Elevator Interview: Marwan Kawadri
Marwan is an internationally-minded strategist who has been an important part of the Founders Intelligence family working on several projects across our technology, CPG, and luxury clients. Prior to FI, he experienced many corners of the entrepreneurial ecosystem: from marketplace strategy at Managed by Q (prior to the WeWork acquisition), venture capital with Tekfen Ventures in New York and Artificial Intelligence governance with The Future Society. Marwan studied Economics-Philosophy at Columbia University and Sciences Po Paris.
1. — What motivates you?
Learning from brilliant people around me and feeding off their energy. I’m a big fan of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and they call it ‘burstiness’ — when the energy in the room is so good and everyone’s ideas are helping create something big for the show. I thrive in those team environments. Looking back, I felt this when I helped organise the Governance of AI Roundtable for the World Government Summit with The Future Society. Being part of something impactful gets me going.
2. — What learnings would you have for corporates?
I think a lot of corporates want to be first movers in driving innovative business models but the reality is that most will be fast followers. If you really want to be a leader, you have to be ready to experiment and open to failure. For those starting out on their innovation journey, being a fast follower is probably your best option. Make sure your team is clear on that strategy to ensure your bets pay off.
3. — What’s your favourite podcast?
I’m an avid listener of Shane Parrish’s The Knowledge Project (and I’ve had a lot more time to listen during the lockdown). It’s all about learning from people who are the very best in their fields. I’m a person who thrives off others’ energy so I found his interviews with relationship experts to be very insightful. I always walk away from an episode having learned something new.
4. — What is an interesting problem you’ve tackled at FI?
How do you improve connectivity for 3bn underserved people around the world? It’s a big SDG challenge. Did you know you could use old-fashioned USSD (think “press 1 for x, press 2 for y” on a non-smartphone) technology to access internet services? Working with startups thinking of ingenious ways to bring connectivity to underserved communities while supporting Facebook Accelerator London never failed to inspire me.
5. — What is your favourite start-up?
It has to be Fast — they’re creating the fastest 1-click checkout for e-commerce. A lot of corporates talk about delivering frictionless experiences but often fall short. I think Fast is highlighting how much value you can create by delivering the best possible user and product experience. Plus, their go-to-market is on point. I’ve never seen people so excited on Twitter about the launch of an enterprise fintech product. A definite candidate for a leading fintech player of the future.
6. — What start-up ecosystem are you most bullish about?
I’m very excited about gaming as a social media platform and third space for a new generation of consumers. While gaming has been an important trope of pop culture for years (Mario Kart anyone?), the business models are evolving and the supporting cloud infrastructure is improving. I genuinely think gaming platforms should be treated as the main competitor to the Netflixes and Instagrams of this world. We’re seeing it as a strategic priority for leading VCs and I’m confident we’ll hear a lot more about it in years to come.
Founders Intelligence is a team of entrepreneurs and strategy consultants. We help corporates understand how digitally enabled business models are affecting their industries and what to do about it.
Our team has extensive cross-category experience, working with Fannie Mae, Visa Europe, Shell, Unilever, Diageo and numerous other FTSE 100 / Fortune 500 companies.