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What does the combination of the digital and physical world look like?

On this week’s ‘Most Innovative Companies’ podcast, Nate founder and CEO Albert Saniger discusses the role technology plays in our lives, and the autonomy we hold over our decisions and our data. 

What does the combination of the digital and physical world look like?
[Photo: d3sign/Getty Images]

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There are two paradigms when it comes to technology and innovation, says Albert Saniger, founder and CEO of the fintech company Nate. “The paradigm that we have been living in is what can machines do for us? The paradigm that I want to be living in moving forward is what should machines be doing for us?”

On this week’s Most Innovative Companies podcast, Saniger details how his life has been a sequence of passion-led decisions implemented through rationality, as well as how that same lens can be applied to the role technology plays in our lives, and the autonomy we hold over our decisions and our data. 

Machines, he says, should play a role in the execution of tasks, not in decision-making, which he sees as a defining aspect of our humanity. We should endeavor to retain our power of choice, he says—from where and how we shop to where and how we share our choices and data—whether that’s with friends or an algorithm.

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As Saniger sees it, technology should enable us to flow through life more seamlessly; it should not interfere or redirect us. Because increasingly, he says, we won’t be living virtually or physically. We’ll simply be living.

“There won’t be a divide between the digital and physical world,” Saniger explains. “The binary we’ve taught ourselves to expect won’t be there because everything will be a combination of physical objects, VR, and AR.”

That’s the solution Nate, a unified shopping wallet, is seeking to offer—the seamless integration of all of the above as it applies to “in-life shopping” as opposed to in-store, in-app shopping, so that we can control our singular shopping identities. 

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A self-proclaimed math nerd, Saniger started coding at age 9 and was competing in math by the time he was 11. He founded and sold direct-to-consumer menswear brand MBM Americas & Asia-Pacific, then joined Amazon’s private-label fashion team before moving on to start Nate. Although these facts might characterize him as a “left-brain,” hard-core analytical person, Saniger advocates against over-rationalizing big decisions in your life. 

“Where I live, what I choose to do for a living, and how I contribute to society, those choices are really hard to get right if you’re very rational about them,” he says. “But once you’ve decided, okay, this is the person that I’m going to build my life with, this is the field where I’m going to dedicate my career—then you’ve got to switch. The how you achieve [those decisions] is through intentional, rational behavior. “

Listen to the episode for the full interview.

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You can listen and subscribe to Most Innovative Companies on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

James Vincent is the guest host of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies podcast. He is also a partner and CEO of FNDR, where he has helped founders of some of the world’s biggest companies, including Airbnb and Snap, use the power of narrative to give voice to their vision. Before FNDR and for more than a decade, Vincent worked alongside Steve Jobs building Apple’s narrative.
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