Meet the Team: Elsa Givan

Q&A with Silicon Foundry’s Analyst

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Elsa Givan is an Analyst at Silicon Foundry, where she works with members like Deutsche Telekom, Americana Group, Ford and the Michigan Economic Development Council. Previously, Elsa developed digital strategies for commercial banks at Capco, a financial services consulting firm in Chicago. Between these roles, she spent four months learning the ins and outs of speechwriting at West Wing Writers in San Francisco.

What were you doing just prior to joining Silicon Foundry?

Just prior to joining Silicon Foundry, I completed a speechwriting internship at West Wing Writers. I was intrigued by speechwriting because it’s a such an empathetic form of communication that requires the writer to adopt someone else’s perspective and voice. At West Wing, I learned that writing is more of a logic exercise than it is about the words on the page; constructing a coherent argumentative sequence is the toughest — and most important — part. I use this perspective in the writing I do at Foundry, from thought leadership pieces with my colleague Steve Gotz to market intelligence and due diligence materials for our Members.

Since joining Silicon Foundry, what excites you the most about your role?

I’ve been most excited by the creative nature of the work we do at Silicon Foundry. Every day, we’re encouraged to think big and come up with unique connections or applications that can benefit our Members. The mentality at Foundry is to go for the biggest and boldest ideas first, because we can always go smaller and get more targeted if need be. Being challenged to think critically about the future — whether that’s the future of cities, travel, finance, etc. — is a total thrill to me.

In particular, I’ve been thinking creatively about the simultaneous diversity and commonality of the Members I support, specifically those in the government, telecommunications and food & beverage sectors. While their interest areas may seem varied, it’s been fascinating to observe the horizontal throughlines that cut across industries from a technological perspective. For example, AR/VR may be deeply relevant to each Member, yet the use cases look quite different in context. It’s a fascinating thought exercise to figure out how each key near-future technological trend can be leveraged across business models and industries.

You recently co-authored a thought piece about Gen Z as the next generation of innovators. How do you think Gen Zer’s will approach the startup ecosystem?

Gen Z is entering the workforce at an unprecedented time. Even since we published our thought piece about Gen Z in June, the situation has become more acute as universities have announced plans to start the 2020 school year remotely. There is also a risk of potential psychological and social effects that Gen Z’ers will be forced to deal with, particularly those who are still in high school and face profound isolation.

I think we may observe a new wave of startups founded by Gen Z’ers who are stuck at home for the next few months. They may identify new market opportunities that are made more relevant to their peer group due to the pandemic, particularly in spaces like remote education and mental health.

What “superpower” do you bring to the team?

During college, I was lucky to interview some interesting people, including the former CIA Chief Counsel and Edward Snowden’s technologist. Through these experiences, I’ve learned that I love to formulate and ask questions. I think incisive questions are often the most effective communication tools, particularly when they give people the opportunity to dive into topics that they’re passionate about. I try to use this lesson at Foundry by having as many question-filled conversations as possible and appreciating the power of listening.

What sector or industry trend are you most fascinated by at the moment?

I think that alternative proteins are approaching an exciting inflection point. Plant-based alternatives like the Impossible and Beyond burgers have achieved widespread commercial distribution, but the accelerating pace of investment in cell-based proteins portends a near-term breakthrough for that segment as well. The unit costs for cell-based proteins are decreasing rapidly and I was fascinated to see that a few of the top cell-based protein startups formed a coalition to advance their common goals and provide public education about their products. I wouldn’t be surprised to see cell-based burgers or chicken nuggets on menus within 1–2 years — whether they’ll be served via dine-in or take-out, though, is more questionable.

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Silicon Foundry is an innovation advisory platform that builds bridges between leading multi-national corporations and global startup ecosystems.

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