6:02 - Saying goodbye to Big Pharma
18:26 - Fulfilling your parents' expectations
47:53 - Stepping down from the CEO role
58:56 - Joining Dezentrum
1:05:18 - A do tank, not a think tank
Malik El Bay is the co-founder of the household management app Flatastic and a partner at Dezentrum, a think-tank concocting positive scenarios of the future. His background is in interdisciplinary natural sciences and he has previously worked for Fit Analytics and Modum. He also co-founded Yeppt, an app which aimed to be a mix of Facebook events, Whatsapp and Doodle, and which participated in the Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator.
After graduating from ETH, Malik discovered lab work and the world of Big Pharma weren't what he was most suited for. This identity crisis led him to send out a great deal of job applications, namely to Fit Analytics, where he eventually had his first startup experience. Here he was able to run experiments dealing with data about people and products.
By then, he was sharing an apartment with a group of entrepreneurs who encouraged him to become one himself, so he did — but after a failed project, he felt he needed to go back to ETH to study some more. At this time Malik also participated in the ETH Entrepreneur Club.
Fresh out of university once again, he co-founded the social network Yeppt, and even managed to get in the Axel Springer Accelerator. Looking back, Malik can pinpoint a few mistakes:
- They received great feedback because they asked the wrong questions.
- Accelerators serve as social proof and as a stage, which they thought would easily permit them to achieve viral growth. For this reason, they didn't prioritize fundraising.
- They lost sight of what their ultimate company vision was.
After dedicating his time to Flatastic (2014/present) and Modum (2016/2020), Malik joined the think-tank Dezentrum, after having originally received a one-pager from them for feedback and remained in contact. Dezentrum calls themselves a "do-tank" because, more than write papers (which they don't enjoy doing all that much), they are able to build in-house prototypes based on their ideas. They're financed by private companies, academic institutions and foundations.
They mainly discuss Universal Basic Income, remote work and decentralized companies. Malik is of the opinion that UBI should be a top societal priority, since poverty sincerely hinders decision-making and prevents human flourishing. However, he also thinks that citizens need to take into account that a UBI will have to be payed for by everyone, though it may not necessarily be enjoyed by everyone. Regarding this topic, as with all other discussions of the future, Malik is of the belief that it's up to us to avoid dystopian scenarios.
"You get great feedback if you ask the wrong questions."
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