onefourzero’s CEO, Fleur Hicks, explores whether investors are asking the right questions as we approach a period of economic uncertainty.

Our firm, onefourzero, is in the business of asking questions and finding the answers in data. In fact, one day, we woke up and asked the question of whether or not investment decisions were made using the right data sets. Resultantly, we have found a way to use technology to aggregate lots of data (and standardise and triangulate it) and use regression modelling to ensure high confidence levels.

We continue to ask this question of our own data sets every day—you could say that’s how we continue to evolve.

But what we’ve done is tackle the micro. What about the macro? As an industry, are we asking the right questions that might impact growth?

Take, for instance, a scenario I had the other day: I was asked whether or not the increase in registered defibrillators since 2021 was a sign that the government was worried about heart health implications and should investment be made into heart health technology—quite the leap in linking data sets. Whilst it was very easy to rationalise that a combination of a charity-backed registration campaign plus increased awareness as to heart health, in general, has perhaps brought this to the fore, it was a great example of asking a great question using an alternative data set. Not necessarily just looking at NHS data or missed appointments data, or even stats pointing to an increase in sedentary behaviour due to COVID. The question was asked actually of a ‘conspiracy theory’ data set. 

And why not? It was a leap that couldn’t be proven, but that shouldn’t deter the person asking. Are we asking enough of these questions when looking at potential investment areas? Are we looking at data outside of our echo chamber? Are we questioning enough the inferences of some seemingly disconnected data sources? Are we questioning enough even the motivation behind the publication of some data? 

Now, this is not to say that I’m posting some conspiratorial rant. But it really inspired my thought as to whether we are asking the right questions when we diligence or consult for value creation. Are EBITDA, operations efficiencies and CACI really the best measures of future growth investment returns? Should we not also question intent indicators of end customers? Cultural indicators? Wider belief systems and their propensity to influence actions? 

As a firm, and based on our belief that we should be asking more questions, we are trying to bring some of these data sets to the fore alongside more normal measures. Plus, through modelling using a wider range of data sets, we can test these and ensure that more accurate answers are found. So long as we keep asking ourselves whether our habits or beliefs impact our view, we can ask enough of the right questions—especially as we approach another era of uncertainty.