4YFN: How one organization is helping startups and investors think differently about the future

4 min read
22 Oct 2019

n advance of the 4YFN in Los Angeles, Startup Guide spoke with Event Director Pere Duran to talk about the evolution of collaboration between startups and investors, and the role 4FYN is playing in making this collaboration work smoothly.  

Pulling the strings to 150 startups and 200 investors in the same room at the same time requires skill and a lot of patience. Luckily, Pere Duran, the event director of 4 Years from Now (4YFN), which takes place in Los Angeles, Barcelona and Shanghai, has an abundance of both. 

Startup Guide spoke with Pere just before the MWC Los Angeles conference about 4YFN’s role in bringing together startups and investors, and how the two players in the startup ecosystem are changing their mindsets to adapt to the future of entrepreneurship. 

Not phased by the upcoming large-scale event, Pere was relaxed and jovial on the phone: “We’re very familiar with it,” he said with a laugh. 

Maybe Pere’s sunny disposition is fueled by the city he’s originally from: Barcelona. Or perhaps it’s inspired by the one the 4YFN team is travelling to next: Los Angeles. In either case, Pere has been preparing for 4YFN LA 2019, which is set to take place from October 22–24 in Los Angeles. 

The event is one of three organized each year by Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), an agency that represents the mobile phone industry. It will bring more than 150 startups, 200 investors and 22,000 attendees to Los Angeles over the course of three days jam-packed with speakers, exhibitions and networking opportunities. 

4YFN’s goal at the conference is simple: to match investors and startups through a simple platform they’ve developed to optimize compatibility and get people talking to one another. Over time, the needs of both have shifted – and Pere has witnessed it all. 

This will Pere’s fourth time in the director’s chair for a 4YFN event – before that he was the commercial director for two and a half years – and in that time he’s seen many startups and investors pass through the matrix. He says that the needs of both startups and investors have changed along with the times.

Three key shifts in investor and startup needs 

Since Pere started at 4YFN, he has seen three major shifts in how startups and investors approach one another, which could, he says, impact what their needs might look like going forward. 

The first shift, Pere explains, is largely about outlook: To catch the eye of investors, startups need to plan not one but four years into the future – and anticipate where the market will be at that time. 

Before the investors were really investing in ideas and projects and now they’re really focusing on teams.

“Something that we advise entrepreneurs is that they have to think in advance a lot,” Pere says. “Technologies are very important, but the investor wants to understand where the company is going to be four years from now.”

From both perspectives, but especially from the investor’s, Pere has also noticed a shift away from “big idea” thinking. 

“We’ve seen an evolution of what an investor is looking for in a startup,” Pere says. “Before the investors were really investing in ideas and projects and now they’re really focusing on teams. It’s more difficult to change a core team of a company [if something’s not working].” 

Perhaps the most seismic shift Pere has seen is in the business model. Investors and startups alike are increasingly setting their sights not on massive growth but on sustainability, he says. 

This mentality benefits not only the entrepreneurial ecosystem but the entire economy. 

“It’s extremely important for investors and for the whole economy to see that the business is generating value,” Pere says. “One of the misunderstandings was about growth and about growing very fast organically without having a sustainable business model.” 

Social impact as an emerging trend

The newfound focus on sustainable growth has been matched with a marketwide move toward building and investing in companies that prioritize social impact, Pere says. 

A number of social impact companies will be attending the LA event, including startups ranging from an on-demand health and wellness platform to a performing arts marketplace. 

“At 4YFN, we are a platform that is playing a part in the creation of the companies of the future,” explains Pere. “We put a lot of effort in making sure that social impact is part of that DNA of those players.”

The choice of a city for the conference is also pertinent: Los Angeles is leading the way when it comes to using tech for social good. 

LA has invested in smart city technologies, such as micro-mobility schemes aimed at paving the way for autonomous vehicles. It will soon become one of the first US cities to implement high-speed (5G) wireless networks, bringing rapid connectivity to a wider slice of the population. And the development of various Intelligent Connectivity platforms could reduce environmental impact by reducing the need for travel in the first place. 

Playing matchmaker in LA and beyond

As the needs of startups and investors have changed, so too has 4YFN, with MWC adapting to the changing demographics of its attendees who increasingly come from Asian countries such as Japan and China. According to Pere, nearly half of last year’s attendees were international. 

This has meant adapting elements of the conference content to focus on how these international companies can engage in the US ecosystem, and vice versa. 

4YFN has also looked to the city of Los Angeles as a drawing board. “We are focusing quite a lot on sectors that are growing and booming in the LA startup ecosystem,” Pere says. These include newer sectors such as smart cities and VR.

Of course, for Pere and the rest of the 4YFN staff, their job doesn’t end when the conference does. The team works behind-the-scenes year-round to scout startups and investors, creating a database that matches them along a number of factors, including industry and investment rounds. 

Additionally, 4YFN manages an Investors Club and a Community Club, both of which are run out of Barcelona and include over 1,000 members. 

“We really have all the players so it’s important for us to serve the investors and the founders,” Pere says. “Healthy ecosystems only work if both are successful.” 

Photo: Pere Duran © 4YFN