Swae Partners with the Igarapé Institute and the United Nations Launching a Global Digital Consultation to Strengthen International Cooperation

Swae Partners with the Igarapé Institute and the United Nations Launching a Global Digital Consultation to Strengthen International Cooperation

The Igarapé Institute and United Nations Taps Into Our Collective Intelligence Platform to Crowdsource the Best Proposals to Adapt Multilateral Institutions and Global Problem Solving to Meet Tomorrow’s World

VANCOUVER and RIO DE JANEIRO

The world is facing monumental threats ranging from disease outbreaks and climate change to nuclear conflict and deepening inequality. In order to strengthen global cooperation, the United Nations is seeking input from stakeholders across different sectors of society to improve international cooperation. Swae is helping accelerate an innovative digital consultation to enhance and strengthen international cooperation, and reveal creative solutions to tackle the biggest challenges facing the world.

Working in partnership with the Brazil-based Igarape Institute and to support the United Nations Secretary General, Swae is being deployed to canvass the voices of civil society, including leading private sector groups, philanthropic organizations, metropolitan authorities, parliamentarians, labor organizations, humanitarian and development agencies, think tanks and civil society groups around the world. The platform is being used to generate bold and actionable proposals to bolster multilateral action and build a safer, fairer and more sustainable world in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The digital consultation will use Swae to crowdsource creative proposals for ways to rapidly accelerate delivery of the commitments made by governments in the UN75 Declaration adopted by the General Assembly in 2020. A key priority is identifying bold actionable strategies to bolster the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement. With the help of Swae, the consultation will generate action-oriented recommendations to help the international community confront and adapt to new and emerging challenges.

The digital consultations are taking place between April and May 2021 and reaching all corners of the world. “This is an unprecedented opportunity to shape a new narrative for multilateral action”, according to Robert Muggah, the founder of Igarape Institute and SecDev Group. “Swae is a critical platform to take these kinds of debates to the next level”, he added. Swae will not just help develop new ideas, it will also ensure a high degree of diversity and inclusion in the consultation itself.

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“This project is an exciting step in improving the speed, diversity and user experience of consultation processes for critical institutions such as the United Nations. We urgently need to improve the quality of exchange between the general public and decision-makers. This is what Swae is designed to do. We’ve rapidly customized the platform to ensure that the voices of people too often excluded from these kinds of global conversations are front and center.” – Soushiant Zanganehpour, CEO of Swae

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Thanks to Swae, invited participants can access and input to the digital consultation and benefit from the company’s Natural Language Processing and Writing Improvement AI features in all six official UN languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Video and Visual Preview of the New Swae Platform

Below are screenshots of the all-new platform, redesigned for this consultation.

Screenshots of the New Swae Platform

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About Swae

Swae is an AI-powered platform for turning feedback into smart, inclusive decisions for organizational improvement. With over 25,000 users, Swae’s platform creates a safe, inclusive, and anonymous space for problem and solution generation inside any organization, allowing leaders to source investable solutions, hear the truth, boost engagement, and reduce bias in important strategic decisions to improve overall performance.

Since launching in 2019, Swae has been implemented for clients such as Etihad Airways, Bosch, Doctors without Borders, Lifelabs, EMC Insurance, and the governments of Mexico and Chile, amongst others. We’ve won many prestigious awards recognizing our innovative approach to hacking through hierarchies and making inclusion useful to decision making.

More Info

FOR INFORMATION ABOUT SWAE, CONTACT: info@swae.io

FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE DIGITAL CONSULTATION, CONTACT wethepeoples@igarape.org.br

ACTION BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

To mark UN75, the UN’s 193 Member States adopted a Declaration setting out a vision for achieving the future we want and the UN we need. In it, they note they have listened to the concerns and aspirations of the people, through the UN75 global conversation, and pledge: “We are here to respond.”

They also tasked the UN Secretary-General to report back by September 2021 with recommendations “to advance our common agenda and to respond to current and future challenges”. 

‘WE THE PEOPLES’ DIGITAL CONSULTATION

The Secretary-General launched Our Common Agenda, a process of consultation and reflection to generate ideas to inform his September 2021 report. This process is being led by the Secretary-General’s office with support from a network of global partners, including the United Nations Foundation, Igarapé Institute, Accord, Southern Voice, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore.

The “We the Peoples” digital consultation is one part of this effort. Building on the UN75 global conversation, the consultation invites stakeholders from different sectors to develop practical recommendations to: accelerate delivery of the commitments made in the UN75 Declaration, together with the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement; and to respond to new and emerging challenges.

Source: https://un75.online/take-action/

Former Netflix Head of Engineering Joins Swae’s Seed Round as Lead Investor, and Joins Advisory Board

Former Netflix Head of Engineering Joins Swae’s Seed Round as Lead Investor, and Joins Advisory Board

Swae Celebrates New Partnership with William and Eugene Eisenman: Experienced Technology Executives & Angel Investors With Winning Track Record of Turning Early-Stage Risk Into Scaleable Success
William and Eugene Eisenman Angel Investors In Swae

LEAD ANGEL INVESTORS IN SWAE

William‌ ‌Eisenman‌‌ is a former Captain in the US ‌Navy‌. He graduated in three years with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Chemistry concurrently. During his first year of college, the Navy was actively recruiting him to join the CBRN division. After joining, he quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the youngest Captains in the military for his time. After his time in the military, he transitioned into the technology sector. He has held various executive and leadership roles throughout his career in tech. He is most well-known for his accomplishments at Netflix, where he is the architect behind the Video Streaming Platform, and at Palm, where he developed the WebOS platform.

William and Eugene Eisenman, along with their other investment partner, operate a family office. William and Eugene Eisenman are a father and son angel investing duo. Some of their team’s past successful angel investments include early positions in Netflix, Callaway Golf, MD Pharmaceuticals, and others, reminding us of the Greek myth of Midas, whose touch turned everything to gold (taking all of the positives of that myth into context here). 

We’re extremely excited to announce that they have become Swae’s Lead Investors in Swae’s seed round, and we’re ecstatic as to what this partnership will bring to Swae as a whole.

“Those that invest in Swae become part of our startup family. We develop a strategic and close working relationship with each of our investors so that we can together advance Swae’s platform and offer to develop more powerful ways to bring value to the world.” — Soushiant Zanganehpour 

Already, William and Eugene have spent countless hours conducting due diligence on Swae, reviewing the code base of the platform, UX/UI, and AI systems. They’ve shared important feedback and will continue doing so since William will also be joining Swae’s Advisory Board, bringing his years of experience to bear on important strategic decisions. 

We believe William and Eugene will be a vital source of intelligence for improving Swae’s platform, offering, user experience, and developing innovations outside of our existing roadmap.  

Soushiant Zanganehpour, CEO of Swae, sat down with William and Eugene Eisenman to learn more about their decision to invest in Swae, and the interview is below. In the interview, we learn about who the duo are and what potential and the hidden value they saw in Swae that compelled them to lead our Seed Round.  

Their unique outlook and support to help Swae exceed its goals in 2021 is a thrilling start to the new year!

INTERVIEW WITH ANGEL INVESTORS, WILLIAM AND EUGENE EISENMAN

 

1. Soushiant: William, your background is extremely diverse and impressive. You went from being a biochemist and ex-Navy Captain to moving into the corporate and technology world in senior positions. From what I’ve seen, all of the companies you’ve worked for or lead at have introduced major innovations and products to shape not only their sector but the world of technology. Let’s first talk about your role in bringing video-streaming to Netflix, I think anyone in tech would want to know more about that!

 

William: I’ll give some background about my career before Netflix to provide some context moving forward. I was the former Head of Technology Innovation at Read-Rite. I helped take the fifteenth ranked semiconductor, building it into a top-two company and leaving that role to be a Partner joining Capgemini’s consulting practice. 
 

During my time at Capgemini, I worked with various clients across different sectors like aviation, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, financial, technology, etc. My teams and I were advising these companies on potential acquisitions, scoping out new business opportunities, creating new divisions to go after those markets, scaling their entire business operations quickly and efficiently, amongst other things.  

As I was boarding a plane to meet a few clients, I received a random call from someone at a startup called Netflix. I let them know that we could schedule a time to meet after I got back from my trip to discuss some of the issues they were facing at the time. After my business trip, we met up for lunch, and I was asked to look over their entire processes.

There were No NDAs at the time, so it was relatively easy to gain visibility into their operations and contribute feedback quickly. At that time, they had about a thousand users (1000) and were renting out the DVDs at .25 cents each and shipping them to customers.

They were hemorrhaging money because the cost of sending a DVD was more than the price they charged each customer per DVD rental. My military background and my management consulting experience allowed me to look at their operations and see clearly “this isn’t going to work.” So while we were finishing up lunch, on the back of a paper napkin, I wrote out what I thought it should have been versus what it actually was.

Within a couple of weeks of implementing the changes I had suggested, they reported that they stopped the bleeding and credited me for saving them millions! I was invited back for another lunch, and before I left the lunch meeting, to get into my car and drive away, their VP of Operations, Former CEO Marc Randolph, and now current CEO Reed Hastings chased me down and hired me on the spot!

After I joined, in about 1998/1999, I helped successfully scale their DVD business and switched the revenue model from charging .25 cents per DVD to a monthly subscription service for $19.99.

During this time, I was also pushing them to explore video streaming (though that isn’t what we called it then) because I knew that mailing DVDs one at a time was completely unscalable in the long run regardless of how much we had scaled. I felt that DVDs were going to be a stop-gap between VHS and Streaming. I knew that bringing the content directly to people’s televisions and computers would be the wave of the future, which would reduce the marginal cost of delivery significantly, allowing them to focus on having the best content.

I remember saying to Reed Hastings that we would have to change Netflix’s revenue model to a subscription plan because we didn’t have a good recurring revenue stream.

Even with a subscription before streaming was possible, a consumer could only really rent about 8 discs/month with the mail transactions because of shipping times being 3–5 business days. Originally there were hard limits to their consumption. At the 0.25 cents customers would be paying per video, and we couldn’t even afford the return mail on each transaction.

We were paying 0.57 cents to send a consumer with a return address already provided. This problem was creating huge deficits.

As a transitional step, I implemented technology and automation to assist the sorting and mailing process to get away from the manually laborious and costly process for sending discs to consumers. We brought in a sorting machine similar to the ones in USPS.

I would send data to this sorting machine to segregate each subscriber’s DVD automatically and help with sorting and pre-preparation for the mail delivery. This system, along with Certified mail, helped us improve unit economics and bring down the costs of servicing each customer from .57 cents to about 0.18–0.20 cents, so we were finally making some money.

However, the situation wasn’t sustainable. When I would look at the whole big picture, I could see that wasn’t going to work, even with the subscription model. I also felt like DVDs were going to be a stop-gap technology between VHS and Streaming.

We needed video streaming and a subscription-based business model to make this company viable and sustainable. With the combination of subscriptions and streaming, I believed that we could focus on curating and creating the best content available. I knew that hitting economies of scale was inevitable. I could just see it.

The rest, I guess you can say, is history!

 

 

2. Soushiant: And, Eugene, what are more details around your background?

 

Eugene: My story is directly tied to my father William’s experience. I grew up in the tech and consulting world with him, witnessing and experiencing all of these moments in his career. I guess through osmosis, I picked up a bunch of things along the way from his experiences that have helped me thus far. When my father was a consultant, I went with him to work a lot. I watched how his teams identified key problems, their approach to solving those problems, and presenting their clients’ solutions. 
 

When he was a Netflix, I was there sitting in many meetings with the leadership team, and they asked me questions about what I thought, to actively beta testing and giving my feedback on the UX/UI of the video streaming platform. At Palm, I was a beta tester for the WebOS platform to find potential bugs or issues and provide feedback on the phone design. I actually helped catch a critical error that the QA team missed, which helped save the company millions of dollars.

I also worked at Alom technologies [where William currently works], where I conceptualized and led the charge to create a fully integrated autonomous warehouse. The fully integrated warehouse utilizes advanced robotics, AI, and Machine Learning to improve and scale all aspects of supply chain logistics for Alom and its customers.

I help create a few features that utilize AI and Machine Learning to choose the most optimal shipping route, the best shipping service to use, and the lowest cost possible. The AI also accounts for potential problems for each company’s supply chain and will actively reroute each customer’s entire supply chain and packages in transit to avoid delays from things like natural disasters in real-time.

Another feature I help create uses Alom’s customer data to forecast potential demand each day of the year. The AI utilizes this data and advanced robotics to continuously optimize daily warehouse inventory flow accounting for potential demand to ensure that all customer’s orders are fulfilled with speed and precision.

The integrated warehouse has allowed Alom to provide more advanced technical features and offerings. These key technological advances empower Alom to continue to service its growing roster of customers, including Fortune 500 companies like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Walmart, Tesla, Ford, General Motors, McKesson, Genentech, Pfizer, Moderna, and many promising startups like 23andme and Color.

With everything that I mentioned before, you would think I had a degree in something related to tech, but my background is actually in Finance.  

When I graduated from school, I started working at Goldman Sachs. I quickly realized I would rather work in the venture capital and private equity space, so I started out doing secondary market transactions for VCs and founders, getting liquidity for their shares. I’ve since led the sourcing and diligence process of several of our potential Angel Investments for our family office. I also act as an operating partner that is actively helping founders with product improvement, UX/UI, and other aspects as necessary to help them out in any way that we can.

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3. Soushiant: William, looking back at the many changes in your career, is there an arc of interest that guided your decisions, or were they spontaneous? For example, what made you jump to a high-risk company like Netflix from a safe bet like CapGemini or go to a high-risk company like Alom from the safe haven of Palm? Do these decisions provide some insight into your tolerance or understanding of risk?

 

William: As I shared before, I was a former Captain in the US Navy working in the CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) Division. My experience in the military and, in particular, the pressure of being entirely responsible for the lives of many other people really tuned my senses to pick out situations where risks were too high or vice versa where risk could be managed. At the time, if I made the wrong decisions, I could kill one of my subordinates or other members of the US military worldwide. 
 

My choices could either cause harm to members within our military, or I could find solutions that would get the job done and keep us all safe. If you were overseeing departments in the military, you would be tasked with dealing with the department budgets. I was fortunate enough to be blessed with the burden of always getting less money than I asked for and told to accomplish the same goal anyway.

This time in my life taught me many great skills and lessons that have been a foundation for my military and tech career. I learned leadership, how to carefully assess and manage risk, accomplishing goals with limited resources, and learned that change is the only constant you either change to win or try to cope with the change.

When I transitioned to the technology world, I worked for Read-Rite, a semiconductor company built on chemical engineering. I was Head of Technology Innovations, where I essentially created and built out the Innovation group.

Because of my strong chemistry background, I had the technical foundation and requisite skills to jump in and be useful immediately.

But when we began manufacturing, I realized that I was a natural systems thinker and had a knack at looking at multifaceted systems with multiple moving parts and could see ways to make them better. After realizing I am a systems thinker that was attuned to risk, I could present solutions to optimize processes.

When I left Read-Rite, they were one of the top two semiconductor companies in the world. Read-rite certainly wasn’t a safe bet when I first joined and were maybe in the top fifteen at the time. After I left, within five to seven years, they were out of business because they thought far enough ahead of everybody and stopped innovating.

When I joined Palm, they were one of three industry-leading telecommunications companies at the time. The other two industry-leading companies were Nokia and Blackberry. Now the industry leaders are Samsung and Apple. Those three companies, Nokia, Blackberry, and Palm, all got beat out by companies that weren’t even making cellphones.

During my time at Palm, I joined to create the next innovative phone. I developed the WebOS platform with the intent to build an all-touchscreen phone similar to Apple’s iPhone. Everyone in that space knows that building an OS system is the most important thing and making a good OS system is really difficult.

The phone design is a lot easier, and changes can be done pretty quickly. Unfortunately, Palm wasn’t willing to change. They wanted to stick with the Palm Pilot and PalmOS platform that made them famous. They were content to keep making the same Palm Pilot, making a few changes here and there. All of these companies stopped innovating, Palm specifically went out of business five years later and got bought only for my WebOS platform. The same fate could be in store for Samsung and Apple if they stop innovating.

The only company that still exists today that I worked for is Netflix, and they are now a household name that changed the way society consumes content and entertainment. We went from sending DVDs in the mail directly to customers to successfully curating and creating the best content possible for consumers to watch via streaming. Netflix is the only company that was willing to continually innovate and kill their existing business to that point in order to continue to succeed.

There isn’t any company or investment with a zero risk factor, which is fine with us. There is a risk in everything, but the way I look at it is that you can either be a part of the company, causes or leads all the disruption or innovation, or be a part of the company that is getting disrupted by innovation.

When in doubt, we always choose disruption and innovation over the status quo.  

We like to choose the company causing all the disruption, whether that be in public markets or investing in startups looking to disrupt larger companies across sectors. In the greatest win or take all economy, change is the only constant; you either change to win or cope with the change when you lose. Every single company has the possibility to go out of business in a short period of time if they stop innovating and stop playing to win. There is no safe bet except to continually bet on change, which is the driving force behind disruption and innovation.

I assess opportunities by stepping backward, looking at the entire picture, and finding out where all the octopus tentacles go, mapping all potential opportunities. That is why we’re investing in Swae. We feel like Swae has the potential to be the platform that allows companies to see all the opportunities for growth, new business, and changing with times. We believe Swae can be the tool that keeps you at the forefront of innovation instead of being that company getting disrupted by everybody else. There are a lot of great places and opportunities for Swae to go!

 

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4. Soushiant: Eugene, as a close outsider looking at your father’s decisions, what did you notice that he may not be sharing? What, in your opinion, guided his decisions? What did he see that no one else really did?

 

Eugene: This may sound cliché, but my father has always seen, experienced, and done things differently in life, going against the grain.

For example, my grandfather was also in the Navy, so my father’s family moved around a lot, going from base to base. He grew up in Japan and then in Germany before they immigrated to the US when my father was around the age of 10–11. He taught himself to speak fluent English just from watching six months’ worth of television.

That same year my father immigrated to the US, the principal at his school realized he was incredibly gifted and offered his parents the opportunity to let my father skip grades 7–12 to go directly to college. His parents didn’t think that an 11-year-old should be at university at such a young age by himself because he was still just a child. With the principal’s help, they were able to enroll him as an 11 year old into the local community college. During his time there, he was enrolled in classes, became a teacher’s assistant, and even began teaching multiple courses by the end of his first year attending that community college.

Another example comes to mind. When my father was enrolled in university, he received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Chemistry concurrently in three years, a feat that is impressive in itself. Anyways, when professors assigned labs, he would always write out what the lab results would be and just turn it in without actually doing the lab experiment because he did the entire lab in his head. He was always able to conceptualize what the answer should and would be. He’s always been able to see how things are going to unfold.

As a final example, my father had a semester-long project that involved tracking fruit flies with genetic defects. This process is pretty painstaking slow and took a lot of time to complete. My father was attending university full-time to complete his dual degrees and juggled three jobs simultaneously. So he didn’t have the time to be there to track everything going with the fruit flies, so he taught himself to write Assembly to get the computer and machines in the science lab to track it all for him.

My father loves to learn new things, which interests him a lot because lifelong learning is a core value. He masters new things incredibly quickly and then gets bored extremely quickly. So, this process of learning and doing new things drives him.

Also, from observing him my entire life, it doesn’t really matter what company he touches. He is the star of the show, and I know he has the skillset, mental tools, the self-confidence to see the roadmap and navigate the journey to reach success. You just need to let him just do his thing, and everything should work out for you in the end.

I also think his consulting background and military experience gave him tools and frameworks to understand risks and account for risk better than others. His unique experience and view of the world allow him to see risks or opportunities before they were apparent to others. We both are similar in our approach to risk and managing it. We both use some variation of the scientific method, utilize principal based thinking and decision making when analyzing any career or investment decisions we make.

 

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5. Soushiant: William and Eugene, we’re extremely excited for the depth of experience and unique genius you’ll bring to Swae! Maybe this is a good segue about decision making into investments and your understanding or appreciation of risks. If you have a rubric or a set of criteria, what patterns did you see in Swae that led you to make the investment?

William: Swae is technically our first investment outside of the US. We were impressed with your pitch to the Walton Family and their Scale Challenge, organized by the Centre for Advancing Innovation.

As I explained earlier, I am always all about optimizing processes to create systems that work with the vision. I can see how things connect and I’ve always seen the employees as the truly valuable resource that a company has. I believe that everyone has a good idea or pieces of a good idea which causes you to make a command decision. So, that’s how Swae comes into the picture.

Back when I was a manager, we didn’t do it with the formality that Swae provides, by typing in feedback, etc. It was more a water cooler kind-of-thing, where people would get around a machine and talk about what was working and what wasn’t. We used to call this process Total Quality Management.” With Swae, leaders can make pulling ideas from a larger pool of their own people a formalized part of their processes.

Eugene: When we’re considering investments, When we’re considering investments, we’re all about investing in potentially disruptive and innovative companies, and in the Founder or Co-Founders — those are the biggest determining factors. When you deal with a lot of people, you start to see different tendencies and we believe that we’ve gotten pretty good at seeing what makes them successful. In terms of judging criteria, we actually have very long criteria, but I’ll try to keep it to three or four main topics with key points from our criteria that must be met for us to invest. Swae hit all of our criteria!

Our criteria are:

1. Founder or Co-Founders with different or unique backgrounds:

a. Diversity: We prefer to invest in founders and founding teams with at least one or more of the following — A woman, a minority (Person of Colour), an immigrant, or a child of an immigrant. This is a huge asset, especially in certain sectors.

b. Previous Experience:

  • Is this the first company you are starting? Do you have previous experience with a startup or running a business?
  • Are you an expert in that specific field that you are starting a company in? Are you the correct founder(s) to bring this to market or is somebody else better suited to execute the same idea?
  • We like founders that are either older or younger but it depends on what they are doing. Sometimes the experience really matters and sometimes the inexperience is more helpful.
  • Do you have previous experience together or do you have good chemistry? Do you even like working together?
  • Do you have complementary skill sets?

c. Personality Traits and Characteristics:

  • People from the groups I mentioned above usually are more successful because they have a giant chip on their shoulders. They tend to have grit, a strong work ethic, are more resourceful, better at capitalizing on more opportunities, and are motivated by something bigger than just themselves.
  • Opinionated founder(s) who have a compelling view for how something should be or will be.
  • An extreme sense of ownership. We want you to take pride in what you are doing and be passionate about it. You’re always thinking about your startup consciously or unconsciously.
  • You pay attention to the little details. Those little details add up can be a big driver of success.
  • Asking for help when you need it and consistently seeking out critical feedback
  • The ability to analyze situations and make important decisions with conviction leaning heavily on your gut instinct without data to back it up.
  • If you need all the data or information to make a decision then you missed your opportunities, your company isn’t innovative and you are likely to go out of business in the near future.
  • Ability to double down on their position and at the same time be willing to completely abandon their position, that shows real leadership.
  • The landscape is always changing, and you need to adjust accordingly. You either change to win or you cope with change when you lose. You don’t win awards for doubling down on something that puts you out of business or knowing that you made the wrong decision and continuing down the path even though you see red flags everywhere.

 

2. Product, Market, and Market Timing:

  • Is this idea or product even viable?
  • Do you have product-market fit?
  • Is there a customer who would pay you to use your product?
  • Is there room for this in the marketplace?
  • Is this the right time for this idea to come to market for customers and consumers?
  • Are you building something too ahead of its time? Can you stay alive until everything catches up?

 

3. Networks Effects, Frequent and Repeated usage, Marketplaces and Platforms

  • We prefer Platforms or Marketplaces but are perfectly fine if a startup isn’t either of those. Each kind of startup investment presents its own unique challenges along the way.
  • Network effects are a double edge sword, it can either scale your business quickly or can kill it just as fast.
  • If you combine both aspects, you can create something special. On the one hand, you can create monopolistic companies and, on the other hand, create a company to challenge those monopolistic companies at the same time.
  • For example, Amazon vs. Shopify and Instagram vs. Snapchat vs Tik Tok
     

4. Cash Management, Bankroll Management, and making Asymmetric bets:

As a founder, you need to account for every dollar you have in the bank and understand how to allocate it effectively. Founders also need to be great with bankroll management and making asymmetric bets. You can never make a bet that is too big that it depletes your entire bankroll. These bets you take with your company can have high risk, and you need to manage the risk accordingly. If the bet works out in your favor, the company can make significant gains, and if it doesn’t work out, your company would still be alive to reassess and move forward.

These things have become less of a concern to many founders because of how large startup valuations and funding rounds have become. It’s essential for founders to really understand this because although these valuations and funding rounds have gotten larger, you may not be able to raise any money at all or receive any additional investments. Covid-19 has only highlighted the importance of accounting for all the money you have, bankroll management, making asymmetrical bets. Just remember that most startups don’t get funding and don’t get bailed like airlines or banks.

William: Let me add that when we looked at your customer data and the customer feedback, we were using it to validate what we had thought of your product in the demonstration you provided.

You [Soushiant] had said that you didn’t yet think you had a Product-Market fit and arrived at that fact by carefully reviewing customer data and usage trends. Upon recognizing the patterns, you made changes and talked us over changes in your general logic flow.

That sealed the deal for us because you actually arrived at the fact of how to get product-market fit, and you were open enough to make changes and talking over changes to your general logic flow which shows that you are agile. Your approach and thinking gave us tremendous comfort in investing. It was clear you were making changes to your logic and feature set to arrive at a better offering to really nail product-market fit.

Not everyone is like that. Many other founders we see have blinders on and they don’t see any of the changes that need to go on around them. When those teams do the short-term actions, they always get blindsided later. We didn’t see the same failed approach in Swae.

Eugene: Additionally there was customer feedback that stuck out to us in your customer feedback is that someone said:

Swae User Feedback: “I feel like I have a voice, this is what freedom feels like!”

If you can affect somebody at that level, then you really have something valuable! We believe that Swae is the platform that allows companies to really utilize and leverage their real competitive advantage which is their own human capital inside of their organization.

 

William: As a leader, I’ve found that the people that are on the front lines, or the people that are dealing with customers every day, those “in the trenches” are the ones that consistently can tell management where the problems are.

From personal experience in our own operations adapting to Covid-19, our temp hires have been the ones raising issues and telling us what the problems were in our operations. Those people in the trenches doing the actual work can tell us things that we could never actually see. Management would eventually see what those people see but way later, after spending a lot more money experiencing production problems and quality control issues. The others saw them earlier because they’re on the floor.

With Swae’s product, it would allow them to tell us quickly, and allows them to get credit! In a lot of companies, they may not get credit.

For me, if everybody figures out how to solve the problem together, then everybody has a little piece of the pie and then the right people can get in there to fix the problem and keep everybody making money and keep everybody employed.

Swae can show HOW you can actually get insight back from the people that are “in the trenches: so to speak. Swae will allow them to tell leadership without backlash.

Many companies today with this COVID-19 challenge, they’re running 24-hours a day, seven days a week, so making people’s voices heard inside of their organization is essential to their success.

Eugene: Since people can stay anonymous when putting their ideas on the Swae platform, employees get to say their part without fear of retaliation in any way from management or from their peers and that is key!

Let me ask you when was the last time in a company where you had a boss ask “Hey Soushiant, what do you think of this? What’s your input on this decision?” That type of bottom-up feedback on important ideas and decisions rarely happens. If it does, the manager may often take credit for your good idea and if it goes badly you may catch all the blame.

The problem is compounded further if you’re a minority, for example, going into tech or going into any other fields, you probably feel like an outsider already, so naturally you are less inclined to stick your neck out, and speak up to offer your thoughts or ideas. More than likely you will just put your head down, do what you are told and try to not rock the boat.

Swae can solve a bunch of different problems at the same time — improving information sharing, idea generation, empowering introverts or outsiders, increasing diversity and inclusion, solving for toxic work cultures, and many more.

 __________________________________________________________________

 

6. Soushiant: Have you seen similar solutions to what Swae offers in the market? Why do you think Swae differs?

 

William: Not really. Now since companies are all looking at remote work the in-person meetings and “watercooler” talk is missing. Swae is like a sophisticated “watercooler” so a bunch of people can formally come to talk about what’s really going on in the company and then figure out how to fix it. 

Swae replaces the need for all of the extra zoom calls just to get a take on what’s going on inside of the organization. Having Swae’s product would really help management to hear what they’re not hearing because they can get all that interaction without actually needing to be there on the floor or in person.

Eugene: A lot of Enterprise companies and SMB’s will have to realize that remote work is here to stay and that technologies must be put into place for your company to thrive in the future. The covid-19 pandemic has created the perfect opportunity for Swae. You can’t bring people together anymore, as we used to, since everyone is remote.  

Society has been gradually shifting towards this for a while, more and more people are becoming digital nomads realizing they don’t need to be tied down to a physical office location to be successful. People have been running successful businesses and making meaningful contributions to their teams with just their computers in the comfort of their homes, at their favorite coffee shop, or vacation getaways. 

I understand why people want to go back into the office and go back to the way things were. In reality, you really just want to work from home and have your kids go back to school. I guarantee that if you go into the office and your kids are in school, you’re going to want to be remote because it’s nice to spend more time with your kids. 

The covid-19 pandemic has caused everyone to reflect and figure out what they value in their personal lives and cut things out that weren’t necessary. For businesses, covid-19 has clearly shown what you were good at, as well as highlight every single flaw and weakness in your business. Many companies were able to capitalize, thriving during the pandemic, experiencing some of the best growth to date.  

But, sadly for many companies, they didn’t experience the same success and this has been one of the most trying times. There is no way to revisit the past and undo what happened. The ripple effect caused by the covid-19 pandemic has and continues to persist. The only thing you can do now is to reevaluate your business and address those problems to come out of this pandemic stronger than ever. 

Swae is poised for the current “new normal” that won’t go away, as well as what the future holds. It’s how business, in general, will need to be done for companies that want to avoid disruption.

 

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7. Soushiant: Do you believe that companies need to maximize the value and unleash the creativity of their employees?

 

Eugene: Yes. Most companies in traditional sectors are realizing that technology is actually here to stay, it has been disrupting their businesses for a while, and now more than ever, if you don’t change with the times you go out of business. The executives of these companies know that they are behind, all they have to do is look at their peers they came up with and see how many of them are still in business. Many of those companies aren’t here today, and if your company still is, you need to really change to continue to win in business, or else your company will struggle to keep its doors open.

In order to not be disrupted, your business needs to be the company everyone is chasing. If you’re the company everyone is chasing, then you need to everything in your power to keep your edge on the competition. Either way, you look at it, everybody needs to fully leverage and maximize every resource they have. 

The power of a company or organization — is its people. Your employees are the boots on the ground doing the hard work and are the backbone of your company’s success. We believe Swae can be the platform that allows companies to leverage their most important competitive advantage which is their human capital. Companies can unlock their true power of staying competitive by implementing Swae to unlock and leverage their own internal network. 

Covid-19 is a “black swan” kind of event that has really forced a much quicker education curve and adoption for those companies that were resisting this reality or using these kinds of tools to stay competitive. 

But every company will need tools to help them collaborate and be successful.

Swae is positioned on the cusp, to ride the wave of the new normal.

 

WHAT’S NEXT FOR SWAE… 

Thank you to William and Eugene for sitting down with our CEO, Soushiant, to share openly about who they are and why they’re investing in Swae. All of us here at Swae are extremely excited to start working on our bigger goals to make our platform all the more powerful and of value to our customers. 

A big goal for our technology team that is led by our CTO, Su Yon Sohn, is how Swae can integrate with other team collaboration and project management tools in 2021. We’re looking at integrations with platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Asana, etc. This is just one of the many goals we hope to accomplish this year.

Our mission is to empower unheard voices within organizations to ensure that leaders can identify problems and hear investable solutions quickly, and to hear the truth of what’s going on in an organization so they can reduce the amount of bias present in important strategic decisions.

We know Swae can have a major impact within large companies on many levels, and truly transform the way leaders include others in sourcing challenges, finding solutions, and making better decisions faster.  

We know that some problems within large organizations can’t be discovered unless you have everyone’s input. 

The impact that covid-19 has had on businesses globally has set up the “new normal” and there’s no going back.  

Companies need to be positioned to get stronger during this time, not weaker, and Swae is a technology that can’t be ignored. 

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SPEAKING TO OUR CEO, SOUSHIANT, ABOUT POTENTIAL INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES, PLEASE CLICK HERE. 

 

 

Using Augmented Intelligence to Address COVID-19

Using Augmented Intelligence to Address COVID-19

swae-board-member-feature-cyrus-hodes

How can AI help us gain new perspectives on the roadblocks of COVID-19? 

Can AI provide us with the ability to see more opportunities in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic? 

These questions, and more, are covered in this virtual event hosted by Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) and the AI Initiative at The Future Society to officially announce a global alliance on the COVID-19 pandemic response. The alliance will provide an information service not yet available that is vitally important to facing and mitigating the crisis.

CAIAC is the new alliance that stands for Collective & Augmented Intelligence Against COVID-19.

One of our Board Members, Cyrus Hodes, is the Chair of the AI Initiative with The Future Society, an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit think-and-do tank. He has a full segment showing you the CAIAC platform in detail and how this alliance will be collaborating about this pandemic. 

What is augmented intelligence?

Augmented intelligence is a design pattern for a human-centered partnership model of people and artificial intelligence (AI) working together to enhance cognitive performance, including learning, decision making and new experiences. [Source: Gartner.com]

Which is different than artificial intelligence:

On the other hand, the term “artificial intelligence” is often used to describe machines (or computers) that mimic “cognitive” functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as “learning” and “problem solving”. [Source: Wikipedia]

To watch Cyrus’ talk and demonstration of the CAIAC platform, please watch here: 

To watch the full Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) and the AI Initiative at The Future Society’s virtual event, please click here.

How To Solve Organizational Challenges and Manage Ideas

How To Solve Organizational Challenges and Manage Ideas

We’re helping solve the challenges that organizations face today by simplifying how ideas are managed.

Introducing Swae’s most recent product update that addresses the complexity of how organizations manage the many challenges and campaigns necessary to make progress (even if the world continues to get more complicated).

swae-idea-management-and-idea-workflow-technology

Would having an abundance of brilliant ideas organized by challenges or campaigns help stop the feelings of overwhelm around all the things that you have to find solutions for today?

We’re sure you’re curious and maybe a little skeptical. Let us break down this latest feature as to how Swae helps create solutions to challenges, manages ideas, and drives innovation.

84% of executives say that innovation is important to their growth strategy, yet do not have the processes and systems in place to execute.  [Source: McKinsey Global Innovation Survey]

Swae’s AI-based technology platform is designed to create a more inclusive and collaborative environment allowing leaders to get an abundance of highly organized ideas coming their way to make more informed decisions.

Bottom line, we help leaders discern the brilliant ideas from the bad in a more efficient and streamlined manner, which makes innovation happen all the faster.

Since organizations are complex, the decisions that must be made daily are too. In today’s economic environment, we don’t know what will come our way, so leaders across the globe, regardless of the size of an organization, must be prepared to make the best decisions, under every new circumstance, fast. And, more importantly, you’ve got to translate vision into operations through the management of ideas to get there.

Some decisions require broad input, many iterations, and longer lead times to make those decisions, while others require a more targeted audience with shorter lead time and very few iterations. Some challenges need to be solved in a few days or a week (like a rapid response plan to the latest COVID-19 phenomenon). Others can remain open for longer durations, depending on the decision-type, and urgency (for example, an annual strategic planning exercise or an open innovation competition).

Our team realized that Swae needed to allow for much more nuance, complexity, and reconfigurability with the platform in order to match the subtlety, complexity, and urgency of how fast organizations (and even local or state governments) operate and make decisions.

So we redesigned Swae to mirror these needs and used the feedback from our more than 20,000+ users and years of research that we’ve conducted.

Welcome to Swae’s new Challenges feature.

Swae Before

Previously, users could only have one challenge (or idea campaign) running at any given time to extract ideas from the larger group.  A site administrator or manager could configure that challenge or campaign workflow to suit their needs, setting the number of days ideas sat in the collaboration, voting, and management review stages, and including as many idea escalation KPIs and metrics as necessary.

This would help determine under what circumstances ideas would move to the next stage to either  become decision-ready or end up it the archives.

While this helped one department lead an innovation or ideation process with the help of Swae, it limited the extent to which other departments could create their own mini-Swae workflows, campaigns, or spaces to source department-specific ideas from specific stakeholders.

Some decisions require wider input, many iterations, and longer lead times to make the final decisions. Other ideas can require a more targeted audience, with shorter lead time and few iterations.

Both need to exist side-by-side to reflect the complexity of any organization. Under our old design, this wasn’t possible; an organization could have many ideas coming from their employees tagged under various themes, but could not have numerous workflows to exist side-by-side on the platform, until now.

Swae Today

Now, Swae can keep up with the many difficult decisions or campaigns that an organization needs to make across multiple teams day-in and day-out.

To be more effective, leaders can run many campaigns simultaneously in search of brilliant ideas for the various kinds of challenges that an organization faces.

Campaigns can include a large group of stakeholders (internal, external, or both), or an invite-only group with the workflows entirely configurable. 

Helping you make more informed decisions 


Good decision-making is the most important management activity in an organization, driving 95% of performance and 50% of employee engagement.

Under current circumstances, most leaders are making decisions with levels of uncertainty around topics that they’ve never faced previously.

While it is tempting to centralize decision-making to a group of leaders and experts right at the top who operate behind closed doors and coordinate the best possible responses, suspending consultative procedures and processes, or opportunities for inclusion is deeply shortsighted.

Given our technological, social, and cultural evolutions we’re experiencing, gone are the days where leaders make isolated decisions alone in an office, or with a select few who sit “at the top” and continuously push a top-down agenda.

All of the latest research in organizational theory and decision-science illuminates that small, closed, non-diverse teams have more groupthink and make more biased decisions than gender, age, and geographically diverse teams. Unchecked biases limit the quality of choices available, derail good decisions, and cost companies time, money, reputation, and morale.

It’s time that we change how things are done. This is the lesson that comes from 2020 and it isn’t going to change, it’s time to create new and improved systems that are based on the latest science in order to evolve. 

We’re just learning that organizations thrive when decisions are made more inclusively. Creative, innovative, and high-quality arguments can lead to more informed decisions, leading to better choices that impact the bottom-line. Swae can accelerate this as it increases the diversity of input, helping remove bias while improving the bottom line.

Here’s what else we know:

  • Business Insider reported a study that stated, on average, teams make better business decisions than individuals 66% of the time [Source: Business Insider]

     

  • A survey with team leaders by Grover Critical Thinking found that:
    • 70% agreed or strongly agreed that “Bad decisions cost my organization time and money
    • 82% agreed or strongly agreed that “Bad decisions harm my organization’s reputation in the marketplace” [Source: Grover Critical Thinking]

       

  • On the flip side, a study conducted by Towers Perrin found that the top three workplace attributes and interventions that result in employee engagement are 1) Senior management’s interest in employees’ well-being, 2) Challenging work, and, 3) Decision-making authority. The research concludes that having the opportunity to voice ideas freely, feeding views and opinions upwards, and involvement in decision-making are the most successful drivers of employee engagement. [Source: Towers Perrin Talent Report]

Decision-making in the 21st Century is about building a more collaborative environment because employees need to feel engaged, that they’re of value, and that they’re truly involved.

Swae’s new Challenges feature can now empower your organization to garner brilliant ideas across many teams to help you manage all of the major decisions that you need to make every single day. Swae will help you unlock the brilliance and potential of your people so you can pull through the best of the best ideas and make progress all the faster.

 In uncertain economic times, you need to know that you’re making the best decisions possible as fast as possible.

 

To get started, click here to send us an email and we’ll set up your free demo to show you Swae in action. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swae Celebrates the 2-Year Anniversary of Winning the Global Challenges Foundation’s New Shape Prize

Swae Celebrates the 2-Year Anniversary of Winning the Global Challenges Foundation’s New Shape Prize

Part 1 of 2: Quick Recap on the purpose of the Prize, How We Won, and What We’ve Done Since

Swae-Celebrates-the-2-Year-Anniversary-of-Winning-the-Global-Challenges-Foundation’s-New-Shape-Prize

Two years ago almost to this day, The Global Challenges Foundation in Sweden generously awarded Swae as one of three winners of the New Shape Prize (a $600K USD grant amongst 14,000 global applicants) for having a unique and innovative solution to fundamentally improve global governance, decision-making, and our democratic institutions to be more compatible with 21st-century technology, culture and socio-political developments. Our team was incredibly honored and grateful to be given this recognition and it served as an important developmental milestone for us.

Below we share details about the award, our winning pitch, and a summary of how we leveraged the resources to build a working prototype and begin piloting it in real organizational and political environments.

Goals of the New Shape Prize

The New Shape Prize (originally a $5M grant) was generously financed by the Foundation’s benefactor, Mr. Laszlo Szombatfalvy, and designed to inspire ideas and stimulate debate around new, more effective forms of global cooperation at the highest levels about how the world community manages global catastrophic risks, ranging from climate change effects to weapons of mass destruction.

The short 1min explainer video below better describes the New Shape Prize (for those that are unfamiliar with it):

 

The Problem Swae Identified

Today’s international institutions are poorly suited to building experimental or creative win-win solutions to the problems we face as a globe or a collective species. Consequently, there are dangerous emerging under-managed macro risks stemming from the limitations of our governance structures. 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 benefiting all in our species, above a narrow set of national self-interests.

Swae’s Winning Submission

The submission on behalf of Swae proposed the introduction of a technology platform to decentralize global governance to participatory and deliberative models. Using an AI-based collaboration platform (which we were in the early stages of prototyping), we intended to fuel much greater citizen collaboration and ideation around policies and budget suggestions, as the entry point for decentralized and meaningful citizen participation in governance. By using technology and AI for the good, Swae intended to create alternative forms of sovereignty, across the local, national and international spheres, to challenge or complement the authority and sovereignty of nation-states to make decisions about our collective well-being.

Here’s our in-depth proposal “Reinventing Global Governance and Democracy through AI-supported Bottom-up Deliberation”: Download the PDF or View Online.

How we used the award?

Two years really seems to fly by when you’re building a company and trying to democratize democracy! The win was an incredibly important milestone in our journey so far and helped really kick off the growth of Swae through the financial and reputational outcomes of this award.

Immediately upon the win, our startups financial pressures were (temporarily) alleviated, and the news of the award provided validation of and interest in our concept. Because of this, it attracted new interest from angel investors, new potential clients, and a host of enthusiasts (researchers, philosophy and political theorists, documentary film makers, activists, other technology providers, etc.) who had worked on similar ideas or were absolutely thrilled to see a group recommending a non-incremental change to our democratic processes and the management of global affairs. The award, and this relative validation, created pilot opportunities for us to scope out. We were able to grow our user base and much, much more (see more below).

Here’s a shortlist of some of the things that we were able to achieve with this award.

  • We got the financial runway to build a MVP of our platform and really move forward in a more progressive manner
  • We were able to recruit important members of our core team (CTO and Co-Founder, strong advisors, Marketing Lead, etc.)
  • We launched 5 pilot programs and signed our first commercial annual contract
  • We were able to grow our user base from 0 to over 15,000+
  • Since being able to initially grow the team, we retracted twice given market uncertainties and now we face the latest issues caused by the COVID-19 crisis

Below is our winning pitch and below that we the slide deck that won us the prize.

Click here to see our presentation deck

In part two of this series, we’ll provide a more in-depth look at what we’ve accomplished, learned and struggled with since the win — stay tuned!

And, once again, our sincere thank you goes out to the Global Challenges Foundation for this award!

Swae Selected Amongst Elite Startups to Win the Walton Family SCALE Challenge

Swae Selected Amongst Elite Startups to Win the Walton Family SCALE Challenge

Judges Selected Swae as one of 25 winners (amongst hundreds of applicants) competing for the Walton Family Foundation and The Center for Advancing Innovation’s 2020 Scale Challenge

swae-wins-scale-challenge

Last week, Swae was selected as one of 25 winners of The Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) International SCALE — Supply Chain and Logistics Enterprises — Challenge

Supported by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, SCALE is an open innovation contest to innovate the supply chain and logistics industry sector by launching 20+ high-tech startups advancing breakthrough inventions in advanced materials, artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, drones, robotics, 3D printing, machine learning, augmented reality and virtual reality. CAI and a 15-member committee of industry experts and investors selected the 25 inventions amongst several hundred applicants.

The SCALE Challenge was orchestrated by CAI, a 501(c)3 non-profit that launched 300+ startups since 2014. CAI partners with 120+ research institutes — including the National Institutes of Health, NASA, universities, and hospitals that cumulatively have more than 175,000 inventions combined.

The category of the win was in Innovation Excellence, and Swae was amongst other startups like Demeter (automated disease detection in crops using drones and deep learning), AmorSui (smart antimicrobial workwear to help hospitals prevent infections using IoT enabled garments), and many more startups that could be absolute game-changers in the world.

“We’re thrilled to be selected amongst 25 other resilient founders, who are not letting COVID-19 or other existential issues detract them from bringing their solutions to the world. We feel really fortunate to have benefitted from this challenge and the high-quality programming and stewardship provided by Rosemarie Truman and Codie Locke from the CAI. Without them, such realities would not exist and startups like us would certainly not get these kinds of transformative opportunities,” says CEO, Soushiant Zanganehpour.

CEO, Soushiant Zanganehpour

Swae

Swae is not specifically meant to disrupt supply chains necessarily, but the impact that our solutions have on larger organizational decision making are transformative. The possibility of bringing Swae’s solutions to an organization like Walmart can have unknown positive impacts and can be remarkable use cases for us and them.

“While SCALE is the largest challenge CAI has ever orchestrated, the Challenge is a first of a kind in two important dimensions. First, it’s one where CAI systematically joined high-tech startup teams with entrepreneurs to cultivate the ‘art spirit.’ Second, SCALE represents the most significant challenge to disrupt supply chains across multiple dimensions, the food supply chain, fashion supply chain and more.” 

Rosemarie Truman, Founder and CEO

Center for Advancing Innovation

Winners of the challenge are put forward to pitch to a hand-selected group of investors for early-stage funding at an exclusive, invite-only Investor Forum, planned for September 2020.

To learn more about the SCALE challenge, please click here. To see the list of winners including Swae and the other elite, gamechanger startups, please click here.

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