Green.Org sat down with SecondMuse Founder and Co-CEO, Todd Khozein, to discuss how his company is working with thousands of entrepreneurs around the planet to bring communities together and build economies that benefit people and protect the planet.
Todd, thank you for being here. Let’s get to know you a little bit better, can you tell us about your background?
I believe that economic and social systems can be built inclusively and not at the expense of human dignity or the health of the planet. My approach to economic development and systems theory was honed over years of remarkable experiences, from fleeing my native Iran for Latin America to later emigrating to the United States, where I struggled to make sense of racism and glaring inequality.
I continued to dwell on broken social systems as I pursued a medical degree at the University of New Mexico, where I began to imagine the human body as a framework for understanding economies. I saw that autoimmune diseases hurt the body when unbridled competition would run amok and that cancers hoarded resources for a select few at the expense of the whole. After earning my degree, I continued my studies in economic modeling based on biological systems and further solidified my belief that all systems — whether damaging, ineffective, or thriving — were the result of the design and the kind of thinking that created them in the first place.
To test my theories and gain a deeper understanding of how to build and execute better systems, I spent years developing a range of businesses, from a cashew farming cooperative in Honduras to an equity firm focused on financing more collaborative economies.
What caused you to get into your industry?
I have had a lifetime of learning and lived experiences in broken social systems. I started a number of businesses to not only succeed financially but also contribute intentionally to building a world that was more just. Through my experience with these businesses, I realized that we would need unprecedented collaboration to understand and solve some of the biggest challenges facing humanity.
I thought about the extraordinary levels of human migration; a climate becoming increasingly volatile; and social, political, and economic systems that have long outlived any value they once possessed. This led to a desire to build a company that was intensely focused on understanding the nature and mechanisms of the necessary collaboration to overcome these challenges.
Working with entrepreneurs and understanding their energy, enthusiasm, and hope, we brought together private and public sector actors alongside major philanthropies to not only take entrepreneurs to market, but influence the very markets themselves in the process and bend them towards justice. We saw that we could change the culture and composition of markets in their most influenceable moments and this could have a profound impact on the future of that industry or market.
What trends are you seeing in your industry?
I see that businesses will play a more active role in creating and redesigning the economies that are shaping our world for the better. I think this will happen for two reasons. I believe markets will have no choice but to adapt to a humanity that is becoming increasingly intolerant of hurt to entire segments of the human family and to the environment in which our lives, not to mention our economies, depend. I also believe entrepreneurs and business leaders will start understanding inclusion and equality not strictly as a zero sum game whose previous beneficiaries must become the financiers of a more just future, but rather seeing an inclusive environment as an inherently more creative, inspiring, and effective place from which to build the future.
Government agencies and corporations alike are realizing that the world’s biggest issues demand collaboration to find solutions. The more far-reaching and complex the issue, the more collaboration is needed, especially around the topic of climate change. It will simply be impossible to solve these problems strictly from a private or public sector lens. A magic technology is not going to save us. It will require us building relationships at a scale and in a way that we simply haven’t done in the past.
Diversity will increasingly become an essential metric for successful team composition. Diverse teams are producing more innovative solutions than teams that are not diverse. The evidence is already out there. When women sit on boards of publicly traded corporations they perform better from a strictly financial lens. When product innovation teams are more racially diverse they make products that perform better in the market.
What is one action item the average person should take away and apply to their lives?
My one action item for each listener and viewer, no matter what level they are at in their career, is for them to engage. They can do this as a CEO, a mid-career employee, a neighbor, a friend, and as a parent or a child. Engage in figuring out how to participate in the world’s future. The idea that current experts will lead us to our improved future is a myth. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, and the only way the future is going to look different from the past is if we take a different approach. We’re already seeing the evidence of this in action as grassroots movements and culture changes are driving companies to consider their social responsibility and to address climate change.
We all have a different, nuanced take on what the future can and should look like. If we keep that to ourselves and don’t go out there and evolve our ideas, then we can’t expect the future to be all that different, and that’s a problem for us all.
Let’s switch it up a bit. What is a fun fact about you?
I used to be a flamenco dancer and pianist and spent years in the music industry.
Where do you see the industry in 10 years?
We will see a major increase in smart energy, energy-efficient buildings, sustainable agricultural practices, and better transportation solutions in an effort to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Climate tech will effectively become all tech. This will end up transforming markets in increasingly foundational ways.
I see more government agencies, corporations, and entrepreneurs working together to solve the world’s issues. This sort of collaboration will increase innovation exponentially.
Innovation and technology will become more inclusive and protective of people and the planet because we will soon have a wider acceptance that the current systems are limiting our economic potential and harming the human family and environment.
What does your company need most help with?
We want to see more organizations rethink how they define and measure success. If more organizations engage in redesigning the economies in which they operate, we will create a better, more equitable future where every member of the human family has the opportunity to thrive.
Todd, thank you for being here. We appreciate you sharing your experience building SecondMuse and where you see the world going in the future.
Todd will be a speaker at The Green Summit, as well as a featured guest on The Green Podcast. be sure to check out both platforms to learn more about what Todd is doing. To follow SecondMuse directly, visit their website.