbolism, or reality in as much clarity and detail as possible to impressionism. The advent of photography in the early 1800s changed the art world forever. In some ways how we perceive reality – life as we see it versus the way we want to see it or dream about it. Perhaps that is why we find Van Goh and Monet, among many others so captivating.

Technology changes how we perceive the world and our own humanity. Just as the Industrial Revolution brought forth a wave of new philosophers, so too will artificial intelligence change the way we think about our perception of things, in particular human interaction. AI will bring us to question our own reality- what is real, what isn’t, and does it matter.

That is why I firmly believe that in this new era of personal relationships, face-to-face interactions will be more important. As our friend Scott Galloway wisely said, “Our success is inversely correlated with how much time we spend at home.” Working hard in this area includes spending time on the road, in lunches, dinners, events, and coffee meetings. In-person interaction is the last castle on the hill that at least for now is untouched by technology – and it cannot be replaced.

If you are driving any business when in a competitive situation, those who show up in person will almost always win. Zoom is a crutch, just like working from home. Internally, video is a great tool to keep in touch with a disparate group. However, over time if there aren’t significant hours spent working face to face, cultures erode as do skills. And young people suffer the most as they sit in their own echo chambers of comfort.

For those in their 20s decades ago, getting ahead consisted of working 100-hour weeks. That can seem nonsensical, but those who did it hit their 10,000 hours much faster and could make up for perhaps lack of IQ or EQ with sheer force. To get ahead today, hard work is important, but so is showing up in person.

By extension, when building your business, you should be out in front of customers more than anyone. There is no substitute for doing the sale yourself in person. A sales force is a crutch, but a necessary one at scale. As an investor, it is always concerning when founders talk about their sales team - which usually means there is an issue. This probably isn’t a surprise, but in my career, the issue was rarely the sales team, it is something else with the sales cycle such as product marketing, the product itself, or more likely the leadership.

The messenger is in some ways as important or more important than the message. Think about who you want to be the messenger. Do you want to be the messenger? Customers can be great as well, but if there isn’t a relationship with the company or someone at the company, customers are less likely to spread the word.

In this new era where we will question what is real, relationships will matter more than ever. This applies to every facet of life, family, business, and politics. Take it from someone who is on the road at least three weeks a month – the compounding effects of building relationships over decades and learning from the smartest in the world will outperform any AI technology to come.

Let’s go! 🚀

Steve Sarracino

Founder & Partner

Last month, all eyes were on Money 20/20, the leading fintech conference in Vegas.

  • To kick off opening night, our team co-hosted an event with This Week in Fintech, portfolio company Vartana, and other fintech leaders.

  • The following day, we had a blast co-hosting a mixer for fintech founders and operators with our friends at Sardine.

  • Thanks to our attendees including portfolio companies Cardless, Current, and Truework, and thanks to our NY-based team Holly Love and Andrew Steele for making it happen!

  • Bolttech, the embedded insurtech platform, acquired Digital Care, a device protection platform. [Insuretech Digital]

  • NewStore, the mobile-first omnichannel cloud platform for retail brands, announced that it will be deployed in 200 AllSaints retail stores worldwide. [Retail Customer Experience]

  • Our Partner Max Mayer took the stage at Idealab - the WHU Founders’ Conference - to speak about the current fundraising environment for tech companies with Konstantin Zedelius from Atomico and Ricardo Schäfer from Target Global.

  • Our Partner Andrew Steele spoke at Gusto and Kanmon’s panel on “Unleashing the Next Wave of Growth” in embedded fintech, including our Activant’s research on the space. If you haven’t already, check out our Embedded Finance article:

  • Andrew also participated in Irish Digital Startup Week NYC with Coret Capasso, Founder & CEO of Urbint, to discuss the US VC & entrepreneur dynamic

Activant is a research-focused global investment firm that partners with high-growth companies transforming the way the world makes, moves, and sells.

Founded in 2015, Activant has invested in category-defining companies like Deliverr (acq. by Shopify), Hybris (acq. by SAP), Bolt, Better, Celonis, Sardine, and many more.

The firm has $1.5B assets under management and is headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut, with offices in New York City, Berlin, and Cape Town.

The Greene Street Observer is published monthly from Activant’s office on Greene Street in New York City.