An Interview with Seth Pierrepont of Accel

Seth Pierrepont leads Accel’s investments in the Nordics. He helped lead Accel’s recent investment in Kry and is a huge champion of the way Nordic founders build amazing cultures early on. Accel has a long history of backing stellar companies and founders from the Nordics, including Qlik, Spotify, Supercell, Kry, Rovio, ForgeRock and Avito, among others.
 

What start up verticals interest you most right now?

I’ve been spending a lot of my time recently looking into cyber security.  In the first half of 2017, there were more than 2,000 data breaches announced, including Equifax which affected close to 150 million users.  By comparison, there were around 1,000 data breaches in all of 2016; so the volume and magnitude is increasing at an alarming rate.  That, coupled with changes in European regulation around GDPR, has given cyber startups some strong tailwinds.  Within cyber, I’ve been zooming in on identity, and specifically how companies authenticate and provision identity across an organisation.  This is an area that really benefits from the general software trend of more data and better algorithms, as it enables companies to make more informed authentication decisions – which results not only in better security, but also a better user experience.

Another category that I continue to spend time on is gaming.  It’s clearly a huge and dynamic market – likely surpassing $100 billion in 2017 – and one where the Nordics can make a strong case of being the global capital.  One area within gaming that I’ve been digging into recently is eSports.  Over the last couple of years, consumer reach has exploded within a desirable demographic and Facebook-level engagement, real dollars are starting to flow through the ecosystem, and the infrastructure and ecosystem is coming into focus.  I’ve been zooming in on some of the picks-and-shovels businesses around the player communities, competition platforms, and streaming services.

 

What are your biggest predictions for the next 12 months?

One important, albeit fairly unsexy, area to watch in the next 12 months is compliance.  In the wake of new regulation starting to bite in 2018, this has become an increasing priority for companies across industries. I’m particularly interested to see how new voice analysis technology will play a disruptive role in the compliance process.  Many of our calls today with regulated companies, like banks, are recorded for compliance and training purposes; these recordings are starting to extend to face-to-face meetings as well.  However, the process of parsing these calls to check compliance or to glean useful commercial information has historically been very manual and time consuming — advances in speech recognition have enabled the automation of a lot of that work, thereby accelerating time to value.

 

Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund?

Within cyber, I’ve been looking at companies in the application security space and specifically developer training. Historically, application security products have focused on scanning code to flag vulnerabilities. While this is certainly a useful process and several large companies have been built doing just that, there is potential to solve these vulnerabilities further upstream by training developers to write more secure code in the first place.  Clearly the content is available, but one of the challenges has been getting developers to engage with it. I’d like to find a company that is able to deliver vulnerability scanning in addition to contextually-relevant training content in their developer’s development environment. If developers can correct vulnerabilities as they code and absorb training on the fly, I think it will ultimately lead to more secure app development.

 

If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you’re facing (personally or at work), what problem would you solve?

The top of my list would be to make energy levels inversely correlate to hours slept, which I’m sure most entrepreneurs and VCs can appreciate. I also recently moved so have spent an inordinate amount of time with call centre bots trying to switch my cable, utilities, etc. I have not yet had an experience that gives me the quality and assurance of a human call centre agent without the long wait times.

Neil S W Murray founded The Nordic Web in 2014 in order to provide the Nordics with the quality coverage it deserves. As well as being Founding Editor of The Nordic Web, Neil is also an active community builder in the region, participating in a number of initiatives, and has previously worked for Tech.eu.