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Fred Mouawad, Founder of Taskworld



Fred Mouawad is the founder of Taskworld. A task management application that improves the performance of teams.  Fred is also a global citizen, serial and portfolio entrepreneur, and founder of Synergia One Group of Companies. Synergia One is the entity that groups all the companies Fred founded which includes the family jewelry business, Mouawad, of which he is the fourth generation.

Synergia One group operates in 16 countries across several industries that encompass gems and jewelry retailing, diamond manufacturing and wholesaling, watchmaking, food service franchising, food manufacturing, interior fit out, publishing and trade shows, and software as a service with Taskworld.

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Fred grew up in Geneva, Switzerland where he attended boarding school. He received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Pepperdine University, where he was also a teacher’s assistant for the Business Policy & Strategy course. Fred is a Graduate Gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America, and have co-authored articles in the field of gemology.

He is an Alumni of the Harvard Business School (MBA) and of the Stanford Executive Program (SEP) at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Trained in Lean Six Sigma and ISO 9001 and also a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO).

Fred is passionate about improving myself and the world within my sphere of influence.  He loves the entire process of conceiving, starting, and building a business.  It’s the challenge, customer satisfaction, and the creative part of the journey that I enjoy the most.

Can you share with us how you came up with Taskworld?

In 2006, I realized I was spending at least a third of my time following up on tasks. I was using a variety of different tools ranging from Excel to notebooks to write down all the key tasks I had to track. As I run a portfolio of companies, I monitor multiple projects in different companies with distributed teams across countries.  As you can picture the effort and energy required to manually follow-up became counterproductive. I found myself doing less strategic thinking, and spending too much time in the trenches making sure we were executing on multiple fronts.  Realizing the magnitude of the challenge, I had to find a solution and it came in the form of building an online Task Management system.  We built the software internally and started using it within our group by end of 2006.  It was a great success, and as a result we increased productivity across all our divisions.

It wasn’t until 2012 that I decided to build a separate business based on the idea that had worked so well for our companies.  The opportunity was further amplified with the advent of social, mobile and cloud.  It felt like the perfect time to move from strategic insight to action by building a similar service that would be open to the world.  That’s how we started working on a prototype with a core group of our IT team.

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Are there any industry insights that you can share with us?

I think we’re at the beginning of what is truly possible.  The more people embrace online collaboration tools, the more information they will get about their business.  It will make what was previously invisible, visible. Companies will start to see opportunities for improvement effortlessly. Traditionally, companies have very little visibility in regards to tasks assigned throughout an organization, and online tools are about to fundamentally change the way we collaborate and measure performance.

For example: in factories, we know exactly where all the material flows are going. We know how products are being constructed, but when it comes to the knowledge workforce, it’s far less transparent. Collaboration tools provide far more visibility pertaining to productivity by flagging tasks or projects that are behind schedule.  They also have the means to allow team members to provide feedback to each other in order to provide an evidence-based performance evaluation. Based on identified problems, the system can even make recommendations on what to do in order to improve performance. The power lies in the artificial intelligence that can be generated from the task unit level.

Who are your competitors and what makes Taskworld different?

The market we are in is very crowded. We see everything from To-Do list type apps to sophisticated enterprise solutions. We aim to differentiate ourselves by offering performance reports that enable teams to know how well they are doing, and figure exactly where they can make further improvements.  It’s a different long term philosophy, and that’s where we see the opportunity.

We have registered users from 120 countries and what’s exciting is that they cover a very broad range of industries. We have lots of success stories that we’re actually posting on our blog.  It’s very motivating to see individuals, small to midsize organization, and large enterprises use our application.  We’ve proven that we have a general purpose application that allows people to collaborate more effectively. People are enjoying using Taskworld, and are using it across multiple platforms such as on mobile, tablets, and on the web.

How difficult was your entrepreneurship journey? How did you achieve this and what keeps you motivated?

Being an entrepreneur is one of the toughest jobs on earth.  For a start-up to succeed it requires everything you’ve got, and you can’t easily quit along the way.  Your entire reputation is at stake.  You need to have resilience, determination, and the intelligence to adapt and shift when necessary.  It’s all about wanting to change or make an impact on the world around you, and then having the courage to embark on a journey of hard labor and on an emotional roller coaster as the business goes through different phases.  Great entrepreneurs are avid learners.  From every experience they try to reflect and learn, so in the future they avoid the same mistakes and focus on what is required to succeed.

What keeps me motivated is the impact I can make on customers.  I get satisfaction adding value to customers whether it’s by offering them a great cup of coffee or with a productivity app such as Taskworld.  If we can make customers happy, employ passionate people, and make money in the process to continue doing what we enjoy doing, we are rendering a valuable service to society.  That’s very satisfying to me.

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What are your personal goals and what is the future for Taskworld?

To be a good son, father and husband are my personal goals.

In regards to Taskworld, I would love to reach millions of people and improve the way they collaborate.  If we can improve the productivity of teams around the world, we would play a small role in making the world a better place.  The potential impact of Taskworld is far-reaching and a great motivation to me and our team members.

What values do you want to instil with the people you reach and employees?

The value of thinking first, planning, doing, learning and then adjusting and doing again. I want people to improve by constantly learning through execution and then making adjustments.  The key is to have people that first want to improve themselves so they can drive continuous improvements in the organization to increase value for customers and shareholders.

If you could pick two things to change in this world, what would they be and why?

I would want to give an opportunity for every child to grow with a chance to succeed in life.  I wish there were more justice around the world. The world can be very unfair. You may be extremely smart and ambitious, but if you’re just born in the wrong country and in the wrong family then all your possibilities are eliminated and that’s sad. If I could do something, I would give every child a real opportunity to develop to their full potential.

The other thing I would do is to try to eliminate war. I don’t know how I would it, but I don’t think human beings in this day and age should kill each other to solve problems. Those are two things I feel strongly about.

Can you describe your working style and what do you do on your free time?

I always make sure that we have the right people, that they’re self-motivated, and that they’ve got the right skills.  The next step is to then make sure everybody is aligned towards a clear goal. I am therefore very involved in making sure we have the right people, assure they are motivated, and are working on the right projects to create value.

I view my role as a guide and a coach. I fill the gaps where and when required. I don’t run the day to day operations of any company.  My challenge is how to best allocate my time across each company in the portfolio to maximize value. Since Taskworld is the youngest company right now, I’m deep in it and I’m doing more than I should. Eventually, I will rise and build a full team and be less involved in the details. It’s also necessary to find the right distance and decide at what depth to plunge in specific projects. At times it’s necessary to go deep into the details and at others keep a good high level strategic insight.  Managers that get stuck at one level tend to have higher rates of failure.  The key is being able to shift levels seamlessly based on the situation.

My style is ultimately getting the right people involved.  I believe that it’s important to have the right people with the right goals, and that they’re provided with the right resources in order to increase their probability of success.

I don’t have much free time. I like reading, exercising, snow skiing, diving, jet skiing, swimming and going to the gym.  With the family, we enjoy traveling together and experiencing different places.

Do you think education or the support of your government is more important in the entrepreneurial process?

Education is critical in providing the fundamental skills entrepreneurs need to increase the odds of building a successful business. However, it is not enough to assure success. You need an entire eco-system dedicated to providing entrepreneurs with support.

In the United States for instance, Silicon Valley has an incredible eco-system to encourage and support young entrepreneurs with great ideas.  They have venture capital firms to provide the capital and the guidance needed for start-ups to grow, universities that graduate talented individuals and conduct research with significant government and private grants, angel investors that will seed an idea, lots of talent living in the area, and many companies that can support or eventually acquire a budding company.  Without all the support structure, it’s difficult for governments to expect their citizens to be entrepreneurial.  If you have a great idea, but no one to fund it will remain just an idea.

Any inspirational entrepreneurs in mind? Why?

I like Richard Branson because he challenges the status quo and dreams big. He is bold and has the courage to challenge larger institutions.  He also built a great reputation for himself, and that has helped him launch more businesses.  What I appreciate the most is his resilience and willingness to experiment.  Many of the ventures he started did not make it, but those that did ended up creating significant value.  That’s an essential trait of being an entrepreneur.  Having the intelligence to learn from both successes and failures, and always having the courage to start your next venture with more wisdom and flair.

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Lessons Learnt from The Lean Startup



The Lean Startup book authored by Eric Ries has been sitting on my shelf for quite sometime now, so since I am currently contributing to the making of a startup I figured I’ll take a look into it.

The book is divided into 3 parts, after reading the first two I had my mind blown with the pragmatic and scientific approach to building startups that is described in the book.

In this post, I would like to share some important insights that I gained regarding building highly innovative businesses.

Validating Value Proposition And Growth Strategy Is The Priority

Usually, a highly innovative startup company is working in its most early stage at building a product or a service that will create a new market.

Consumers or businesses have not been yet exposed to something similar to what is going to be built by the startup. Therefore the absolute priority for startups in early stage is to validated their value proposition i.e. to get real data about eventual customers interest regarding their product/service.

The other priority is to validate that the growth strategy that is going to be executed is, in fact, effective.

The growth strategy of a startup is its plan to acquire more and more customers in the long term and in a sustainable fashion.

Three kinds of growth strategies are described in the book:

  • paid growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to be charged for the product or service, the cash earned from early users is reinvested in acquiring new users via advertising for example
  • viral growth in which you rely on the fact that customers are going to bring customers as a side effect of using the product/service
  • sticky growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to use the service in some regular fashion, paying for the service each time (via subscription for example).

These growth strategies are sustainable in the sense that they do not require continuous large capital investments or publicity stunts.

It is important to know as soon as possible which strategy or combination of strategies is the most effective at driving growth.

Applying The Scientific Method

The scientific method is a set of techniques that helps us figure out correct stuff. After making some observations regarding a phenomenon, you formulate a hypothesis about that phenomenon.

The hypothesis is an assumption that needs to be proven correct or incorrect. You then design experimentations that are going to challenge the assumption.

The results of the experimentations makes the correctness or incorrectness of the hypothesisclear allowing us to make judgments about its validity.

In the lean startup methodology, your job as an entrepreneur is to formulate two hypothesis:

  • hypothesis of value (assumptions about your value proposition)
  • hypothesis of growth (assumptions about the effectiveness of the growth strategy)

These hypothesis are then validated/invalidated through experimentation. Following the precepts of lean manufacturing, the lean startup methodology prescribes to make experimentations while minimizing/eliminating waste.

In other words, you have to burn minimum cash, effort and time when running experiments.

An experimentation in the lean startup sense is usually an actual product/service and helps startups in early stage learn invaluable things about their eventual future market.

Sometimes startups learn that nobody wants their product/service, imagine spending 8 months worth of engineering, design and promotion work (not to mention cash) in a product/service only to discover that it does not provide value to anyone.

Minimum Viable Products And Feedback

As we pointed out earlier, an experimentation can be an actual product or service and is called the minimum viable product(MVP).

The MVP is built to contain just enough features to validate the value and growth hypotheses, effectively requiring minimum time, effort and cash.

By getting the MVP launched and in front of real users, entrepreneurs can get concrete feedback from them either directly by asking them (in focus groups for example) or via usage analytics.

Analytics scales better then directly talking to customers but the latter is nonetheless used to cross validate results from the former.

It is crucial to focus on metrics that creates fine grained visibility about the performance of the business when building(or using) a usage analytics system. These metrics are called actionable metrics because they can link causes and effects clearly allowing entrepreneurs to understand the consequences of ideally each action executed. Cohort analysis is an example of a analytics strategy that focuses on actionable metrics.

The bad kind of metrics are called vanity metrics, these tend to hide how the business is performing, gross numbers like total users count are an example of vanity metrics.

The author cites several examples of different startups that managed to validate or debunk their early assumption by building stripped down and non scalable MVPs and even sometimes by not building software at all.

You would be surprised to hear for example how the Dropbox folks in their early stage managed to created a ~4 minute video demonstrating their product while it was still in development. The video allowed them to get more people signed up in their beta waiting list and raise capital more easily.

Closing Thoughts

In the first two parts of the book, the author talks also about how employees inside big companies working on highly innovative products and services can benefit greatly from the lean startup approach, although very interesting this is not very useful for me right now.

The third part, talks about the challenges that arises when the startup gets big and starts to stabilize and how to address them. Basically it revolves around not loosing the innovative spirit of the early days, again, this is not very useful for me so maybe for good future reading.


About the Author

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Women on Top in Tech – Dr. Sanna Gaspard, Founder and CEO of Rubitection



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Dr. Sanna Gaspard is the Founder and CEO of Rubitection, a medical device start-up developing a diagnostic tool for early stage pressure detection, assessment, and management. She is an Entrepreneur, inventor, and biomedical engineer with a passion for innovation, entrepreneurship, healthcare and medical devices. She has received recognition and awards including being selected as a finalist for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards(’13), a semi-finalist for the Big C competition (’14), a finalist for the Mass Challenge Business accelerator in Boston, and taking 1st place at the 3 Rivers Investment Venture Fair’s Technology showcase (‘11). Her vision is to make the Rubitect Assessment System the global standard solution for early bedsore detection and management.

What makes you do what you do? 
I am driven to have impact and improve healthcare as I have a strong drive to problem solve, comes up with new ideas, and see them come to life.

How did you rise in the industry you are in? 
I first focused on getting the educational background and then I pursued the goals I have for myself. I got my PhD in Biomedical Engineering with a specialization in medical device development. Having the educational background is important as a woman and minority to assist people in taking your seriously.  After completing my PhD, I focused on bringing my invention for a medical device for early bedsore detection and prevention called the Rubitect Assessment System to market to help save lives and improve care.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I started my startup, Rubitection , because I felt it was the best way to bring the technology to market. I knew that if I did not try to commercialize the technology, it would not make it to the doctors and nurses. I also have confidence that I could manage developing the technology since I had taken classes on entrepreneurship and had my PhD in biomedical engineering with a specialization in medical devices.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
No, I don’t have a specific mentor in my field. I am looking for one at the moment. However, I do look up to Steve Jobs and Oprah as examples of how one can start with nothing and work their way up and build a successful, global, and reputable business and brand.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?  
I first try to find people who have fundamental technical or work experience to be competent to complete the work. I then evaluate the person for intangible skills like independent thinking, reliability, leadership, resilience, organizational skills, strong work ethic, open mindedness/flexibility, and good communication skills.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why? 
I consciously make an effort as a minority woman in tech, I intimately understand the need to promote diversity within my business and outside my business. I first hire the best people for the job and also make a point to hire women and minorities qualified for the position.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?  
It takes resilience, vision, being a team player, an ability to inspire others and delegate work, knowing your weakness, and knowing when to put your business or yourself first.

Advice for others?
My advice to others is to take calculated risks, pursue every opportunity, surround yourself with supporters, build your team with smart dedicated people, and stay focused on your vision. I am striving to implement this advice myself as I work towards commercializing my technology for early bedsore detection, grow my team, and recruit clinical partners to address an $11 billion US healthcare problem which affects millions around the world.

If anyone is interested in learning more about our work or company, please contact us at [email protected].

To learn more about Dr. Sanna Gaspard, CEO of Rubitection visit:

If you’d like to get in touch with Dr. Sanna Gaspard, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about Rubitection, please click here.

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