Kristian Kabashi is a thought leader on the future of work and advanced technologies. With a wealth of experience as a seasoned global executive, he is at the forefront of the changing landscape of work and its relationship with technology.
Kabashi coined the term "Blank Collar" to describe a new type of worker who achieves their full potential through collaboration with intelligent technologies. The Blank Collar philosophy suggests that humans should be free to play the role of strategists and thinkers, rather than being burdened by routine tasks that can be better performed by artificial intelligence.
Kabashi co-founded Numarics, a Swiss fintech company that embodies the Blank Collar philosophy.
What's your industry?
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
With a background in International Management & Marketing, I started my first role in business development for a social network in Switzerland until the company's exit. My next stop was Havas, an international creative Agency, where I was responsible for the European digital expansion. My mentor at the time advised me to take my visionary personality to NYC, which I did. There I became Global Head of Business Operations for a leading B2B Agency, which was then acquired by the Tokyo-based global consulting and media company conglomerate dentsu international.
While in New York, I was invited by the New York Times to give a talk on the future of work. I was working on an equation that I called the Blank Collar Equation.
In a stopover that brought me back to Switzerland, I was managing director of the leading market research company in Switzerland, developing technology for the sector based on AI. I was then offered the opportunity to lead business transformation at various levels at dentsu, first as Chief Transformation Officer for Switzerland and then internationally as Global Executive Director Business Transformation. Switzerland is known worldwide for its financial sector, so one day I met with auditors and financial experts to discuss automating accounting for Swiss SMEs. This is how I founded Numarics with my co-founding partner Dominique Rey.
What kind of work does your daily role involve?
I’m instrumental in guiding developments in business process technologization and internal operations in alignment with the Blank Collar philosophy.
That implies making a multitude of decisions on a daily basis to keep our projects on track and moving forward, motivating our team and ensuring that everyone stays engaged and focused on our goals. I believe that one of the most important aspects of my job is keeping morale high and preventing burnout.
Another crucial part of my role is bringing visions to life through branding and marketing.
What gets you excited about your industry?
I am in the finance industry, specifically focusing on automation of accounting an d business administration processes for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). What excites me about this industry is the opportunity to level the playing field for SMEs and help them compete with larger companies. Many entrepreneurs are experts in their field but struggle with the administrative side of running a business. That's where Numarics comes in - we provide the engine for SMEs and take the complexity out of business administration. Our goal is to help SMEs compete with larger companies immediately by streamlining their processes and removing the need for manual, time-consuming tasks. This is what truly grabs my interest, whereas my enthusiasm for the old economy financial industry as a whole was basically zero.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?
The advice that's stuck with me throughout my business journey came from a conversation with my COO colleague at the time, Ethan Hays, who also wrote the foreword for my book. He let me talk for half an hour about my ideas and concepts, and then he asked the golden question "What's in it for me?". It is as simple as this question that needs to be answered if you want to position your product on the market. You can build the best products but if you can't find out what your target audience actually wants, then none of it matters.
What's the most challenging project or situation you've overcome to date?
I've faced many challenges in my entrepreneurial journey, but one that stands out is the time when, with Numarics, we were on the brink of securing a 2 million CHF investment, only for the deal to fall through at the last hour, leaving us bankrupt and with a deficit of almost 100,000 CHF. I had to quickly rally the team, spread across three countries, and make the tough decision to cut their salaries by 50% to keep the company afloat. With the help of an entrepreneur friend, Alexander Mazzara, we were able to outsource some of the team members, allowing them to work for us part-time and for his company for the rest of the week, avoiding any layoffs. Despite the difficulties, we persevered and two months after the incident, we were awarded the "Best of Swiss App" in the category enterprise. There's a video of us being named for this prestigious Swiss award and not believing it at first. It was a massive motivation boost for the whole team, and eventually led to attracting new investors.
Are you using any AI tools right now to help grow your business or, if not, do you plan to use any this year?
Yes. Throughout my career, I've been looking beyond digital transformation to advanced technologies such as bots and algorithms, which are part of AI, so it's only natural that I would use artificial intelligence solutions for productivity and marketing purposes, or really anything I could consult AI for.
Our fintech, Numarics, is partly an AI company with its own data science team and solutions such as automated accounting and document classification. At the same time, we have access to national APIs that connect our engine to market data, allowing us to set benchmarks for SMEs. These benchmarks will be used in our development of a predictive digital Chief Finance Officer that can tell you exactly where your business stands based on your transaction patterns, and where you can best grow or save to reach the benchmark for your industry.
The way we make high-end financial knowledge accessible to any solopreneur, startup or mid-sized business is by measuring only against yourself, not against direct competitors. We take the approach of fitness tracking, where you would measure your weekly success and set goals for yourself, with the focus on motivating you to live up to your true potential.
People will never be replaced, and neither will Numarics. Swiss financial experts, accountants and auditors solve the individual highly sophisticated challenges of our SME clients, only with a maximum of consulting time, as the paperwork is done by our engine. Their expertise is also multiplied by AI, as once solved for one entrepreneur, we are able to use AI to build the use case for more entrepreneurs facing a similar challenge.
Overall, do you see AI as a good thing for business?
Yes. I see it as the most important evolution we will see in our lifetime, changing every concept of resources in business we have known. Just consider that a solo entrepreneur has access to the same advanced technologies and capabilities as a global corporation. In the past, large companies could crush small entrepreneurs by sheer numbers of employees. Now it is David versus Goliath, and the shift to value-based small businesses can be explosive. I'm looking forward to all the underdog stories to come.
Overall, do you see AI as a threat or an opportunity in business?
It is a massive opportunity for anyone who is not threatened by the fact that a generalist with general business knowledge can generate expert knowledge from AI without the need to find and hire experts for each area. This approach will be the Blank Collar, a jack of all trades because of the sheer access to knowledge and predictive data. Everyone, whether a specialist or a general business expert, will be able to work with less labor and with consistent quality. We can now focus on our genius.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
Let's break down the barriers of traditional and outdated finance and unlock its hidden power. I am working towards making financial literacy fully accessible and understandable to every business owner, where you are not only able to process data yourself (accounting), but you are also able to take full advantage of the interpretation of your financial data that needs to be available to you at all times. This will add significant value to any business.
Work is for Bots, Life is for Humans.