Super Global matches innovators with the capital, capabilities and communities to realise breakthrough tech solutions to impact problems. The platform employs AI to optimise connections in the ecosystem, and blockchain to record transactions.

 

Simply put, what problem is Super Global solving?

Impact tech projects encounter bottlenecks because they don’t have the right connections.

At what point did you identify the opportunity to provide a solution to this? What was your eureka moment?

In 2016 Sam was trying to build an airstrike monitoring tool. He realised his team didn’t understand the problem space well enough. They were introduced to an airstrike early warning project who really did understand the context. Partnering them with the right technologists, they built a chatbot which went on to warn more than 2 million syrians of impending strikes.

That was the a-ha moment which prompted us to build Super Global’s digital agency community. Since then we’ve understood that teams developing impact tech solutions need many connections beyond digital services, and pivoted to enable those too. We’ve had a few a-ha’s, but no eureka’s… we’ll leave those to Einstein.

You guys have already facilitated some pretty impressive tech partnerships across the world. Can you tell us a little bit about what happened in Syria?

A citizen uprising was (is) brutally repressed by an authoritarian government. Air strikes were (are) carried out in civilian areas and regular, non-military people live(d) in fear of aerial bombardment. As described by one American diplomat, “it’s a humanitarian clusterf**k.”

We encountered a group of incredible technologists who found a way to predict the time and place of airstrikes with data science. Super Global orchestrated a relationship with a digital agency in Europe where they jointly developed a chatbot for citizens to receive real-time, location based alerts for incoming airstrikes through Facebook Messenger.  

Was there a particular movement / global crisis which inspired you to kick start this project?

Initially the Syria crisis got us really mad. And then we broadened out and started orchestrating partnerships across many domains of impact. Since then we’ve understood that we need to focus while we build out the platform to match many types of resource.

We’ve chosen to zero-in on SDG16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions, which includes some of the projects we’re really proud of with Amnesty International for human rights monitoring, with Transparency International for exposing corruption. So we’re kind of going back to our roots!

We’re totally nerding out on these kinds of projects. Some of the most audacious and inventive solutions are being developed here, and the potential for reducing suffering is absolutely monumental.

You have created the world’s largest community of ‘digital agencies for impact’. For those who don’t know, what does a ‘digital agency for impact’ look like?

Digital agencies are just highly skilled teams who can use technology to achieve some specified objective. Whether those objectives are business objectives for financial gain, or social or environmental gains – or everything in-between – is up to them.

The agencies in our community choose to apply their abilities to projects that deliver social and environmental impact. Some of them work exclusively on these types of problem, but most strike a balance with commercial work so they have the cash to hire the best people, and the freedom to discount their services enough so that impact problem solvers can afford them.

What’s the relationship between the different partners and you?

As a market network, Super Global sits at the apex of several relationships. Projects need money, funders need great projects to fund. Service providers need work, projects need experts to do things for them. Etc. We get to know lots of teams in each camp, and simply figure out who to match and when.

Everyone is qualified before they can join the community, and we’re very selective about who actually gets connected. In that sense it’s much closer to a data-fuelled dating agency than a Tinder.

After introductions are made we mostly stay out of the way. Our role is to set the conditions for partnership, track what goes on, and be on hand if anything goes awry. We provide security and transparency to proceedings, and this produces what I call the ‘lifeguard on duty’ effect.

Why is blockchain the right technology for you? Why not use an online database to match up these partnerships?

We use blockchain to provide a transparent record of transactions. Decision quality is a product of context and event-specific information. In the impact space, it’s really important to show not only whose money is going where, but how that money is being spent and what impact it’s delivering. For us, blockchain-standard evidence isn’t just an ambition, it will become prerequisite to play in the coming years.

Why is now the right time to be launching this platform?

There’s a fresh wave of innovation approaching the impact sector. People have decided that the mediocrity of do-goodery simply isn’t good enough, and clever tech savvy folks are stepping up to the plate and developing highly scalable, impactful solutions to social and environmental challenges.

These teams will all have times when they’ll need connections they don’t have. Super Global is here to make sure that who they know never stops them succeeding.

Sophisticated data science techniques mean that we can push our understanding of how to match up partners even deeper, and do it at a scale.

We’re a team that cares deeply, in a time with a critical need, and the means to make it happen. If not us, now? Then who, when?

Where did your drive for social impact come from?

Ask yourself the question: If you knew you could not fail, what would you do? Super Global is our answer to this question. We love it. Social impact just happens to be the product.

As founders you live across the globe – Lisbon, London and New York. How did you meet?

Friends of friends of friends. It’s just a shame there was no platform to connect us sooner…

What’s the hardest thing about working remotely in different corners of the globe?

Distributed teams have their fair share of challenges. Especially if team members are moving around nomad-style. Usually, everything works fine as long as the time-differences are manageable and people have good personal support networks outside of work.

Any tips for startups whose teams are similarly international?

Find an organisational behaviour expert who’s worked across geographies and ask them to tell you all the ways you’re doing it wrong. First and foremost, though, make your team’s physical and emotional wellbeing a priority.

Super Global pic 3

If Super Global took over, what would the future look like in 100 years?

Well, there would be Super Global stickers on every laptop, for a start! Realistically, nobody knows what’s going to happen in 5 years, let alone 100. A century is enough time to doom the planet, or achieve perfect socio-environmental harmony.

At least for our small part in the future, we’d like to make sure that anyone using tech for good is able to realise their ambitions, regardless of where they are and who they know.

Sam, a recent article has featured you as a Cat herder. What on earth did they mean by that?

Cat herding = orchestration. Orchestration is setting the conditions so that the things that you want to happen, happen, without you directly interfering in events. Cupid doesn’t exist, so if you want your two best friends to couple-up, find a way to get them together in the right spot at the right time, without them realising. Do this, and you’re a pro cat-herder.

Do you like even like cats?

Cats are cool, but I prefer people. And Kit Kats.

What does the next year look like for Super Global?

Adventure! We’re focused on SDG 16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions for the rest of 2019. That means learning about and supporting tech solutions for human rights, anti-corruption and access to justice. We’ll be prototyping and perfecting our platform with partners, and getting ready to scale our tech to the other Sustainable Development Goals.

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