Future Shapers: How A Sense Of Community Empowers Opt-In Studio’s Farah Fauzi

The Managing Director of the innovation consulting firm bridges the gap between young startups, large enterprises and organisations.
Farah Fauzi

Farah Fauzi, the Managing Director of Opt-In Studio.

Interviewing the managing director of Opt-In Studio, Farah Fauzi proves to be a challenge. While most business figures are like trees that set root in one location and grow from there, Farah is a fast-moving target, like a hummingbird that flies from flower to flower, picking the best nectars and pollinating the entire garden.

That, in a nutshell, is how we understand her mission with Opt-In Studio, a self-described innovation consulting firm that exists to bridge the gap that exists between young startups, large enterprises, government, and organisations.

“There is a mismatch in culture,” Farah said. “So what we do is bridging that gap.” To be a polyglot who speaks the language of these distinct groups, to understand that mismatch of cultures, and to be one to mediate between them sounds like a tall order.

So what is it about Farah that puts her in the position to do all this?

A lawyer by training, Farah tossed her robes after realising that her profession of choice caters to solving other people’s problems “after they’ve already done it”.

“But with technology and innovation you are predicting the future,” she said. “You’re being a visionary and trying to prevent a problem from happening. You’re providing solutions before anybody makes mistakes and that’s what I love about it.”

Opt-In Studio came after Farah and her colleague left their job at a venture capital and accelerator firm across the world in Boulder, Colorado, up in the Rocky Mountains of the United States. Together with another partner in London, they banded together to form the company that exists today. 

With the high bar she set for herself, those she counts as her competitors are equally formidable: “I would say my competitors are the Big Four—Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PwC—as well as Accenture, and the guys at Bain & Company.”

While these names she dropped are massive, multibillion-dollar international firms, Farah said that Opt-In Studio has an edge over them with their laser-sharp focus on technology and innovation.

“And that’s what I do: innovation consulting,” she said.

The foundation for her impressive international pedigree is built on top of her own experience as a startup founder, having built a mobile app that helped domestic violence victims while she was still studying in the early 2010s.

Calling it a camouflage SOS app, the app aggregates news content and appears as something similar to Twitter to the uninitiated. Behind that charade, women who are in trouble—“usually for domestic violence”—can press the ‘Help’ button which would connect the user to their emergency contacts, all while appearing to simply be scrolling through the news.

If that was not already commendable, Farah casually dropped this extra information about her app, rather nonchalantly. “I pitched that at the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in 2013 and sold it soon after,” she said. 

While some people would have made their entire identity on such an app, and being associated with the Nobel Peace Prize, Farah spoke of it as another experience that she picked up en route to greater things.

With impeccable international accolades and experiences, her stable of clients are similarly global, with most recently gaining the confidence of Singapore’s statutory board Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), which is in charge of the city-state’s innovation in its tech, media and communication landscapes.

“We help them connect corporate Singapore – HSBC, OCBC, P&G – to work with local startups,” Farah shared. This includes areas such as issues with data management, understanding what startups are utilising technology, as well as how AI can help them make their processes faster.

“So we enable that solution decision-making,” she said.

Key to her jumping into this niche category came to the realisation that the corporate giants of today might not make it into tomorrow’s future, citing a 2019 study by McKinsey & Company which argues that three-quarters of today’s S&P 500 companies would no longer exist by 2027.

“That’s a big number, and it’s because they fail to innovate. That’s, that’s why we’re here to fill the gap,” Farah said.

Farah Fauzi

Farah Fauzi with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5.

While her businesses are global, she believes that Malaysia is not a bad place to innovate. Calling Malaysians “wildly creative”, she believes in the value of our diverse talent pool which is a mix of multicultural backgrounds that allows the country to develop a high sense of empathy which makes Malaysians well sought after when it comes to hiring managers.

“People love to hire Malaysians. Malaysians usually have more empathy,” she said. Her own adaptability to moving from one role to the next, across environments – even across continents – added to her willingness to embrace new things makes it easy for Farah to be in the middle of this blisteringly fast-moving industry.

“When people think about technology and innovation, you’re always very comfortable with what you already know,” she argued. True to her trailblazing nature, Farah is already looking ahead while the whole world is still trying to come to terms with the current state of technology and AI – which she is not worried about in the slightest bit.

Instead, she found admiration of the trove of knowledge that is being shared freely on platforms such as TikTok and sees collaboration as the next big thing.

“The mindset is, what do young people know? To a degree, they don’t have enough experience, but they can also teach you different things that you can’t get anywhere else,” Farah said, citing knowledge of the most minute details that are being shared on the platform.

This collaborative and community mindset, paired with one that is open for growth is to her, essential not only for business growth but to survive in the future. “The way in the future is through community and collaboration,” she said.

“We’ve competed enough. It’s time for us to collaborate.”

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