The future of Digital Democracy – Swae plugged at Blockchain Futurist ’22

The future of Digital Democracy – Swae plugged at Blockchain Futurist ’22

Swae, the future of Digital Democracy – Blockchain Futurist Conference

[Michelle Rempel, Canadian MP and Tanya Woods, Web3 Expert plug Swae in the main Arena]

15 August 2022 2.40 min Video, 1 min Read

Michelle Rempel @MichelleRempel Canadian Member of Parliament and Tanya Woods @BeingTMW a Web3 expert (amongst many other things!) discussing how transformative technology such as Swae.io can improve the current state of Corporate, Government and NGO democracy & play a constructive role in replacing the need for politicians in 10 yrs, as well as giving everyone in the community a voice, inclusivity and fairness.

Thanks both for mentioning Swae in the main arena, this is exactly what we’re building Swae for.

Video credit to Futurist Conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOav5oczuLY

About Blockchain Futurist

Blockchain Futurist Conference is Canada’s largest Crypto and Blockchain Event – August 8-10 2022 in Toronto.

The @Futurist_conf brings together 100+ world-class speakers, industry experts, and thought-leaders to discuss blockchain technology, NFTs, Metaverse, DeFi, Cryptocurrency, DAOs and more.

More to explore…
Swae Sessions | Can Democracy Save the Environment?

Swae Sessions | Can Democracy Save the Environment?

Swae SessionsCan Democracy Save the Environment [A Talk to the Council of Europe & World Forum for Democracy]Live on Crowdcast and On Demandby Soushiant Zanganehpour @Soushiant Founder & CEO of Swae During this free webinar, you will learn:xLast year, The...

Blockchain Futurist Conference- Swae CEO to speak about web3 & DAOs

Blockchain Futurist Conference- Swae CEO to speak about web3 & DAOs

Blockchain Futurist Conference- Swae CEO to speak about web3 & DAOs

[Hear from @Soushiant]

12 July 2022 1 min Read

Swae_Harvard_Business_review_How to Be Seen as a Brilliant and Bold Leader [Become a Great Communicator].png

Blockchain Futurist Conference is Canada’s largest Crypto and Blockchain Event and is back on August 8-10 2022 in Toronto.

Hear from the newest and most innovative companies changing our planet including a panel discussing web3 and DAOs with Swae’s Founder & CEO Soushiant Zanganehpour @soushiant

The @Futurist_conf brings together 100+ world-class speakers, industry experts, and thought-leaders to discuss blockchain technology, NFTs, Metaverse, DeFi, Cryptocurrency, DAOs and more.

Swae_Harvard_Business_review_How to Be Seen as a Brilliant and Bold Leader [Become a Great Communicator].png

Its all part of Canada Crypto Week and Eth Toronto (the birthplace of Etherium!)

More to explore…
Swae Sessions | Can Democracy Save the Environment?

Swae Sessions | Can Democracy Save the Environment?

Swae SessionsCan Democracy Save the Environment [A Talk to the Council of Europe & World Forum for Democracy]Live on Crowdcast and On Demandby Soushiant Zanganehpour @Soushiant Founder & CEO of Swae During this free webinar, you will learn:xLast year, The...

Does your company’s culture empower people to speak up? [Brief Survey]

Does your company’s culture empower people to speak up? [Brief Survey]

Does your company’s culture empower people to speak up?

[Brief Survey]

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The new world of work can be frustrating, and giving employees a voice can feel difficult. Nothing is more demoralizing than a culture where no-one listens to your issues or ideas.

With many remote workers feeling it’s hard to raise important issues and get a reciprocal feedback loop going, now is the time to find out if your organization can be more ‘open’

Swae is an all-in-one platform to bring together ideas, problems, solutions, decisions and discussion- and has employee engagement and inclusivity at its heart.

From Teams to DAOs, and Enterprises, Swae’s results speak for themselves- but how do you know if Swae can boost your engagement?

Answer these questions (survey takes about 2 minutes) to analyze how your organization measures up around this idea of an inclusive culture…

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In 2022, culture is now more important to employees than salary but 86% of employees feel they are not heard ‘fairly or equally’…63% believe their views & opinions are completely ignored!

If people are going to be afraid, I’d rather they’re afraid of what will happen if they stay silent than being afraid of what will happen if they speak up.
We’re not going to have a culture where the messenger gets shot. We’re going to celebrate the person who called a potential threat or risk to our attention.’

Elon Musk SpaceX, Tesla,

More to explore…
Swae Sessions | Can Democracy Save the Environment?

Swae Sessions | Can Democracy Save the Environment?

Swae SessionsCan Democracy Save the Environment [A Talk to the Council of Europe & World Forum for Democracy]Live on Crowdcast and On Demandby Soushiant Zanganehpour @Soushiant Founder & CEO of Swae During this free webinar, you will learn:xLast year, The...

High Performers in Companies Around the Globe Use Swae [Here Are 3 Reasons Why] 

High Performers in Companies Around the Globe Use Swae [Here Are 3 Reasons Why] 

High Performers in Companies Around the Globe Use Swae

[Here Are 3 Reasons Why]

1 June 2022 4 min Read

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What makes a high-performance leader or employee tick? Research shows that companies win more often when they build genuinely diverse, equitable, and inclusive cultures (learn more here).

These can be high-performing companies or individuals stepping into bold, authentic leadership styles that set them apart from others. Companies and leaders considered to be “high performers” are spread throughout key, identifiable workplaces around the globe and the one thing that binds them together is that to be consistent in high performance they’re setting themselves apart from the status quo and fighting for a new way to do work better.

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Thanks to the Covid pandemic and other social and demographic changes, we’re living through a once-in-a-generation power rebalance between employees and employers. Gone are the days of top-down hierarchical dictatorships in workplaces. We’re seeing a new era emerge with new norms, where people have their voices heard —and feedback turns into new possibilities for organizations to pursue.

High performers win more not because they go against the status quo and this is due to the way that they solve problems. The best way to solve modern-day organizational problems is to have competing ideas on the table to thoroughly discuss, not just the wisdom from a few of those at the top or who are the loudest. New research from Harvard Business Review titled  Approaches to Solving Problems in the Workplace , states that, “Highly effective teams solve problems the right way and have common features: the teams are cognitively diverse and psychologically safe.”

So, companies who build more diverse teams and create “speak up” cultures where there is trust and respect amongst cognitively diverse people do far better at solving everyday challenges than those that who have a more traditional and less cognitively diverse and psychologically safe spaces for problem and solution discussion.

According to Boston Consulting Group’s 2017 Diversity and Innovation Survey, companies with above-average diversity scores (via investing in creating conditions for cognitive diversity) generate nearly 20% more average revenue from innovation than companies that have below average diversity scores (and subsequently have not invested in creating the conditions for cognitive diverse in their organizations).

Companies with more diverse Leadership report higher Innovation Revenue
Companies with below average diversity scores

Average innovation revenue 

%

Companies with above average diversity scores

Average innovation revenue 

%

Source: Boston Consulting Group’s 2017 Diversity and Innovation Survey

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The latest research from Kaspersky, a leading enterprise innovation and security company states that, “88% of successful high performing organizations encourage innovation at every level, in every team,” and don’t silo innovation into one small department. And, in their follow up report on Bottom-up Innovation in Enterprise shows they share the most important values required for building high performing and innovative organizations.

    • Instilling Entrepreneurialism
    • Creating Diversity (of thought and personnel)
    • Empowering individuals
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Not convinced by the research? We can tap into the wisdom of others, so let’s analyze what Steve Jobs has said.

“If you want to hire great people and have them stay, you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win.”


Steve Jobs Apple, NeXT, Pixar

Working with the world’s most innovative companies at Swae, we know that high performers thrive in workplaces where there is an idea meritocracy, not top-down authority and dictatorship.

An idea meritocracy is defined as a decision-making system where the best ideas (irrespective of who proposes them) win out. The concept has been around for a long time but was popularized by Ray Dalio in his best-selling book Principles: Life & Work, which shares an in-depth exposé of his organizational and operating strategy within his company called Bridgewater (learn more here), which is arguably the most successful hedge fund.

Dalio attributes the “idea meritocracy” at Bridgewater as a decision-making system where new investment and policy ideas can come from anywhere in the hierarchy, can be challenged by anyone, and the most debated are the ideas put forward for institutional decisions, as the system responsible for the quality and quantity of good decisions made to lead to such an outsized performance gap against all other competitors in their space.

“Our success occurred because we created a real idea meritocracy in which the goal was to have meaningful work and meaningful relationships and the way we went after them was through radical truthfulness and radical transparency.”


Ray Dalio Founder Bridgewater Associates

Examples from these cultural icons and highly innovative business tycoons helps paint the picture of the powerful underlying constructs that Swae brings to the table. It’s built for any organization or leader who wants to unleash the collective intelligence that lies within a workplace.

Swae is not a fickle chat or upvoting app. 

Swae is not a boring idea enablement workflow platform. 

Swae is not just a product innovation platform.

It is so much more; turning feedback into organizational change and creating a bottom-up idea meritocracy.

Swae can help your workplace become an industry example and high-performing entity due to the help in building a more constructive speak up culture. As demonstrated above, this is a critical step for driving more innovative ideas forward, faster.

Swae’s AI and Collaboration features help people refine ideas together in an inclusive way. Imagine an open suggestion box combined with a conditional guarantee of a decision. Anyone can suggest ideas within the organization they belong to, and ideas compete for decision attention equally. The ideas that receive the most debate graduate to a decision. Leaders commit to making a decision about the fate of popular ideas directly on the platform.

Fair, transparent, bottom-up, and meritocratic decision-making. That’s the Swae way.

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How Swae supports high performers everywhere:

Swae serves the people that love to disrupt the status quo (for the good).

Swae serves DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) by using Swae’s collective intelligence, collaboration, and crowdsourcing features allowing members of DAOs to create proposals anonymously with the support of AI that will improve the quality of those proposals and then open them up for the input of the larger community.

The crowdsourcing feature will enable the proposals to be debated on their merits, edited with others’ perspectives, and voted on by all active members of the community. The proposals that receive the highest engagement (positive or negative) automatically percolate upwards to a decision DAO community and its “council,” where projects can be funded or supported in whatever way the DAO chooses.

This process for revealing decision-ready ideas from the bottom-up can be adapted to any organization that is bold enough to desire it and for the leaders ready to disrupt the stale and boring hierarchical status quo and create environments that value people and what they have to say.

To further expand on the Kaspersky’s Bottom-up Innovation in Enterprise report, the top three barriers larger organizations face when trying to innovate more include:

A. Organizational structures add too much complexity (48% agree)

B. Too many people are involved in the [decision-making] process (42% agree)

C. It takes too long to make decisions (40% agree)

48%

Organizational structure adds additional complexity

42%

Too many people are involved in the [decision-making] process

40%

It takes too long to make decisions

Swae helps to create diverse and inclusive environments with less pain and less noise.

We know that when employees speak up, good things happen. An MIT Sloan study shows that when employees are comfortable in speaking up more often about many emerging topics, they are more likely to stay at the company longer, and to exhibit positive employee behaviors.

92%

Employees who spoke up more were 92% more likely to want to stay with the company (even if offered a comparable position elsewhere)
96% of the employees who speak up on all the survey topics said they work in teams that value diverse perspectives and feel safe to express their viewpoints.

96%

The more diverse and inclusive the teams, the better because people feel comfortable and safe to be more open, engaging, and speak up more often.

Swae is for the brave.

Swae exists to build positive workplaces that debias decisions, empower constructive debate, deepen collaboration, and tap into intrinsic motivations for engagement.

Breaking down the biases and structures that zap out our motivations in the workplace is critical for creating high performing organizations and cultures.

Unchecked bias has a massive impact in the workplace that can derail businesses from finding great ideas and making significant decisions every single day. An article by McKinsey & Company How Biases, Politics, and Egos Trump Good Strategy  shows data that proves cognitive bias eats away at the positivity within a company’s culture.

Here are a couple of the top biases according to McKinsey & Company to look out for:

  • Overconfidence: this type of bias leads people to ignore contradictory information. They don’t hear anything other than their “own voice” when considering options.
  • Confirmation Bias: refers to the human tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. One study found, for instance, that 80% of executives believe that their product stands out against the competition—but only 8% of customers agree.
Eight studies with 147,000 people show that dominant, competitive leadership has the unintended consequence of zero-sum thinking — the belief that progress can be made only at the expense of others — among subordinates. Such environments disincentivize workers from helping or supporting their colleagues. 
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A more empowered and engaged way of doing business is on the rise…

We see a bright future ahead!

We at Swae envision a world where everyone understands their value and is seen for that value in their workplaces and where everyone can feel included and have a voice. Call us crazy, but we’re passionate about this vision and are working hard to make it as obvious as the current system that works in the opposite manner.

Swae is helping organizations across the world to solve today’s problems and create tomorrow’s strategy. From Start-ups to Charities, and Enterprises to DAOs, our clients find that their greatest resource is their people, and Swae is proven to help get the best from the untapped potential within their workforce.

Find your next winning ideas using Swae

More to explore…
Swae Sessions | Can Democracy Save the Environment?

Swae Sessions | Can Democracy Save the Environment?

Swae SessionsCan Democracy Save the Environment [A Talk to the Council of Europe & World Forum for Democracy]Live on Crowdcast and On Demandby Soushiant Zanganehpour @Soushiant Founder & CEO of Swae During this free webinar, you will learn:xLast year, The...

Entrepreneur Mag: A deep dive into the ups and downs of building a tech startup in uncertain times

Entrepreneur Mag: A deep dive into the ups and downs of building a tech startup in uncertain times

Swae: A roller coaster ride

A deep dive into the ups and downs of building a tech start-up in uncertain times.

10 min read, 7 April 2022

Entrepreneur Middle East April 2022 issue is here featuring Swae CEO & Founder @soushiant‘s story of building Swae duding uncertain times [read ‘global pandemic] as well as enforced work, from home, team building and a host of other issues. Nobody ever said it would be easy, but every cloud has a silver lining and the Swae team is more dedicated than ever to help make the workplace more inclusive and help decisions beceom more democratic. 

The issue is headlined by @Mhdgroupoman‘s @mohsinhani and also features @Amazon‘s Paul Misener, @FarEye‘s @kushalnahata, and the winners of@MastercardMEA‘s #WomenSMELeaders Awards 2022. 

You can read the magazine here, read the virtual magazine below or keep scolling for the full text:

Back in 2019, I shared with Entrepreneur Middle East my company Swae’s founding story, and our big vision of the need to upgrade the decision-making process for organizations and government  institutions, so that they become more compatible to the needs of the future, as well as the direction the world was headed in. 

In it we shared a common trend we saw across many types of organizations – that most people feel they lack voice and cant influence the major decisions made inside the organizations they belong to. This is often the consequence of closed cultures, outdated structures, or an over reliance on a top-down decision-making process. As a consequence, many are disengaged and the impact on the organizations is very visible – 3x higher disengagement rates, 3x higher absenteeism rates, and 34% lower productivity rates per employee on average.  Thankfully, though slowly, this trend is leading many decision makers to come to terms with their structural or cultural shortcomings and begin reconsidering how they include others in decision-making processes or shift culture to be more inclusive.

“Today’s most consequential institutions (governments, corporations, city councils) make their most important decisions through hierarchical processes. They interpret stakeholders’ preferences through periodic surveys or consultations, and leverage representatives to filter information up and down the hierarchy, precluding regular, meaningful, and unfiltered participation of most stakeholders into the process. But, our ever-advancing communication technologies are challenging this outdated proces, enabling direct and instantaneous communication, allowing for efficient access to distributed intelligence, and even helping create the first ever distributed organizations.” 

Over this period, Swae began carving out its niche and penetrating the market. The platform amassed close to 40,000 users from clients all over the globe, including some of the world’s top organizations such as the United Nations, the governments of Mexico and Chile, blue chip corporations such as Bosch, Etihad Airways, LifeLabs, and EMC Insurance. After winning the New Shape Prize, and securing a $750K CAD non-dilutive grant, 20 months later we were able to successfully fundraise an additional $750K CAD seed round – a 50% increase from the initial $500K offer – led by the former head of Engineering at Netflix and other notable investors, and, we even had time to produce a swanky new explainer video showing how Swae works to condense the technological concept and narrative down into something digestible and fun for all audiences.

But since publishing the article in 2019, no one really could predict there would be a global pandemic that would turn every assumption all of us had on its head. From the unique lens of Swae, the pandemic was a positive forcing function – the challenges that organizations face only accelerated and came to the forefront. There was no more hiding them between the natural cracks an organization faces during growth. They became prominent issues to solve for today. 

THANKFULLY (THOUGH SLOWLY), THIS TREND IS CAUSING MANY LEADERS TO COME TO TERMS WITH THEIR STRUCTURAL OR CULTURAL SHORTCOMINGS, AND BEGIN RECONSIDERING HOW THEY INCLUDE OTHERS IN DECISION-MAKING PROCESSES, SHIFTING COMPANY CULTURES TO BE MORE INCLUSIVE.

 

Thanks to Covid 19 and the ensuing the market volatilities and revamped nature of work, the need for such a wake up, to create an environment of psychological safety and inclusion, to create a system that helps organizations listen at scale, to hear as many voices as possible (instead of the loudest or most powerful few at the top), to source creative solutions to new problems and enable good ideas with meaningful action, is more important today than ever before.

“In today’s era, there really is no excuse for organizations and leaders not to leverage the available but untapped collective intelligence that resides within them. We have the technology to do this efficiently, research shows that crowdsourcing reveals high enough quality of solutions to problems to be worthwhile, and modern culture has progressed enough so people expect this level of transparency and inclusion in the decision making process, especially decisions that have a big impact on their lives. Leaders and organizations that fail to listen and update their processes to meet the world where it is and where it’s headed will be left behind. No one wants a part of the outdated reality they have to offer.” says Soushiant Zanganehpour, founder and CEO of Swae

 But the Covid-19 pandemic did not discriminate between organizational types. Swae nearly went under. 

Covid-19 & its Impact on all Organizations 

As it generally goes, building a tech startup or any startup for that matter is indeed a roller coaster ride. Building a tech startup during a global pandemic brought a level of challenge I had never faced in my life before.  At the outset of Covid-19, Swae was thrown into a number of crises, and had to overcome many headwinds to adapt itself to the new reality.  We’ve had a lot of learnings since our 2019 launch. The challenges that hit when 2020 came all centered around planning and maneuvering through massive uncertainty – uncertainty about what our clients were going through and if they had the available budgets to invest in our solution; uncertainty about where funding would come from and how to fundraise without in-person roadshow and meetings; uncertainty about the impact of the pandemic on recruiting global talent and team formation; and uncertainty about how to grow a team and instill the right culture while being entirely remote! 

“Since 2019, the landscape and market we’ve entered has changed in ways that I couldn’t have predicted. Covid-19 came and hit everyone like a wrecking ball; the workplace instantly became remote, and decision-making, team collaboration, and innovation (the things that Swae does) are now far more complex and fragmented than we ever imagined before. The toll the pandemic has had on people on all levels means what we do for employees (and leaders) is so much more profound.  This shift certainly forced us to re-evaluate and reinvent how we support organizations, and we’re far stronger for it.

Initially we resisted the changes thrown unto us but learned quickly not to fight them. We reminded ourselves that we aren’t the only company that was massively affected during these highly unstable times, and it ended up being an opportunity for us to get really clear on what we’re doing and how to overcome big hurdles as a team. Embracing the uncertainty helped us find solutions and come a long way. 

Top 5 Challenges Faced and Lessons Learned

 From all the ups and downs we went through resulting from Covid-19, to some early learning moments predating Covid, here are the top 5 challenges we endured since launching Swae, how we overcame them, and what we learned about about hiring, team formation, strategy, as well as ways to enhance the technology.

Losing Anchor client at the outset of the Pandemic

At the outset of Covid 19, we lost our first and largest paying customer, Etihad Airlines. When the wrecking ball of Covid came crashing in, the impact on global airlines was swift, immediate, and painful. Etihad saw an 80% reduction in sales and canceled all major enterprise contracts to reduce their bleed, including ours. 

Our entire pipeline of enterprise deals also went up into thin air as well. Covid-19 indefinitely delayed the start of many projected client projects and or made the business case challenging to argue for. 

Mitigation & Lessons Learned

To respond, we quickly turned on a dime to minimize our burn rate and preserve cash flow. To replenish our lost projected cash flows, we began applying for grants and thinking of new markets for our product. We eventually leveraged government support and grants to help us recover 40% of the lost revenue to manage through this period of uncertainty.  

Knowing we weren’t the only ones facing difficult times, we understood that many organizations and local governments were struggling to adapt to virtual, all-digital, decision-making during this prolonged period of uncertainty. We came together and began brainstorming more immediate and shorter use cases of Swae. From listening to clients, we learned that people could use Swae to manage remote annual general meetings and even use it to crowdsource content and agendas for virtual meetings and events. We felt there was a way to adapt our core product to be more nimble to launch and easier to configure, to help others while allowing us to earn short term revenue.  Two months after losing Etihad, in May 2020, we launched three complementary products to enable teams to make collective decisions over the internet quickly, conveniently, and safely. These include: 1) Swae for digital annual general meetings, 2) Swae for digital policy making and governance 3) Swae for remote team decision-making.

Losing Anchor funders at the beginning of the pandemic 

In January 2020, we launched a $500K seed round and quickly closed the first $150K. As shared above, in February 2020, we also closed our first 6-figure annual commercial contract with Etihad Airways, after a year long pilot of our platform inside their organization. The year was off to a great start, so we thought. With enough investment closed and expected revenues from our first $ARR contract (as well as a pipeline of $500K-$1M worth of enterprise deals), we decided to pause our fundraise and instead focus on going to market with our product. Anyone who has built an early stage startup knows that fundraising is a very intense and distracting process, and we thought the time would be better spent closing new deals. Hindsight is 2020 (no pun intended)… When you have momentum, never stop! That was our biggest mistake. After we paused our round, in March, everything changed. Etihad canceled the contract and our entire pipeline of enterprise deals also disappeared, thanks to Covid. Now, with no anchor deal, and no pipeline of deals, how easy do you think it was to raise funds?  When we tried to revive the fundraise two committed anchor investors immediately retracted their commitments to invest due to the impact of Covid on their portfolios, general cash availability, and the grim future that presented itself. 

Their cancelled commitments combined with the comical series of other debacles SIGNIFICANTLY changed our cash flow projections and reality.  One day, we were projecting more money than we needed, the other day we could barely fund ourselves.  It was a vicious circle that would not cease. Without any new confirmed investment or revenues, we were projecting an end date of Swae for December 31, 2020. 

Mitigations

With a clear end date in site, we knew we had to prolong our burn rate as long as possible. So we came together as a team and decided to restructure and opt to reduce our salaries as a last ditch attempt to save the company. Each of us came to the table with an open mind and depending on our individual situations, each offered to give up some portion of their salary they derived from Swae.  The minimum amount reduced was 30% and most offered to give up 100% of their salaries.  Instead of salary, the team would earn what they had sacrificed in equity with a sizeable risk premium and bonus. That seemed fair. 

 I took the first heavy paycut, then all other part-time contractors voluntarily contributed their entire salaries to Swae in exchange for equity. Finally, the leadership at our outsourced tech team bravely offered to contribute some engineers to our cause without pay for a long enough period to help us with ongoing client implementations and progress against our roadmap. This experience was a transformational and cathartic moment for us as a team. During a global pandemic, amidst all the uncertainties surrounding our individual lives, the team came together and collectively decided to do whatever we all could to keep the mission and dream of Swae alive. That experience brought everyone together in ways that superficial team building exercises simply don’t. When faced with crisis, the team stepped up. Until this day that moment acts as an an enormous source of mutual trust and kinship – like a binding agent between all of us. It’s cemented part of our culture that we simply don’t give up when we face adversity, and instead we come together to look for solutions. That crisis gave us a resounding amount of  confidence to face the future, whatever it presents. 

The internal restructuring allowed us to extend our runway by an additional 9 months, allowing us to get to the other end of 2020 and successfully enter 2021. During these turbulent months, a silver lining emerged. Investors stopped seeing Covid-19 as a massive interruption and began seeing the long term implications of it on the future of work and society. Instantly, many began to see Swae as a potential source of solutions for the new complexities of working remotely during a pandemic. The explosion and irreversible long term impacts of Remote Working, the accelerated adoption of digital tools, and new challenges associated with collaboration, maintaining engagement, and decision-making increased the projected market size and opportunity for remote collaboration tools from $18b to $60b (almost a 4x increase) from 2021-2024. This new framing of the needs of the future workplace began changing Swae’s market perception and only increased interest in Swae. 

After a few short months, we were able to land our lead investor, Mr. William Eisenman, the former CTO and Head of Engineering of Netflix, and were able to finish raising our seed round and it was oversubscribed. 

Parting ways with two different CTOs and still building a great product

We went through two (yes, two!) CTOs but still built the platform without that leadership position filled. Here’s the backstory: when Swae initially launched, I bootstrapped the company from my savings and we didn’t have a CTO. We used the limited resources we had and our intimate knowledge of the problem to outsource the build out of a prototype (the team that did it is the team we still work with to this day). At that time, our needs were basic. 

After winning the New Shape Prize, getting a $750K non-dilutive injection of cash and some validation, we were ready to expand the team.  We began recruiting for a CTO, searching for a strong technical lead, full stack developer, and AI programmer with expertise in Natural Language Processing to assume the responsibility of shaping our product, prototyping new features, building beautiful, consistent, scalable and intuitive software, and leading our AI development. 

We received over 400+ applicants, and successfully hired a former Amazon Alexa Natural Language Generation Team Member, a Full Stack Developer + Architect (Natural Language Processing and Generation specialist), as our new CTO. 

Unfortunately, after working with this individual for a short 7 week period, things did not work out as we had imagined.  He was brilliant but the interpersonal fit was quite off.  Our working styles and expectations about how to manage Swae became more incompatible over his short tenure. 

Fast forward 6 months after his departure, we were able to find a more suitable CTO with the right balance of interpersonal, leadership and technical skills to be a better fit for what we needed. She helped improve the product and launched the newest version of Swae. Though she was with Swae for nearly 2 years, in May 2021, she also parted ways due largely to strong differences in opinion about the responsibilities and trade-offs of being a co-founder, the overall product experience, and the company’s direction. 

Mitigations: 

When we were recruiting for either CTO, we identified some red flags and the potential for some of the behaviors we saw later in the working relationship to arise, but we decided as a team to be practical – that we would try to manage these concerns as they came up. Truth was that we thought we really needed a CTO with the skill set they had to accomplish the technological goals we had in mind with the product, and we thought there skill set was a priority than fit. This was a costly mistake – something we will not repeat when our gut is telling us not to go ahead. 

Though exhausting and expensive, we learned very valuable lessons in both cases about how to pick the people we want to work with. Moving forward, we only make hiring decisions if the gut feels right, and won’t compromise that intuitive feeling on being “sensible”. We will never make the same compromises we did previously because they are unsustainable.

Initially we panicked about the fact that we couldn’t build a tech platform without a strong technical lead. The experience of going through two CTOs and having to launch a product without them proved we were wrong. We realized instead that we could distribute the tasks of the CTO into the existing roles we had amongst our team. Distribution of responsibility, combined with strong spring defining, demo, and quality assurance processes meant we were able to develop new features and iterate the product consistently and affordably without needing to rely on a figure head. 

With hindsight we also realized we were too early to need the skill set and seniority of a CTO, and instead could make similar progress with a strong senior developer instead. Adding the layer of CTO would only be relevant after a few more years of traction and progress of the product. 

Without a CTO, the engineering process and team did not fall by the way side. The team stepped up on both ends (in Vancouver, and India), to ensure things remain on track, features are released under the expected conditions, and the platform relaunch timelines are met. To make up for the gap, we have instituted new processes and meetings that include more critical roles (like weekly demos by the engineering team, priority setting meetings that include design, product and engineering together, etc.)

Not having a CTO also allowed us to save a significant amount in monthly recurring salaries and expenses, to help prolong our burn rate. 

At the moment, we don’t have a CTO. We decided that our ‘departments’ would be headless as we realized that we didn’t need a multi-layered C-level or VP-level role in every department of our startup. When everybody has a voice and everyone is equally accountable, this becomes the bottom-up way (or “Swae way”)  to drive all the important aspects from marketing, sales, product development, and customer success and improvement. We’re doing some radical things and practicing what we preach. 

“Ultimately, what we decided is that everyone has autonomy but everyone owns unique directives. Often things come back to me because the ultimate vision of any organization has to be driven by the core person(s) and I’ve been thinking about Swae and what it can be in this world for a much longer time than anyone else on the team. This has worked really well thus far and makes us much more responsive so we truly are practicing what we preach,” says Zanganehpour. 

Lacking Essentials for Strategy and Go-to-Market: 

As is typical in a startup’s initial launch phase, often there’s a lack of clarity in some key areas around marketing and sales. We had a bit of a rough start when we realized that we didn’t have some key strategic details fully fleshed out. Since Swae had so many use cases and was an organization and use case agnostic tool, we didn’t have a rigid and well defined understanding of who our ideal customer and archetype was. This lead us down the path of being everything to everyone initially, which is a perfect recipe for failure. 

Mitigations:

Realizing this was a flawed approach, we invested time in gathering information and conducting research to create archetypes (or personas) of who we serve – this was critical to success. Once the archetypes were in place we began learning what objections people had to saying yes or no, and redesigned our pitch to address those upfront before we face long sales cycles that go nowhere real fast. Not having that sound structure led us to realize it was necessary to deeply understand the people that we need to connect with, and understand how to work through the objections. We’re making these powerful changes for our sales and marketing output to help us make a larger impact overall. 

  1. Fundraising and Hiring Remotely: Fundraising without face to face meetings was much more challenging than anticipated, as was building a team totally remotely. When face to face interactions became undoable, we had to get to the core of creating important systems and building structures to support this effort. As most know, video conferencing is laborious and taxing as well.  Anything else here?

    “Even with these challenges, we were able to fundraise $750K CAD seed funding round – a 50% increase from the initial $500K offer from some notable investors and we’ve got the financial runway to build a MVP of our platform and really move forward in a more progressive manner. And we’ve been able to grow a solid team that is now in place as of 2022, even though we had retracted twice since 2019 given market challenges and global uncertainties due to the pandemic,” says Zanganehpour. 

The Future of Swae and the Creation of More Inclusive Bottom-Up Organizational Models

2022 Milestones for Swae 

With these great lessons behind us and more important insights to face head on, over the next year we expect: 

  • To grow revenues to $1M+ ARR
  • To double our team from 8 to 16 people 
  • To grow the platform user base from 40K to 100K+ users 
  • To add significant features to the core platform including Chats, Polls, and Brainstorms
  • To add to proprietary features to our existing AI algorithms, including bias detection and evidence suggestion features 
  • To add important integrations such as MS teams, Slack, and other collaboration platforms.
  • To launch a second product based on the core feature set tailored more to use cases in Web3, DAOs and participatory governance in Crypto projects
  • To partner with some smart cities to launch citizen engagement, bottom-up and participatory policy making initiatives 
  • And many more…

At the core, Swae’s mission stayed the same; to give everyone an equal voice in raising solutions and shaping decisions, allowing organizations (even government systems) to uncover and benefit from the untapped collective intelligence from within, through a robust and innovative idea management and bottom-up decision-making platform. 

The sheer pace of adaptation to change that’s required of organizations today thanks to Covid-19 has set the scene for Swae. Our three biggest use cases include collaboration during remote work, increasing collaboration without unwanted noise, and building more inclusive cultures supporting growth and DEI initiatives. All of these points are extremely important in today’s organizational realities, no matter the company size.

The ROI of Swae so far 

Over the past 12 months, the results from implementing Swae for various clients speak for themselves and this has made us more proud than anything else during such harsh times. Some of our clients include the United Nations, LifeLabs, Etihad Airways, and more.

Having compiled results from over 40,000 unique users and several large organizational pilots from around the world that demonstrates we’re delivering on our promises – even though we’re just getting started. Some of the great things that have come back to us: 

  • $5M+ USD – the value of innovation ideas that have been sourced through Swae (so far).
  • $1M USD – average value of innovation pipeline developed over 12 months
  • 200K+unique collaboration exchanges have happened between Swae’s users.
  • 94% of users polled say Swae increased their engagement, motivation and happiness by helping them have a meaningful voice in decisions.
  • 90% of users polled claim Swae surfaced ideas that would not have otherwise surfaced using other available collaboration tools. 
  • 84% of users polled say Swae made idea sharing and collaboration easier & more accessible to their whole community
  • 3-months is the payback period – either resulting from cost savings ideas generated from the platform, revenue generating ideas sourced from the platform for investment and development, or efficiencies resulting from replacing more manual idea management and decision-making tools.
  • 70% increase in engagement (compared to other experiments and efforts to date)

While Swae is all about helping organizations shed more light on their challenges and providing a reliable platform where they can source ideas from the people within to create more inclusive cultures and a more equal playing ground, we do have a more grandiose vision that is the next evolution of our technology.

“Swae is ultimately designed to inspire ideas and stimulate debate around new, more effective forms of global cooperation at the highest levels in the biggest governments whether it be in cities, states or countries. We must realize that our system is no longer fit for our new age and we need new actors, new operating assumptions, and new norms to help reframe our priorities and uphold humanity-first, and nations second.

We need new processes and improved participation methods in order to create new solutions that prioritize and give political weight to ideas that advance humanity, preserve and benefit all in our species, above a narrow set of national self-interests. This can happen using the foundation we’ve built for Swae and will be our next big evolution of the technology we’ve built,” says Zanganehpour.

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Swae is helping organizations across the world to solve today’s problems and generate tomorrow’s strategy. Our clients are finding that their greatest resource is their people, and Swae is proven to help get the best from the untapped potential within their workforce. We’d love the chance to show you how Swae can ‘pay off’ for you…

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The Results Are In [Why Investing in Swae Pays Off]

The Results Are In [Why Investing in Swae Pays Off]

The Results Are In [Here’s Why Investing in Swae Pays Off]

Swae Boosts Inclusivity, Idea Meritocracy, Enhances Decision-Making Processes, and Supports Collaboration Without Boundaries

FOFO business leaders not listening

Results from over 30,000 unique users and several large organizational pilots from around the world demonstrate clearly that Swae delivers on its promises – even though we’re just getting started.

These before and after results come from case study after case study that confirms Swae consistently helps organizations uncover hidden innovation, boost engagement, improve inclusivity and collaboration despite physical borders, and enhance decision-making options.

Swae boosts inclusivity, idea meritocracy, enhances idecision making processes and supports collaboration without boundaries.

“I created Swae out of lived experience. As a former director in charge of strategy and investment decisions, I saw missed opportunities resulting from closed, top-down decision-making processes first hand.

When I included employees from all ranks into the idea development, refinement and prioritization process – creating a safe yet competitive environment for the best ideas to shine through – the results spoke for themselves.

Swae was born just a few years ago, to help others experience those same benefits that I did.”


Soushiant Zanganehpour Founder & CEO

The stats below have been gathered directly from the mouths of our clients:

Digital Disruption

COVID & Remote Working

Need for Inclusivity

Idea Meritocracy

Swae

$5M

the value of innovation ideas that have been sourced through Swae (so far)

$1M

the value of cost-savings ideas that have been generated.

200,000+

unique collaboration exchanges have happened between Swae’s users.

1000+

number of organizational challenges and solutions that have been created and solved by Swae’s users.

90%

of users polled claim Swae surfaced ideas that would not have otherwise surfaced using other available collaboration tools.

84%

of users polled claim Swae made collaboration easier, and sharing ideas more accessible to their whole community.

92%

of users polled claim Swae helped increase voice and convey ideas better than other collaboration platforms available to them.

94%

of users polled claim that having a voice in decisions through Swae helped directly increase engagement, motivation and/or happiness.

3 Months

the payback period saved from other manual idea management and decision-making tools

Swae is helping organizations across the world to solve today’s problems and generate tomorrow’s strategy. Our clients are finding that their greatest resource is their people, and Swae is proven to help get the best from the untapped potential within their workforce. We’d love the chance to show you how Swae can ‘pay off’ for you…

Ready to learn how Swae can help your organization?

More to explore...
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Swae SessionsCan Democracy Save the Environment [A Talk to the Council of Europe & World Forum for Democracy]Live on Crowdcast and On Demandby Soushiant Zanganehpour @Soushiant Founder & CEO of Swae During this free webinar, you will learn:xLast year, The...

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