The biennial Balderton CEO Collective took place this year in France

Suranga provides his perspective on Balderton's Collective CEO Retreat, one week after the event

This month, we held our latest Balderton Collective CEO Retreat, Balderton’s biennial get together of all its CEOs, in the Luberon region of France.

While we always run the event at great locations and enjoy good food, engaging speakers and entertaining activities, everything is really a carefully orchestrated attempt to get our CEOs to connect with each other and start new (or nurture existing) relationships between each other.

A week later, as I reflect on the event, I had a number of observations that I thought were worth sharing:

1) Being a CEO is a tremendously lonely job

While having co-founders helps, CEOs hold a unique position in the companies they run and few can truly empathize with the resulting unique strains it creates. Having a few days to dis-engage from the day to day and share these challenges with peers is probably the most valuable thing CEOs get from being part of the Collective.

2) As companies get larger and older,  focus shifts

As companies get larger and older, a lot of the focus shifts from markets and products towards scaling team and company building.

Work-life balance (for the whole team and the CEO), bridging cultural differences between satellite offices, hiring and supporting diverse teams and long-term incentivization were all hotly discussed topics.

3) CEOs are a curious bunch

You’d think everyone would talk about their own companies, but actually, many were equally obsessed about new technology – from CRISPR to neuroscience, blockchain to AI, fake news to bio-hacking.

4) Geographical approach is always changing

While the old ‘how to move to the US’ chestnut was, yet again, a popular topic of discussion there are a vocal minority of our portfolio who are heading East, to Asia for funding, large markets and even teams. This is a trend I want to monitor and measure over the next few years.

5) Trends always emerge

Asking people where their angel investments are going and areas they think look exciting for the next few years, a number of clear trends emerged — the overlap between health and computing, the continuing mobile-first revolution in consumer services, growth in real IOT and edge-computing, AI-powered enterprise software are probably all areas where I expect to see new companies and CEOs next time we hold the Collective.

6) We are going to start extending the Collective beyond CEOs

Being an employee in the Balderton portfolio already means that you likely work for one of the most exciting companies in Europe — we can build on that by making it easier for you to meet your peers across the group, in real life and online.

Last but not least, I need to say thank you to the CEOs on behalf of the entire partnership.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to be working with such an incredible group of individuals – each uniquely talented, each building an amazing organization, each pushing against the grain and making change happen. It’s inspiring to watch and we are all honoured to be a small part of the journey from a handful of people in a single room with a first product to large, multi-national organizations going public and providing employment to thousands.

We’re looking forward to seeing you all again already!

Highlights — The Balderton 2018 CEO Collective

The speakers

Erin Meyer spoke on The Culture Map - breaking through the invisible boundaries of global business - and how to recognize, and value, cultural differences

Moran Cerf, neuroscientist, spoke about how the brain works in decision making

Ellen Jorgensen, PhD, spoke on the the topic of CRISPR and bio-hacking

Ben Saunders, polar explorer, shared his experiences of thriving in challenging environments

Top professional poker player Patrik Antonius shared how he manages risk, and the story behind how he won the biggest pot in the history of online poker.

The community

Tempow co-founder and CEO Vincent Nallatamby talks to Jack Rivlin, founder and CEO of Tab Media and Jens Begemann, founder and CEO of Wooga

Discussions on work life balance, and integration, included views from Nikolay Storonsky of Revolut, and Chris Morton of LYST

CEOs listened to guest speakers that included a leading neuroscientist, a bio-hacker, an expert in cultural diversity in the workplace, a top professional poker player, and a polar explorer

Bernard led a discussion about moving to the US with perspectives from the CEOs of Aircall, Qubit, and Depop.

Having the Collective in the Luberon, near Mont Ventoux, meant biking had to be on the agenda

The Balderton CEO Collective football game is always a favourite

Pétanque — a classic French pastime — and a first time experience for most

Provençal rosé, and shared experiences, were a highlight

A lucky few (very) early risers saw the Luberon from a balloon

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