How I Built Resilience: Taha Bawa of Goodwall

How I Built This


Hey, everyone and welcome to how I built. This resilience edition on these episodes were talking with entrepreneurs and other business leaders about how they're thinking creatively during such a disruptive time and today we're GonNa hear from Ta the CO founder of Good Wall Good Wall is a social network that connects high school and college graduates with jobs and scholarships. Today Good Wall has raised over sixteen million dollars with more than a million users on the platform I. Spoke with Taha, from his company headquarters in Switzerland where he gave me a rundown of goodwill's mission for people who've never heard of goodwill just tell us how how does it work? It's essentially a mobile platform that's designed for the next generation. We started off with high school students helping them build up their first profile showcase themselves in a way that I'm accentuates their extracurricular activities in particular, connect them to opportunities mostly scholarships in colleges and all. This happens within a positive and supportive community. Over time, we've grown with our members into the college and young professional space. Our whole goal is to level the playing field, maximize the potential of as many people as possible. So it's been compared to linked in is that a fair comparison I? Think there are similarities however, we're really focused on on our part, which is this next generation starting as early as sixty and guiding them through almost Sherpa in. Them through the future of earning learning and those opportunities. There are various features that we have that they don't, and we're really focus from a user experience perspective, and then from a community perspective, it's it's very different posts don't work here. You wouldn't find students talking about being on the chess team being on the robotics team being on etc etc on goodwill mean if you are, let's say eighteen years old and you're interested in applying to college. What does it look like you go to? While you create a profile for yourself and and then what you're going to goodwill, you help yourself our initial early adopters were mostly international school students who maybe didn't have as much guidance as others or since the US who maybe didn't have as much guidance from their parents from college counselors it come on. Here's he would other people are doing they'd be matched with colleges and universities and. Also. With scholarships based on their data on their profiles and then they'd be able to connect with like minded youth. So we had this girl based out of Jordan who was really into robotics science and unfortunately no one really around her who had that those similar interests and she was able to find others like her in the US connected Internet. NASA did incredible things afterwards actually many of our students have gone bound exclusive opportunities at. Like Oxford and others that we've partnered with an. Super fulfilling perspective. Yeah. It's really caused US checking it out last night and it's it's a little bit like if you didn't have a mentor or a guidance counselor like here you go. Yeah definitely I think a lot of early adopters were privileged in the sense that they had a lot of ambition and maybe they went to good schools. But over time we've especially with last year we've really. Put a lot of effort and a lot of energy towards helping youth who are maybe a little under privileged that privilege is actually not necessarily one hundred percent linked to financial situation but it can be for example, we're doing now with UNICEF death and other organizations in Africa for example, is running programs they are and were really helping you bring out their ideas, build up their confidence show who they. are in connect opportunities and it's been really really fulfilling and we expect to do more underrepresented communities in the US. For example, we're doing more and more there. That's where the biggest room impact is. At the end of the day, we are a social enterprise and it's very fulfilling to help youth who go to elite schools and connect them to lead universities and colleges, but it's even more fulfilling. Even more important for us to step in where the impact Delta's the biggest for, for example, youth in Africa who insert African countries that just don't have any exposure don't have opportunity. Don't have the guidance but do have access to a phone and can has result go through. So we're really trying to do more there in particular and are you started this company in two thousand fourteen with your brother? Where did the idea come from? So my it was my brothers idea both of us were born in Switzerland we lived in Iran the US came back to Switzerland. Our parents used to work in the humanitarian sector. My father worked for or Serb refugees around thirty years, and we experienced a lot growing up. We was like quite a contradiction going skiing on the weekend in in a very affluent privileged, no bubble in Switzerland whereas at the same time, we'd go in summer vacation and give candy out to refugee kids who are age your ten eleven and that that really did shake US quite a bit in throughout our upbringing we realized that we are. We are I'm here not because I'm smart but because I was lucky osborne that could have been born two doors down in that, my life would have been very different and I'm confident because of the experiences I had rather than because I'm innately able to do so and that's really what pushed us to say we were lucky in this sense what would happen if we were able to give those opportunities in terms of particularly experiences. So education is one thing traditional education is one thing but particularly experiences to millions of youth around the world what would happen how can we change things and that's where we thought it has to be mobile first it has. To be a digital solution and it has to be able to tackle millions and we wanted to go a step further. We said it's good to maximize one's potential but hopefully, we can do that in a win. We're very idealistic in that sense in a way that it maximizes or improved society as well or impacts society positively, which is our mission statement that if we have enough people that are exposed to not only improving themselves but as so often it's a form of education knowing what's out there if I hadn't gone to refugee camps or if I didn't have the background where my parents are Richard from Sri Lanka, would I really be so inclined to How this positive impact who knows I did have that chance I view that as an opportunity to give those opportunities in showcase through volunteering through being aware through connecting to people from different backgrounds. Hopefully, we can move the world forward I. Think it's needed now more than ever, right? Yeah. For Sure Tyler, the business for a second I think you've got around fifty employees the world you've got offices in Switzerland, the US Germany Serbia the Philippines mean you're growing you've got presumably some cash runway but these are tough economic times. I mean Lincoln just laid off a thousand people, their record numbers of people in the US for unemployment. So first of all. How is your revenue been in your business been impacted by the global economic slowdown? Yeah. I mean when it happens I think the first week where we started notice he was getting really serious I. Remember it. The first thing we did was we we had a board meeting and we talked about, okay what's our cash situation and let's make sure we get through this are along a be while maintaining the team for two reasons. One is like you don't want. Downward debt spiral. But also because we have the opportunity to have real impacting this time if we make the changes in adapt effectively, but we won't be able to do so if we don't have the team to do it so we've actually hired over the past few months and we've actually grown over the past few months and we've adapted to do. So the first week was really about scenario planning getting through that after that, we assume the worst but we. Ourselves decided. Well, there's definitely GONNA be less demand for recruitment is definitely less hires which hurts us which hurts our users or are members and we said, okay how can we can we help because if they come on in the no jobs? Well, it's a very bad experience, but it's also it's hurting us. So what we did was we put we put together this program better together and other challenges where youth can develop work experience at the end of it. They get certificates that show that they've accomplished these different challenges participated in it, and at the end, it can be used as work experience towards all of our partner companies. So it's actually giving them something to do some hope, and at the same time, this is generating revenue for us as one example of revenue for us. Another example is just before the crisis a part of our model is we work with large partners and a couple of these large partnership so. Leading recruitment than leading education routes, stunts or came to a halt. And then I don't know if this is despite coverted or because of covid other opportunities came about we've now partnered over the course of Kobe with market leaders in markets that we are not present in or were very marginally presents and he's actually allowing us to take up extra market share and grow in more significant way to timber onwards. Let. Let me ask you about the demographic that you target. Right I mean and I'm Gonna I'M GONNA use this term Gen Z.. Always cringe when I say because I remember like when I was in my twenties and people talked about Gen-x and their slackers and I would just cringe and you're older people talk about Gen xers and I was like, what are you talking about but just just to make this kind of simple we'll we'll just say Gen Z.. So if you're Gen Z. I'm sorry it's annoying I know. This is a really challenging economic moment if you are in high school now and you're going into college or if you're in college, there's a pretty good chance. You'RE GONNA GRADUATE INTO A world with very few jobs. You know a world that we haven't seen certainly since two, thousand, eight, nine and ten but maybe far far more challenging than that. What's your sense I mean? What do you think I mean do do you think that's that's actually true that that is likely to be the case for the next three, four, five years or more. Yeah, I think whether or not we go through a deep recession with mass unemployment particularly for the Youth USA next three four five years very probable that US at least in the short run or to suffer they're normally the last to be hired the first to be fired and that's justified for various reasons including ethical. Oh, they have less commitments than, for example, someone with kids, but it is incredibly difficult and the mental toil of, let's say an eighteen year old doesn't know what's coming up next we need to be able to be resilient and we need to be able to learn how to learn and adapt because we just don't know what's going to happen. So they could be a second. Downturn there could be a third downturn. It could be sustained downturns and US like across society but in particular for the youth they we have an opportunity they have an opportunity to take this and say, okay, it doesn't kill me. It might make me stronger and I can learn from this develop that resilience that five, six, ten years from now I'm able to deal with the next crisis in a more in a stronger way because I'm going to have to do that and some of the skills that need to be developed in my in my opinion or entrepreneurial thinking that ability to be flexible and resilient we we need to do more though the on just the the these massive stimulus packages and. Is trying to do whatever they can for sure this generation needs the government needs to intervene to be able to organizations needs to be able to intervene to support them to the best of their abilities in terms of developing skills and able to resilient. When we come back in just a moment, I'll talk with Taha about college graduates who will probably face a shrinking job market over the next few years stay with us. I'm Guy Roz and you're listening to how I built this resilience edition from NPR. For this podcast and the following message come from the American Jewish World Service working together for more than thirty years to build a more just and equitable world learn more at age aws dot org. Hey welcome back to how I built this resilience edition despite the economic slowdown tie and his company good wall have been able to grow their team and stay afloat. But as jobs are drying up across the globe. Many college graduates are looking for opportunities and can't find any if you're like in your early twenties now and you're looking for an opportunity and you can't find one. What would you recommend a young person? Do Who's who's graduating college is just entering the workforce and is kind of trying out different potential career pass. Is it a good time to just steer clear of the workforce for a while and get some more education which in the US means more debts? What do you think? Yeah, I think. Definitely, trying is important, but this might just be an opportunity to start your own thing. You know a lot of great companies came out of the last crisis because they just couldn't find jobs or that opportunity just wasn't there for your. So maybe start one's own thing. It's never been easier to start a business. It's never been easier to try something new. So if even. If it doesn't work. That's incredible work experience. You know when we talk to HR owes of some of the leading companies in the world, what are they looking for or what were they looking for before the crisis indefinitely after is that ability to be entrepreneurial even if you're working for fortune five hundred, so it can't hurt best case scenario you build something. Amazing. Worst case scenario. Fail and you take those skills and you leverage those skills and you keep your mind active. It's so important from a mental health perspective, keep your mind active and then apply them when the market comes back, which will at one point another opportunity. If if maybe starting yourself isn't it join some friends or join or reach out to small startups definitely volunteer is an opportunity. There are a lot of NGOs are nonprofits that need help or need support right now, build up your work experience gained some experience concrete tangible work experience that differentiates further rather than just having eight twelve months in your resume which are empty. Unfortunately, it might not help financial side and that's where that's where one has to be creative and it's it's just really tough and that's What does the government intervention on that front need to be because there's some that just can't afford to do what I just said, which is volunteer or build your own company because they don't have that safety net that don't have that opportunity in and unfortunately there in we're almost out of ideas because he go back to college, you just talked about extra debt but for some unfortunately are going to have to do it, and that leads to more a more philosophical discussion on what is there so much debt attached to a college education where you know in Switzerland, for example, I paid for my undergraduate I paid around a thousand dollars a year it's a leading edge I mean it's like A. Top universities and so that's a that's another discussion. Yeah. I agree with you I think that this is a moment to be entrepreneurial and it's challenging because you're you're right. I mean not everybody can do that from an employer's perspective you mentioned human resource officers, and by the way you're right I mean a human resource officer is very attracted to an applicant who started a business or try to start up in it failed. Because as you say, that's incredible life and work experience. What are some of the characteristics and sort of ways that quote Unquote Jersey works that might be different from previous generations maybe what their expectations for example? Yeah. It's something that comes up quite often the expectations are are huge I think even if we look at the generation before part of it is there needs to be in there. Always has been this need for grits for determination. I think post Covid, we're going to have very likely incredibly resilient and determined generation I. Think it's it's really great for I mean it's it's very tough. Love going to suffer and I hope I hope it will be as as few as possible but coming out of this generally on the whole, there's good reason to believe that this generation. is going to be really conscious a bit like after World War Two really conscious of financials very conscious sauce how lucky they are how privileged quickly things can change how precarious the society within which we live is actually it's a disease that, yes, it's it's it's it's serious, but it could have been a lot worse. It could have been worse could be one hundred exists and it's brought. Our global economy to its knees and you know we feel like we're often the masters of the universe and that's not just Jeb across demographics and we clearly aren't on I. think a little bit of humidity goes a long way. I love the energy of younger people coming in because their ideas are just so radically different from the way people in my business have have seen their profession What is your advice for employers looking to harness the intellectual power of Gen Z.? Yeah. No, it's a really good question. There basics of management that have been the same for every demographic every every niche within that demographic. It's look at maximizing the potential of the particular individual to different people react differently to different forms of management. Within this can talk about trends, but the ability to give them that chance to express themselves. The need for trust is always been there now definitely, so I mean even more so because they know what they're capable, but then also must not forget they are still with very few years of experience and being able to be there to give feedback to to tell them what they're doing. Right. Tell them what they're doing. Wrong. Both sides is critical. So just leaving someone out there in the world is not going to necessarily need to great results either but giving that safe-space giving that trust and creating an environment of being game your to maximize your potential and the. Direct, order may have worked. They may have been able to get away with it in the past, but some people might be okay with it but generally speaking that's that's especially for for you a lot of potential that's just not conducive for maximizing the potential where do you see your your business and what you're doing in five years from now what do you want it to look like I think for us it's always been about really helping as many youth as possible be as inclusive as we. And so we're ready serving youth in one hundred, fifty countries would like to go deeper in certain areas through our partnerships or load serve more youth in a more significant way. Provide more opportunities just re the best experience. That's probably what's most important. I think that's where we can have where we can make our contribution towards society. That's what we're good at, and now it's just about going to the next level. Yes. It's a challenging period, but we're going to be okay. WE'RE GONNA get out of this, and then it's about really taking this opportunity and doing the best we can because we are in a privileged situation if we were if we were unlucky which is the case for many other start ups I, friends who had term sheets for massive rounds of financing evaporates we hear the stories and then know they're just unlucky. So we're in this lucky position to be able to operate and to be able to do what we're doing. Let's. Make, the most out of it and I think that's our that's kind of our duty and I think that's yeah. TOBBACO

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