Andy Cars, Lean Ventures: fall in love with the problem, not solution!

Andy is the founder of Lean Ventures, where he works with large companies to build their innovation capabilities. Focus is on innovation strategy, lean startup, business modelling and creating strong connections with the startup community. By drawing on the experience from working with hundreds of startup teams as a lean startup coach, mentor and business angel, Andy provides unique insights into what it takes to successfully innovate. Andy has also been involved in designing startup accelerator programs and advising on how to create and grow startup ecosystems both locally and internationally.

How did you start your career?

I started out as a sound engineer and producer in the 90-ies. In -95 I sold my first company to Bertelsmann Music Group and ended up working for them as an A&R (artist & repertoire). Since then I’ve directly participated in starting, growing and selling a few companies — no big exits or anything — but great fun nevertheless.

I’ve spent most of my 25 year career running my own entrepreneurial ventures and helping others succeed with theirs. I am not the type who fits the role of running “business as usual” projects in an established company working “9 to 5”. I’m more found of building stuff from scratch, tearing down and re-shaping what’s there, aiming to unlock much greater values compared to just pushing for more of the same or minor incremental improvements.

What other industries have you worked in besides the music industry?

I’ve worked with over 200 startup teams and 10+ large companies in industries ranging from cleantech, healthcare, telecom to the financial industry. After BMG I switched to the fincial industry, first working for a large bank and then as an investment manager at a small boutique venture capital firm.

What are you focusing on today?

Today I’m working with large companies helping them to get better at, and accelerating the pace, of innovation. There are many methods and tools out there, but we need to use them in practice. Big companies need to adopt the right mindset, break-down old barriers to innovation and really “walk the talk”.

As we know humans learn only from mistakes, could you tell us your biggest professional fuckup?

Depending on how you see it but from a financial point of view, I was fully invested during the dotcom crash and lost a lot of money. I was young and stupid. On a different level I feel that when I was working for BMG I should have pushed harder for change when we were discussing the importance of MP3s and the digitization of the music industry. The record company executives that I worked with at that time did not really see the threat. They felt that it would be the same as when cassettes came out. Initially people were scared that it would lead to lower record sales. The opposite happened. They thought it would be the same with MP3s. They were wrong. We should have spent more time discussing how these shifts would affect our industry and what new business models we could start experimenting with to adapt to these changes.

Why do you think there is so much buzz around fintech?

Well, in Stockholm we have a huge banking sector, so it becomes a natural focal point. There is also the same kind of feeling as when the internet came — that it will change everything. I’m not talking so much about Bitcoin itself as the blockchain technology behind bitcoin that is giving us the same kind of feeling small children have the days running up to Christmas and when they get to open all their presents. I’m very much looking forward to seeing all the applications and solutions that will come about as a result of the blockchain.

So you think that blockchain technology is the biggest gamechanger in fintech?

Absolutely, I am very excited about seeing how it will fundamentally change what we are doing today. We are talking about disruptions, not just incremental changes. And it’s up to these teams out there to start experimenting and developing solutions, understanding the problems and constraints and start changing the sector bit by bit.

Do you use bitcoins?

No, I don’t, but I have tried and I also have invested in it. But it’s not something I recommend for the faint-hearted. Bitcoin goes up and down like a roller-coaster. I recommend that you do not put most of your investments into Bitcoin!

Can you imagine a world with only cryptocurrencies that will take over traditional currencies?

Yes, I think this is the direction that we are moving towards.

Being very traditional and staggering entities, what do you think can help banks to survive?

The banking sector is facing tremendous challenges but also great opportunities. But to grab these opportunities they have to become even more agile. This means asking themselves if they think they have struck a good balance between “business as usual” and developing the business models of tomorrow. Basically developing entirely new ways of doing business that eventually will go on to replace their current ways.

I see a lot of activities in this sector, and yes they are investing into startups and running accelerator programs etc. But is it too little too late? Time will tell. My challenge to the banking industry would be to ask how many percent of their revenue is invested into developing potentially disruptive technologies and business models? If the answer is

0,01%, I would ask if they consider this to be a good balance or if perhaps some resources should be shifted or re-allocated.

Today a lot of startups are unbundling the business models of traditional banks doing many of the tasks better, cheaper, faster. If those startups starts to collaborate, then they can completely reinvent the banking sector as we know it.

How would you pitch fintech to a 6 years old kid?

You have to break it down to what is relevant for this particular 6 year old. But it would perhaps go something like this: ‘You probably have a weekly allowance, how much is it? 50 kronor? Ok. What do you do with this money? “I buy ice-cream” or “I give to the homeless”. Whatever it is that you’re doing, with “fintech” you will be able to do it better, faster, cheaper and with more trust and confidence than you can ever imagine. “So maybe I can get two ice creams for the same amount of money!”. Yes, maybe. J

Who is the Elon Musk of fintech on your opinion?

Elon Musk was the part of the PayPal mafia, so he was one of the co-founders of the initiating movement. In the US, you have Stripe, with the Collison’s. In Sweden I would say those at the forefront of fintech are the founders of Klarna and iZettle. I think they know a thing or two about fintech. Then ofcourse you also have Startupbootcamp here in Europe. They’re running a first-class accelerator program for startups in Copenhagen in the insurance industry, or insurtech, which is part of fintech. The mentors and coaches connected to that program are all super competent people. Startupbootcamp is connecting big banks and insurance companies with startups through their accelerator programs. There isn’t just one person out there to follow in fintech, there are lots of great minds to reach out to.

Speaking about Elon Musk, do you think that there will be banks on Mars?

I think by the time we get to Mars, and we start thinking about financial transactions, I don’t think there are going to be banks anymore, there will be something entirely different. Banks as we know them today, won’t exist. It’s very doubtful if we will need these huge institutions acting as middle-men in the future. The problems to be solved are how do we establish trust and validity around our asset transactions, how do we speed them up, reduce the costs and distribute the solutions for everyone to use. I don’t see the big institutions playing a part in that unless they completely re-think their current business models.

If you had a chance to meet, Ben Bernanke, what would you tell him?

I would not tell him much, I would rather be asking him lots and lots of questions. Doesn’t he seriously think that what they have been creating by running near zero percent interest rates for almost a decade has created an enormous asset bubble, and that’s plain wrong to do that? Aren’t they just shifting the problem in-front of themselves? I know he would probably give me a politically astute answer that would make my head spin, but nevertheless I see there is a huge risk in playing with the lives of millions of people who live hand-to-mouth. They’re the once who suffer greatly from the financial crisis. Not the rich, the rich will always manage well. How does he see his moral responsibility as a human?

What message would you send to wannabe entrepreneurs?

Find your purpose, find something that you are absolutely passionate about. Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. Because if you are only focusing on the money, it will lead to a very dry life. And if you’re only focusing on the solution you’ll probably end up wasting lots of time building stuff that no-one wants. We all have many problems, or jobs-to-be-done, but there are very few problems for which we are willing to offer some form of sacrifice. Don’t just pitch your idea or solution. Begin by understanding the problems your early adopters face, and make sure you understand them at a deeper level than your competitors. That’s were you’ll find the gold dust of innovation.

More information about the event and registration here:

Use the code Minus40ToDisruptors to get a special -40% discount from Andy!

Check out what Mr. Bitcoin has to say: meet Ludvig Öberg!

Ludvig Öberg is the co-founder of Safello, SC2BTC, Swedish Bitcoin Foundation and Satoshi Square Stockholm. One of Veckans Affärers top 101 Supertalents of 2016 with over 5 years of experience within Blockchain and Bitcoin. He started Safello in 2013 and since then it has become one of the leading bitcoin exchanges in Sweden. Last year he joined ChromaWay, that is developing blockchain and smart contract solutions.

How did you start your career in fintech?

It wasn’t on a hackathon, I actually started my career by co-founding Safello with three other people. I am myself more of a business background.

As we know humans learn only from mistakes, could you tell us your biggest professional fuckup?

It probably has to do something with different press releases, when something went wrong and we needed to fix it and half of the article came out with the right message and half of it did not.

But otherwise it might be like being overconfident with a client and at the end we couldn’t deliver in time. These were not single events, but more like general mistakes I’ve been doing. The important thing is to learn from these mistakes and ask for help if you need to. Don’t be afraid to take the advice of those who have more experience than you do.

Why do you think there is so much buzz around fintech?

A few years ago we didn’t really know which way things would go. We didn’t know if we had to fight this technology and try to keep it out or try to join and innovate. Now I think it is clear that the second option should be taken and we need to integrate it into our systems. That, together with opening up data and encouraging open competition, can lead to better services for customers.

We need to push this fintech wave and we’ll only grow if we follow these trends like in the new EU regulatory framework, so there will be more and more competition where fintech startups are coming and take a bit of the cake.

Being very traditional and staggering entities, what do you think can help banks to survive in this situation?

They should not only innovate for the innovation’s sake — as I feel that most banks are innovating for the PR. They should actually look for long-term goals and how it integrates with their system and with who they are as a company.

If you only do a shallow corporation, then it does not lead to anything long-term and it will be just a waste of time for everybody. Banks need to think about integrating the ideas created in startup ecosystems. Different banks are doing this in different ways, but most of the time there is someone high up, like a Chief Innovation Manager, who knows the whole corporate structure and who can help startups to get to the right places within the banks.

Also, banks cannot do everything, and I think that the time, when banks provided all services for everyone is over and they have to specialize in what they are good at and cooperate with new startups and people offering services and integrate these for their customers.

Still the banks are the hubs where customers are looking for all the services. I think they should dare to perceive it as an ecosystem where other people can have access to their customers, rather than to let them leave and go away from the main platform.

If you had a chance to meet, Ben Bernanke, what would you tell him?

I would probably ask him about all his negative comments about bitcoin and then the way he became a pro in the blockchain technologies, so I would probably talk with him about that. He probably has some Keynesian economic thoughts, but it would be interesting to hear how bitcoin will fit into the current infrastructure in the financial sector.

Which area do you think is a game changer in fintech right now and why?

Cryptocurrencies, and blockchange technologies are game changers because they have the capabilities to change the whole financial industry not just a specific sector. I think it can do it so in a very substantial way. I see this as if it was the start of the internet, we can build new applications and a whole new infrastructure, which makes me very enthusiastic about it.

If you were hitting on a girl/man working with fintech, what would be your pickup line?

Some people have called me the Mr. Bitcoin of Sweden, so I might would use that one then. Hopefully it would work 😀

How would you pitch fintech to a 6 years old kid?

If you look at how the world has changed, you might see that your parents used to read newspapers, now you have an iPad. If you look at the banks, the same thing happens. The future of banks are going to be drastically different. That is quite natural, so it is very interesting field to be in, because it affects everyone. Everyone uses financial services, everyone takes a loan or buy things, send payments, and so on.

Who is the Elon Musk of fintech on your opinion?

I would say that is Satoshi Nakamoto, who invented bitcoin, but we don’t know who that is. So I think that Sebastian from Klarna is doing a great job if we are looking at Sweden. I think that there are lot of people who are doing a great work, but I wouldn’t say that any of them are superstars, but I think that there are a lot of different companies doing a lot of cool things.

Continuing question about Elon Musk, do you think that there will be banks on Mars?

If we get to Mars, there are probably gonna be banks, yes, I assume so. How will they look when we come to that point, I don’t know. There might be a delete all and might not be physical banks on Mars, but at least there may be banking services.

Do you think cryptocurrencies will take over traditional currencies?

Yes, i think we are getting closer and closer there. I think we might end up with a lot of different ones, we might end up with different national currencies, but more and more of the kind of traditional fashion is to look at bitcoin and blockchain technologies and kind of use that technology to get an updated infrastructure, so we might end up in a world, where bitcoin will be a world currency that is not used for everyday purchases, but more for international transactions.

Are you using bitcoin from time to time?

Yes, I use bitoins often. Webhallen in Sweden is one of the biggest stores you can use Bitcoins to buy electronics, for example. I have bought T-shirts, and so on. I don’t do it on a daily basis, but I do use bitcoins regularly.

What message would you send to wannabe entrepreneurs?

You should dare to take risks and get help from other people. Throw yourself out there and try to validate your ideas and see if they stick and get help from other people, because you don’t know everything when you are starting up. So dare things, that is my most important piece of advice.

Do you there throwing yourself out there? Join us and try on Startup Weekend Fintech on the 27–29 January in SUP46!

More information about the event and registration here:

Use the code Minus40ToDisruptors to get a special -40% discount from Ludvig!

Ludvig Öberg
Ludvig Öberg

We have a story to tell


When Mohamed, a talented hairdresser and make-up artist, was 22 years old he went on an adventures trip for several days. He walked, he took the boat and travelled by train. Mohamed was not alone. It was a time when many of his fellow countrymen travelled. Mohamed reached his destination – a new world with nobody who would speak his language.

It was Sweden in June 2015 when the hairdresser and make-up artist Mohamed arrived from Syria fleeing the war and the fear of being forced into the army. After 6 months, he now knows that his adventure isn’t over.

Language, permits, prejudices, accommodation & work are just a few of the adventures he goes through. From February 5-7, Mohamed will tackle many of his challenges at the RefugeeACT Hackathon. Join him and develop an IT solution to help him and many other refugees for an easier and quicker integration.

Solution oriented

After February 7th, this list will be cut in half. At the RefugeeACT Hackathon, refugees will develop the solutions necessary for their change.

Grab your ticket now!