CEO/MD Forum | Featuring Sophie Schmidt - Founder & CEO, Rest of World
Founders Keepers hosted the latest CEO/MD Forum on Wednesday 7th October, featuring special guest speaker Sophie Schmidt - Founder & CEO, Rest of World.
Sophie Schmidt - Founder & CEO, Rest of World
Rest of World, a new technology magazine focused outside the Western world, features exceptional technology companies, founders and trends in countries that are rarely covered in English language media. Six months in, Sophie and her team of 30 cover more than 150 countries and have reported stories everywhere from India and Korea to Sudan, Cuba and Indonesia.
I’ve spent most of the last decade living and working in the emerging markets and have always been obsessed with technology and how it was playing out in so-called “rest of world” countries. When I returned to the US to share some of the fascinating things I’d seen, I couldn’t get anybody interested.
Rest of World’s audience is broadly US/Western based. How can the companies and entrepreneurs you cover benefit?
It’s a mistake to dismiss some of the companies we cover as small, cultural quirks. There is so much more to them. One of my favourites is a Turkish company called Faladdin. Started by a part-time underwear model who grew up in a fortune-telling family, Faladdin is an app that will send you an AI-generated daily fortune based on a photo of your coffee grinds. It’s very culturally specific, and they are now sending out more than a million fortunes every day.
What does the next decade look like in a post-American, multi-polar world?
It’s an exciting shift, to me. The US. is a big, mature market with big, mature problems: antitrust, market saturation, difficulty in innovating. Founders in the US today are largely building for acquisition, rather than creating the next big thing.
Meanwhile, outside of the US, you have young populations with growing incomes and the space to genuinely innovate. It’s clear to me that the next decade is not going to be the same as the previous 20 in terms of American dominance.
That extends to technology. Tech adoption stretches far beyond product. It’s now about being part of a movement. In a story we covered on the rise of Indian tech nationalism, Tibetan refugees living in Dharamshala, concerned around Beijing’s surveillance, were delighted when India banned 59 Chinese apps. These massive, internecine fights between superpowers are being played out through the cultural adoption (or rejection) of technology. Elevating those voices is fascinating to us.
I’m equally fascinated by Chinese social ecommerce platforms. How much would a recession-era US population want a Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book)? These technologies are positively impacting millions. We don’t have a safety net like that in the US. Many of these solutions, designed for different markets, could be massively beneficial to the West. We’re excluded from them both from a structural point of view and also because we just think we have the best stuff.
I hope that this shift creates an opening for a transfer of technologies between companies and entrepreneurs, as well as a degree of listening that, to date, has been lacking.
What does a win look like for Rest of World?
As brand-new publication, up against a generation of Western thinking around these markets, we have to show our readers that our stories are worthy of their time. That’s especially true for emerging leaders in tech, since they’ll be in a position to influence how global technology plays out in our lifetimes. Earning their time, and their trust as a publication, is a win.