‘To become an entrepreneur, you need to have a little dose of craziness’

20 Oct 2020

Michael Niddam. Image: Kamet Ventures

Kamet Ventures’ Michael Niddam gives his advice for start-ups, from opportunities for innovation to why it’s important for entrepreneurs to take time away from the hot seat.

Michael Niddam is the co-founder and managing director of Kamet Ventures, a venture builder that invents, incubates and scales insurtech and healthtech start-ups from its offices in Paris, London and Tel Aviv.

Previously, Niddam was a partner in the insurance and technology, media and telecommunications practices at Boston Consulting Group. He has also founded two start-ups in media and big data.

‘The pandemic has shone a spotlight on healthtech and life sciences, and there are diverse opportunities to innovate there’

Describe your role and what you do.

Kamet Ventures builds disruptive companies in insurtech and healthtech from the ground up. To date, Kamet’s team of experts has explored and tested over 400 original ideas with its network of scientists, academics and experienced sector operators, bringing in seasoned entrepreneurs to help build and scale 18 companies.

Rather than being a traditional investor, we are a venture builder and strategic partner to the start-ups we create. Within that structure, I lead our offices in London and Tel Aviv, oversee the venture creation process, and provide strategic support to our existing portfolio of companies.

In your opinion, which areas of science and technology hold the greatest scope for opportunities?

Viewing the current climate through our healthtech and insurance lens, some of the most interesting technologies for application in these sectors are AI, data analytics and SaaS.

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on healthtech and life sciences, and there are diverse opportunities to innovate there, from software to reduce the admin burden or improve communication and collaboration for frontline staff, to developments in telehealth and using AI for diagnosis or IoT for monitoring chronic conditions.

We live in an increasingly data-rich world, and there is evidence of growing consumer desire for highly personalised products that make use of that data to meet specific needs. Insurance is just one sector that is ripe for digital disruption, with AI now being used for risk analysis and firms looking to transform traditionally loss-making offerings – such as travel insurance – with technology.

Are good entrepreneurs born or can they be made? 

In my opinion, while most entrepreneurs are born, some can certainly be made as well. In order to become an entrepreneur you need to have a little spark or dose of craziness that makes you think you can jump from a plane and build your parachute on the way down.

But what makes you successful at it is learning from your failure. At Kamet Ventures, we believe that experience is what makes entrepreneurs better at what they do.

What are the qualities of a good founder?
  • Execution and drive: 95pc of the success depends on excellent execution, relentless, systematic and quick implementation and improvements of the delivery model of your company
  • Team spirit: You need to be both an executive at a company and a partner to the rest of the founding team, to your investors etc
  • Resilience and a willingness to work hard: As a founder, it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter tough times and need to put in a lot of time and emotional effort
  • Curiosity: Not just curiosity in the traditional sense, but the kind of curiosity that drives you to question your own ideas and beliefs in order to find solutions to problems outside your usual way of thinking
What does a successful entrepreneur need to do every day?

Especially in the early days, an entrepreneur’s role is wide-ranging, and their daily to-do list will be a long one! Keeping an eye on finances, delegating well to the team, and maintaining the company’s focus and culture all feature.

However, it’s also important to find some time for yourself every day. That time away from the hot seat can often provide the critical moment of clarity when you find answers to problems you previously couldn’t tackle.

What resources and tools are an absolute must for your arsenal?

Access to outstanding talent, creativity, discipline, the ability to work together and challenge each other’s ideas, and agility in decision making as well as ability to pivot.

How do you assemble a good team?

One of the key characteristics of a successful team is that its players are prepared to roll up their sleeves and persevere until problems are solved. At Kamet, I am always looking for people who can prove their ability to work collaboratively, listen to others, and not be afraid of challenging their own opinions.

It’s also crucial to ensure you have the right balance of skills and experience. If you’re a tech founder, do you need some operational business experience in your leadership team? Or if you have a great idea but no experience in the sector – especially if it’s a highly regulated one – can you get someone in to plug that gap? Are you great at seeing the big picture but need someone to manage the details?

What is the critical ingredient to start-up success? 

The initial idea is just 1pc of the process; the remainder lies in turning that idea into a viable business and then attracting customers who also believe in the product or service. Entrepreneurs need to make sure that they are addressing a large market – ideally one that is also growing – and that they have a good way of approaching it, otherwise they are unlikely to be successful.

Saying that, for all the best-laid plans, some things just go wrong for reasons entirely outside of your control. Many of the most successful start-ups had a big slice of luck somewhere along the way. 

What are the biggest mistakes that founders make?

At Kamet, the team takes a rigorous approach to understanding real problems and pain points in healthtech and insurance, and then identifying the most viable solutions. But failing to pinpoint a precise enough problem that a founder is trying to solve, or pursuing something so niche that it will never have a big enough market to make it scalable, sets a business on the wrong path very early.

What are your views on mentorship and the qualities one should look for in a mentor? 

From my own experience of entrepreneurship, it can be a lonely pursuit even if there are experts and peers on hand for encouragement and advice. There is often an element of self-doubt and a concern that all bases aren’t being covered, or that perhaps things could be done differently.

A good mentor is able to provide a supportive structure and guide entrepreneurs towards their goal. Someone who is able to point to where you can find the answers, rather than always providing them themselves, can help you to grow. 

What’s the number-one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs? 

Be prepared for anything. Not only operationally but also emotionally.

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