Published: Feb. 15, 2021 By

matei fawzyMatei Fawzy (Bus'23) is a co-founder of ASANTe, an innovative social media platform that empowers and recognizes users who engage in service and socially conscious enterprise by sending TCards (thank you cards) to one another. Launched during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Matei and his team have made immense progress in just under a year by taking advantage of CU Boulder's innovative and entrepreneurial resources. Learn more about his journey:

Q: What is your startup or business idea? How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?

Matei Fawzy: At ASANTe, we are on a mission to connect individuals, organizations, and businesses through a platform that promotes positive change and creates a kinder world!

The idea started along with the pandemic. I was living in Smith Hall when we got four days notice to pack up and leave because COVID was found on campus. My mother, Camelia (Cami) Fawzy, flew from the Washington DC area to help me pack my car and drive back because I had a busted shoulder from a skiing accident. On the way back, Cami mentioned a fintech application idea she was working on to create a platform that allows users to send thank you notes with a monetary value attached as support for someone who does something good. While talking about it we noticed that although the world seemed as if it was crashing around us, there were still so many great things happening which were not visible because of the negative stories that filled our feeds. That is when I realized that this would be a great opportunity to create a social media platform that curates kindness and showcases this positive side of our lives. In that moment the original app idea inspired my vision to create an ecosystem that will help address some of the issues that cause the mental health crisis we currently experience as a result of toxic behaviors on social media. Studies show that there is a direct correlation between the rise of social media use and mental health illness. The co-founders of ASANTe agreed and are fully committed to building a healthier social media alternative which focuses users on the good in the world, empowers them to live life with purpose, spread gratitude, and fuel the kindness revolution. 

Q: What is your role at your startup?

MF: As a co-founder, I wear a few hats but my main role at ASANTe is ‘head of design and user experience’. However, since we are a startup, I am also helping lead our marketing team and work on developing our IT team here in Boulder.  

Q: How did you form your team?

MF: We developed an internship program and our marketing team has 10 highly creative and enthusiastic interns from CU Boulder, George Mason University and Trinity Washington Universsity. We used Handshake to post our internship positions and were very happy to receive such excellent applications. We are now in the process of developing our IT team here in Boulder and are interviewing applicants who sent their resumes after our participation in the Startups2Students event a few weeks ago. That was an excellent opportunity to connect more directly with students looking for internship/job opportunities.

Q: What CU Boulder academic courses and entrepreneurial resources are you taking advantage of to help you build your business?

MF: I got involved with CU Boulder Innovation and Entrepreneurship in my freshman year and attended as many workshops and events as I could before the pandemic hit us. I miss those in-person sessions, but the online sessions have offered equally valuable opportunities to learn.

Now, I am participating with ASANTe in this year’s New Venture Challenge (NVC), and this is proving to be another excellent program helping me to build this business here in Boulder. We want ASANTe to be well integrated with the CU and to grow rapidly as a valued member of the Boulder community.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in running your startup? What about notable wins or successes?

MF: Starting a new venture and moving through the idea-design-implementation process is hard work but easy in the sense that you work towards a vision you believe in and are fully committed to achieving it. The pandemic made the process even more difficult in building a cohesive team, especially due to the fact that everything has been online. We never had a chance to meet face-to-face one of our partners and his IT development team and that made our ability to support them through some challenging times more difficult. We also never met face-to-face most of our interns and cannot wait for the time when we can all finally get together safely. The most notable win is having our Beta version approved by Apple store and Google Play and downloadable. The next win we are working towards is to implement our community feedback system and have an improved “version 1” downloadable as soon as possible.

Q: What do you love about having your own company?

MF: I truly love all aspects of working to build ASANTe; seeing it grow is very rewarding. On the other hand, it has also been a great learning experience going through all of the ups and downs a startup may go through. My favorite role, besides guiding the design process, is meeting new individuals interested in ASANTe and building teams with like-minded people. I love learning about our employees and helping create a sense of community and company culture together.

Q: What advice would you give to other students who are interested in starting their own businesses?

MF: Take full advantage of the excellent resources provided through the Innovation and Entrepreneurship programs! You might have an excellent idea that can meet a great need and those resources will definitely help you make it happen or accelerate the speed with which you achieve your goals. My biggest piece of advice is if you are truly passionate about an idea, or new business, simply to go out there, take the risk, and do it.