SFU alumnus Frode Strand-Nielsen delivers presentation on digital disruption

Sep 18, 2017

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Frode Strand-Nielsen delivers a presentation on Digital Innovation and Disruption in Mature Industries at the Segal Graduate School

One of SFU’s most successful alumni, Frode Strand-Nielsen, delivered a presentation to students, faculty and other guests at the Beedie School of Business on September 8, 2017. Strand-Nielsen is the Managing Partner of FSN Capital, a leading Nordic private equity investment company, which he founded in 1999 and has successfully grown into a firm with over €2 billion of assets under management.

The presentation, entitled Digital Innovation and Disruption in Mature Industries, focused on the impact modern technology is having on many industries, and how business leaders can deal with the challenges that companies face as a result.

Strand-Nielsen illustrated the risks facing businesses by describing an early investment made by his firm in a company that manufactured traditional analogue speakers. Soon after they had made the investment, digital surround sound speakers, produced at lower cost by the major multi-national electronics manufacturers, came to dominate the market, and the firm suffered a substantial loss on its investment.

“I almost lost my career and I almost lost my firm,” says Strand-Nielsen. “That’s how disruptive this can be if you don’t get it right.”

Looking at the current business environment, Strand-Nielsen described how platforms like Amazon, Expedia and Uber are subverting traditional business models for retailers and service providers by connecting consumers directly with suppliers. With the rise of artificial intelligence, he sees these models themselves being disrupted as machine logic increasingly displaces human emotion in decision-making processes, diminishing the value of brands.

For Strand-Nielsen, the businesses that thrive in this environment will be those which demonstrate the vision and leadership to adapt and adjust to the changing market, and recognize their past failings.

“We’re allowed to make mistakes,” he concludes, “But we’re not allowed to not learn from our mistakes.”

Strand-Nielsen was in Vancouver to receive a 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award for Professional Achievement, which was presented at an event in Downtown Vancouver on September 13, 2017.