Transiency and the road less travelled

Published On: May 3, 2022Categories: Founder 2 Founder

Founder: Phil Bak
Company: atNav
Stage: Seed
Date Founded: 2022
Industry: Fintech, Capital Markets

The coolest thing I ever saw as a kid was a dual VCR player. It was the height of technology, and it was awesome.

So what you’d do, you go buy a package of blank VHS tapes. Then, you get your parents to drive you to Blockbuster where you would rent Die Hard or UHF or Aliens or Platoon. And then you get back home and the magic begins: the movie on one side, the blank tape on the other. And after two hours, you’ve got your very own personal movie to watch as many times as you want – at least until the VCR ate the tape.

Anyway, that was technology. Go back far enough and a typewriter was high-tech. Go back way further, so was a shovel.

Which is to say, technology is not a current state. Technology is a transient state. What we call technology today will one day look as out-dated as the dual VCR player now does.

For those of us in the business of technology, the business of imagining, funding and building visions that others can’t yet see, the transient nature of technology presents an ongoing challenge. How do you identify something that sparks up spontaneously and unpredictably? How do you find it, nurture it and proselytize it when it is transient? We can put a lightbulb on a store shelf, but not a lightning bolt.

The answer is that you look for those breakthroughs on the roads less traveled. You look for unlikely people in unlikely places who are untethered to conventional thinking, unafraid of failure, and unwilling to accept defeat.

You look, in America in 2022, in the midwest. You look in Michigan.

I’ve seen it first hand. I saw it at Accelerate Michigan in 2019 when my old company faced off against several breathtaking technology startups solving issues across nearly every industry. I saw it from my friends at Detroit Venture Partners, I saw it at Ann Arbor Spark, I saw it walking around Bamboo, and now I see it at Michigan Founders Fund.

I see a startup ecosystem that values grit over pedigree. That values outside the box solutions over the conventional path. That has a healthy disrespect for the way things are being done on the coasts – just enough to learn what we need but not too much to stop the kind of thinking that will allow us to completely disrupt the processes that are revered today.

I see an outsider’s mentality.

And in a transient business, it is the outsiders and those who can spot them that will discover the next great innovations.

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