Published 4 May 2021
Tell us a little about yourself.
When I was a boy, I wanted to be an inventor. I was constantly taking things apart to see how they worked. Unwrapping a present did not stop until all the nuts, bolts and screws of a new toy were removed. I found joy in understanding what makes something work.
I have somehow managed to keep doing this in my working life as an entrepreneur. And I’ve learned along the way that, equally important, is figuring out what projects are worth pursuing and being able to see the entire picture. The act of inventing is just a small part of the creation process. People, teams, finance, and management all too often play more important roles. ‘Execution’ is the awful term often used for this, but I prefer to think of it as turning imagination into reality. Chance plays an important part, too – which any entrepreneur will admit – but the desire to understand and bring to life a better way of doing things is what drives me, and many others, through the dark nights.
How did you, an entrepreneur, get involved with a project like Collateral Global?
Chance played a significant part nearly two years ago when I met Sunetra Gupta, and we fell in love, sparked by a shared interest in poetry and science–and invention. Ever since the pandemic lumbered onto the world stage in 2020, I have tried in whatever way I can to support Sunetra and act as a foil – and learn.
Decisions always benefit from discussion, considering the counter-arguments and reflection. Early on, the fundamental question was ‘What to do?’– neither of us caring much for publicity. Sunetra finds her joy in science and writing – and thinking. I find mine in imagining new things, working with my team, seeing ideas flourish – walking that tightrope between failure and success. I, for one, prefer anonymity – being left alone to do my work.
However, as governments across the world started responding to the pandemic, and I learned more from Sunetra each day about the underlying principles of infectious disease dynamics, I became increasingly disturbed by the policy responses. The moment lockdowns were announced, my blood ran cold, and the questions began. How were people with no resources going to manage – I grew up in South Africa and worked in the townships. How did they know that lockdowns would work? Have risk and limited resources been balanced in the decision-making process? Why was fundamental evidence being overlooked? Why was there not an open and vigorous debate about the assumptions underlying the drastic decisions being made? Couldn’t people see the damage this approach was going to cause?
England is a wealthy nation with deep scientific resources. The UK’s actions would inevitably influence the rest of the world, and I believed (and still believe) we have a responsibility to respond in the best possible way, given the influence this wealth and privilege carries.
In that moment, to borrow Einstein’s words, I felt that if I were to remain silent I’d be guilty of complicity: the world is not dangerous because of those that do harm, but because of those who look on without doing anything. My way of speaking and doing is to make things happen – Collateral Global is the focus of that effort.
What is your role in Collateral Global and what do you hope will result from CG’s efforts?
My role is simply to enable others. That’s it. I use the skills I have learned as an entrepreneur—team-building and organisation—to do my part in helping answer the question that I imagine is on nearly everyone’s mind: How can we learn as much as possible from the COVID19 pandemic to ensure that future mitigation measures cause as little harm as possible, maximising wellbeing for all?
When the answers to this question are clear enough, I will happily dissolve into my favourite activity – looking at the creations of nature and mankind, trying to understand how they work.
Perhaps, if I am lucky enough, I might find a way to improve things.
* * *
Alex Caccia is an entrepreneur with a background in media, technology, manufacturing, finance, and investment banking and is the CEO of Collateral Global.