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  • Writer's pictureMel Katzenmeyer

Episode #61 - Surprises of the Human Mind Ft. Thomas Otter - Lifelong Learning

In this thought-provoking episode, Joel sits down with Thomas Otter, a General Partner at Acadian Ventures who invests in the future of work tech. Thomas shares his perspective as a lifelong learner and discusses the evolving relationship between people and technology, particularly in the HR space.

Key Takeaways:

  • Thomas's passion for lifelong learning stems from his father's example of continuous education. Early in his career, an "aha moment" sparked his interest in the synergy between HR and technology.

  • While excited about AI's potential, Thomas believes we should approach it with a balanced perspective. AI will disrupt some jobs, but it will also create new opportunities we can't yet imagine. The key is to remain alert, expect change, and cultivate human ingenuity.

  • When evaluating HR tech investments, Thomas looks for founders who want to build billion-dollar businesses, have a differentiated vision others may find weird, and can attract people to their mission. Timing is also crucial - successful founders create a compelling narrative to bring the market along.

  • Thomas's proudest career moments include scaling SuccessFactors' Employee Central to meet Pepsi's needs and watching someone he identified as high-potential early on blossom in their career.

  • Thomas believes the world would be a better place if more people recognized their own luck and privilege, and were grateful for the advantages they've had in life.

This episode offers valuable insights for anyone interested in the future of work, HR technology, and navigating change. Thomas's unique perspective as an investor, lifelong learner, and former executive provides a balanced view of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

To connect with Thomas and learn more about Acadian Ventures, visit their website or reach out if you're a startup aiming to transform the world of work.


Thomas Otter Lifelong Learner and AI expert

Thomas Otter is a General Partner at Acadian Ventures, where he invests in the future of work tech. Prior to this role, he ran Otter Advisory, advising HR tech companies and working with private equity firms on M&A strategy and due diligence. Thomas also led the product management organization at SAP SuccessFactors, scaling it to over $1B in annual recurring revenue.

A lifelong learner, Thomas holds a PhD from KIT, exploring the relationship between enterprise software and compliance, and recently completed a PGDip in Strategy and Innovation at the University of Oxford. He also serves as a guest lecturer at several universities and is a Fellow of The British Computer Society. Originally from South Africa, Thomas now lives in Heidelberg, Germany.

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