They just beat us man. Fair and square. All we could do was buy them. Only really solution for us. And what were they? Just a bunch of millennials, mostly with beards, well the men that is. And the guy running the show, the one with the read beard? he is only 29!

Lunch was getting really funny when I asked the director of the big multinational about their most recent acquisition. The small startup with just over 200+ FTE achieved in under 24 months what he was trying to do for the last 4 years. And he was beaten on speed, on output, on agility, by a startup using only very limited financial resources. His whole team of IT and developers were still in the getting the IT assets approved and Powerpoint stage when they already had the first demo live and in place. Just using cloud based functionality. And some bearded millennials.

I really wonder what the trick is, where are they so different from us he said. We both have smart people, I have way more resources, and still they win. Would be nice to learn THAT trick!

Reminded me of a discussion I had with the big dog of a string of startups last week, who even wrote in his annual report, right after the great EBITDA development of last year, next to the currency risk, about the high dependency on competent employees, concluding that it could really affect the company’s growth and earnings if key people would leave the company or if the company would be unable to attract sufficiently new qualified employees.

The discussion with him centered around the fact that he thought the combination of enough money, bonus, car and stock options would attract talent. It clearly did not, or not enough anyway.

It feels that what drives me, my generation, does not work for these bearded millennials. If only we could predict their behavior better, since our assumptions are clearly not working. How crucial is this I asked him, how much would it be worth if you can better predict these young kids staying aboard? We’re talking substantial numbers here. No point in building a sailing boat with only a skipper. We’re talking actual growth, the bloodline of essentially all these startups. Do you have data we can use, like from the last 5 years? I have everything, why are you asking? Well, my team of brilliant millennials at Trifork, mostly girls btw, scary smart girls for that, could create a machine learning model to actual predict that very behavior you’re looking for.

We have seen the first result of the first sprint with our little machine learning project for this big dog. A clear sense of purpose, having fun, do cool stuff, and be able to talk about it on stage and discuss it with peers seems to be high on the list of important drivers for them. The better we know what predicts them staying aboard, the more growth this company can achieve. Digital transformation again is a business topic. Make sure you own it!