Jon Lerner, Partner at Smedvig Capital | Q & A

What were your biggest learnings at Bain & Company?
That hard work and a great team can solve pretty much any problem; That it’s always worth looking at the data, analysing it and most importantly acting on it; that structured thinking should be celebrated and if something doesn’t feel right in the numbers it’s probably not right – keep digging until you find it!

What inspired you to become a VC and was there a ‘lightbulb’ moment?
There was no lightbulb moment sadly – I knew I wanted to be “closer to the action”, and I hoped that some of the magic might rub off if I spent time with entrepreneurs! A friend and colleague had moved to Smedvig and had great things to say about it. I’m not sure I really understood what venture was when I moved…

Announcing the deal, Musk said that “free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy” and described the social media platform as “ the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated”(FT 26.04.22).What is your take on the $44bn deal for Twitter?
I think the regulation of social media is super complicated (freedom of speech V fake news V bullying etc etc) and the regulators have been way behind the curve for years now. It has literally become of critical importance to our society to get it right. I don’t believe the ownership of social media platforms should effect their regulatory oversight which has to improve, and be consistent across platforms. I don’t think “big tech” should be making these decisions, I think independent non politically affiliated bodies should be.

Smedvig portfolio company Masabi recently received significant strategic growth investment from Accel-KKR. What does the concept of ‘fare Payments-as-a-service mean and how do you view the revolution in transport ticketing?
Imagine all the complicated back end that works out what you should pay for every journey when all the user has done is tap in and tap out. Now imagine that as a SAAS platform so every town and city can have what used to only be built on a bespoke basis for the worlds largest cities (at great expense). It will mean more fare types, greater flexibility and greater ease of use for public transport users around the world.

‘With healthcare costs rising across the world and with nearly six million people on NHS waiting lists, we will need to ask if our current systems have the capacity to offer useful support and treatment to many ‘worried well’ citizens’(The Wired World in 2022).With Smedvig having recently led the $8.3m Series A Round for Heydoc, what do you see as critical factors to facilitate the acceleration and international expansion of the company in the rapidly evolving Healthtech sector?
Focus, Focus and Focus. There are so many different parts of the healthcare market they need to take one at a time, nail the PMF and the GTM then move on to the next one. Each move takes a careful evaluation of the likelihood of success, and a well thought through attack plan.

What are the defining traits of leadership you look for in entrepreneurs?
Enough confidence in themselves to back ideas even if they go against the grain (and potentially many peoples advice); Enough confidence to admit when they don’t know; An ability to motivate the team through good and bad times and an insatiable desire to learn how to do things differently / better

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