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SAT, December 5, 2020
Thriving not striving: a story of a #ConsciousTech entrepreneur
Today marked the first day of the two-day Vested Summit in its third edition, which is taking place entirely virtually on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. The previous article reported on the opening ceremony and put this edition’s theme – “Believe!” – into context. Yet, faith in the potential and possibility for positive impact can only take a conscious tech business so far; material and non-material resources need to be brought to bear to jumpstart and grow businesses. If there were a sub-theme to the e-summit sessions of Day 1, I would say it’s the three pillars of success that a conscious tech business needs to thrive. These are financial wellness and entrepreneurship support, psychological and social wellness insofar as it underlies and promotes business growth, and the leadership that creates the conditions conducive to business success. In this article, I’d like to summarize the greater part of the day’s sessions through the lens of these three pillars.
As for the first success pillar, financial wellness and entrepreneurship support, three sessions in particular contributed food for thought. Two of these sessions were panel discussions on the hot topic of conscious investment, spotlighting new business opportunities and investment trends to look out for. There was consensus by the panelists on digital transformation and online enablement representing rich opportunities. This opportunity well has been rendered even richer by this year’s pandemic. The pandemic has after all shifted change management in matters virtualization and mobility to the forefront of business agendas as businesses seek to keep themselves going if not get ahead of things in these trying times. Other opportunities lie in Crypto and cybersecurity, as noted by Kyane Kassiri, Investor at Lateral Capital. Kassiri also remarked that there is much room for instructive exchange on best practices between the MENA and sub-Saharan Africa ecosystems on account of their similarity in multiple respects, including good digital and online infrastructure.
On the investment front, though angel investing is up and coming, Salma El Hariry, Founder & CEO at S[k]aleUp Ventures Inc., remarked that funding and matchmaking gaps still persist. Nevertheless, the pandemic has generally led to an investment spike. The panelists unanimously agreed that it is people facing the problems that are better positioned to solve them, and that impact creation is almost a given in the MENA and sub-Saharan Africa ecosystems. Key to business success is and will always be achieving balance between growth and sustainability. On the issue of support, Adly Thoma, Executive Chairman & CEO at Gemini Africa, described his investment company’s program for start-up, entrepreneurship and SME support founded on the pillars of operational continuity and financial stability, and enabled by the three M’s – money, matchmaking and mentorship.
As for the second success pillar, psychological and social wellness, the e-summit attendees were treated to a whopping four sessions in this area. With the alarming rate of increase across the workforce of levels of illnesses not directly traceable to physical causes (e.g. stress, anxiety, depression), psychological and social wellness is proving to be “no longer a luxury; it’s a business and lifestyle necessity,” according to Amy Blankson, Co-founder at Digital Wellness Institute. Blankson highlighted the additional toll the work situation during the pandemic has brought onto many employees, punctuated as it is with the now all-too-familiar “Zoom fatigue”. In addition to introducing her framework for thinking about “digital wellness”, Blankson proposed best practices for businesses, including supporting employees to couple intentionality with their technology usage and cultivate or break habits, and fostering authentic engagement among employees. By contrast, Nichol Bradford, CEO & Founder of the Willow Group and the Executive Director & Co-founder of the Transformative Technology Lab, Conference and TT200 List, predicates human transformation on the transformation of technology itself, in the guise of transformative technologies. Transformative technologies include “artificial intelligence, sensors, robotics, synthetic biology and more applied to the human inner and interpersonal landscape to support happiness, connection and growth.” Bradford, in her turn, presented steps to push forward with the transformation of our technologies. The steps call for innovations in several arenas, suggesting, for example, sense augmentation, neuroaesthetics, games for growth and workplace harmonization through non-invasive data monitoring. Finally, she affirmed the right to augmentation as well as the right to data privacy and protection from algorithmic bias, and warned that human well-being should be a globally inclusive affair in order for it to be at all effective.
Before moving on to the third success pillar, it’s worth dwelling on a technological niche that promises to play a pivotal role in the fourth industrial revolution in maintaining, safeguarding or investigating complex systems in respect of their security, sustainability, stability, etc. In a certain sense, the technology circumscribed here is transformative, dubbed “Digital Twins”. This technology was the subject matter of the talk by Lorenzo Pierini, Co-founder & COO at XR-Crew, and Francesco Capilli, Founder & CEO at BIMaking Engineering. They define a digital twin as a “virtual representation of a physical asset enabled through data and simulators for real-time prediction, optimization, monitoring, controlling, and improved decision making.” These programmed representations, which may or may not employ virtual or augmented reality paradigms, are at the core of a rapidly growing industry with quite a large MENA end-user market. The sectors of deployment include: Healthcare; Automotive and Transport; Manufacturing; Tourism; Heritage and Conservation; Gaming; Architecture and Engineering Construction; Virtual Environment Eyes; Risk Management and Disaster Preparedness.
Finally, the third and final success pillar for businesses is that of good leadership. On Day 1 of the e-summit, there was no dearth of valuable pointers for leading a business to success. However, I remain in the dark as to what constitutes “conscious leadership”, supposedly the subject matter of one of the day’s fireside chats. What exactly distinguishes a conscious leader from a merely good one? Does conscious leadership derive from the vision of a conscious business? Or does it rather consist in upholding certain workplace conditions? Or a certain combination of aspects of both? How can one grow the capacity for conscious leadership? Reflecting on these questions might offer us a well-rounded appreciation for the ethos of the conscious tech movement that Vested Summit is committed to celebrating.
Sara Al-Sayed was born in Cairo, Egypt. She studied electrical engineering at the German University in Cairo, Egypt, and holds a PhD degree in electrical engineering from Germany. Fascinated by the pivotal role technology and technical systems have on shaping our lives and existence, in positive and not so positive ways alike, she picked up a master’s program in the philosophy of technology, in Germany. She currently resides in Princeton, USA, where she is writing her thesis. She is interested in making contributions to the #ConsciousTech movement.