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#37 Zaki Ghazal

Zaki was our LUMA #37, read more below about what attracted him to Kinnevik

What did you do before you came to Kinnevik?

I recently graduated with a double master’s degree in International Business and International Management (CEMS) from the Stockholm School of Economics and HEC Paris. Prior to that, I completed a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing from Linnaeus University. During my studies I was involved with various student initiatives and did a variety of internships within consumer goods, tech, consulting, and early-stage venture capital.

Throughout my life, I’ve lived in many different places, 12 cities in 5 different countries to be precise.  Even though Stockholm is now my home, the experience has really contributed to developing my abilities to adapt to new environments and cooperate with diverse teams.

Why did you apply to Kinnevik?

I actually didn’t know anything about Kinnevik until I heard about the LUMA role during my time at SSE. After doing my research, I found that Kinnevik was a highly interesting investment company with a rich history that has managed to succeed by backing challenger businesses across a variety of industries and investment themes. What drew me to the company was the most recent strategic pivot towards technology and consumer centric businesses in interesting verticals such as food and healthcare.

However, what I think differentiates Kinnevik from other investors is our bold ambitions and targets around Diversity & Inclusion. Being at the forefront and leading the way in such an important topic really resonates with my own values and was something I wanted to be a part of.

What attracted you to the role of LUMA?

I heard about the role through a job ad on the SSE portal. While researching the position, I quickly understood that the LUMA role was unique with a lot of history attached to it. Being able to follow and have the mentorship of the CEO of a listed company working across many sectors, provides such comprehensive insight into running a business. It also puts you in a position that you will not be in for many years to come.  

Simultaneously the role is perfect since you get to wear many hats and put so many of your own practical skills to the test through project management and execution. This involves leading projects by yourself or by working closely with several different teams - anything from doing research on a potential investment with the investment team or preparing a press release with the communication and investor relations team. It’s the perfect chance to experience and understand the many complexities of different business functions and discover what you enjoy the most.

What do you think you will learn from this year?

By following the CEO, I will learn what questions and challenges a business leader must deal with and how difficult, yet important it is to manage different stakeholders. I am certain that I will be able to leverage this holistic perspective on business building in my future career. As LUMA #35, Johan, puts it, “Undivided attention to divided topics” will be a key learning.

Another important skill that I hope to continue to develop a deeper understanding of is Kinnevik’s investment process. Given my previous experience in VC, Kinnevik’s investment process is quite different as the type of investments and ticket sizes are quite fluid and sector agnostic. Understanding what type of data the team needs to be comfortable before placing a bet varies greatly across company maturity and sector. Through being exposed to so many different companies, I hope to be able to develop the ability to evaluate an investment from many angles.

Describe the role?

You work closely with the CEO and management team and get to be the spider in the web in that setting as you have a unique helicopter view of the company. Those workstreams include preparing the agenda for the management meetings and attending them, planning of bi-annual Kinnevik strategy sessions, shadowing Georgi during any meeting you find interesting, and making sure that the team follow up on our short- and long-term goals.

At the same time, you get deep exposure to the what the different teams do. That is to some extent shaped by what happens in Kinnevik during that year. I’m entering at a time where difficult macroeconomic factors have put significant pressure on both public and private market valuations. This presents an opportunity for Kinnevik in its pivot towards becoming Europe’s leading growth investor, as we have a sizeable cash position ready to be deployed into exciting companies. Therefore, I try to spend time with the investment team on sourcing and evaluating potential investments opportunities, with the platform team to support our growing portfolio as well as with the strategy & finance team to shape and track our implementation of Kinnevik’s strategy.

Your impression after three months?

It is an exciting time to be joining. Before joining, I had the impression Kinnevik was a large company, probably due to that it is listed, has a long heritage and a strong brand. However, what surprised me the most was that the organisation is run by less than 40 people in total, based in London and Stockholm. As a result, the hierarchy is quite flat and everyone is willing to help each other, even if it is not “in their job description”. Therefore, it is quite easy to become close with everyone, and have your perspective and thoughts be appreciated.

It is also easy to get involved in all aspects of the business which allows the LUMA to tailor the year to be the most interesting for her / him. It truly is an (almost!) blank canvas. However, as there only is 24 hours in the day, time management is a challenge. With that said, the opportunities are endless.