What problem do you want to solve?

Whether you are studying, doing an internship or in your first job, don’t ask yourself: What do I want to become? Rather ask yourself: What problem do I want to solve?


The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) list 17 goals that countries and companies have committed to achieve. Behind each of the goals are a list of problems that we have to work together to solve.


With opportunities come responsibilities. A responsibility to use our knowledge, our caring and capital to contribute. I want my son and daughter to graduate into a world that is a great place to be. A place they can thrive. I want to see a world where we can actually take advantage of our world of abundance. As a father, I want this for everybody’s children. Creating a place that thrives was my starting point for changing industries and becoming an impact investor.


During my stay at Singularity University I saw that exponential technologies could address many of the grand challenges of the world, those spelled out by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. My mid-life education at Singularity University disrupted my way of thinking. It exposed me to new people, industries and real-life problems.


In my father’s career, there were no impact investors. I am unlikely to even know half of the jobs that will exist in my children’s lifetime. This means that we also need to have a new way of educating our children. And the adults around me. We need to disrupt the education system. The UN Sustainable Development Goal number 4 says that we will by 2030 need to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” I think for instance artificial intelligence will be a key driver to customise education for each one of us. That is just one example of how you could use exponential technology to solve the grand challenges that we face.


Many of the startups at the fringes of society perhaps have the solutions to the problems that we are facing. There is no time to waste. With less than 5,000 days to 2030, the year we are supposed to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we need to move from a linear to an exponential mindset. Using exponential technology will help us reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals faster. That’s why we at Nordic Impact decided to focus on exponential technology by investing, innovating and creating impact.


Once you have found the problem that you want to solve, find your people. These global problems don’t have borders what so ever, and we need to work together. This means across borders, across industries and across age groups.


On the 8th of March, I’ll be speaking in NY to find out how groundbreaking technology can help ensure financial inclusion and financial independence for women. A question that we often get is how to get more investors to invest in female entrepreneurs? The female entrepreneurs are out there, we just need to find them. We just announced our second cohort for the Katapult Accelerator where 50% of the founders of the 12 exponential technology startups selected are women. Not finding them is no longer an excuse.


The people and the solutions are out there. This year the Katapult Accelerator got more than 1,500 impact-focused startups from across the world to select from. We see that founders from South Korea to Iceland and from Nigeria to Turkey are finding creative ways in which exponential technology can solve the problems we are facing.


Disruptive technologies are the driving force behind changing finance, business and culture so that impact, passion and purpose become the standard. At the end of the three months, the startups in the Katapult Accelerator will have defined their vision, strategy, impact orientation, growth marketing and business model. A unique element in the Katapult Accelerator is the focus on team ‘body and brain’ improvement, to further enable the startups to build on their greatest asset; their mission-driven team.


Traditional investors have merely focused on the market returns. But when you put an entrepreneur who wants to solve a problem in the same room as the investor who wants to outbeat the market, we see that there is no trade off between high positive impact and financial return. I think it is the opposite actually. Because you have impact, because you deliver things that are good for society and for the environment, you will actually be able to make more money. When they come together and see that, it will be easier for people to embark in impact investing.


To bring everybody together and celebrate the future, we founded the Katapult Future Fest. This three-day festival in Oslo focuses on the future of society, how exponential technologies and impact investing can be used to create a better future society for all. This year I am really looking forward to discussing the ethical and moral aspects of technology. How do we best use technology for the best of humankind?


Anders Lier

Anders H. Lier is an international impact investor, a leader in the field of innovation and technology and the executive chairman of Nordic Impact, which invests in startups based around technology with a mission to have a positive impact on society. He is also executive chairman of EXP Group which has the mission to make a positive impact on society and environment.