FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Alice Nawfal, Co-founder & COO at Notabene
Alice Nawfal is an inspiring FinTech leader who was recognized as one of the 2022 Inspiring Fintech Females by NYC Fintech Women. She is the Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at Notabene, where she manages overall company operations as well as GTM (across the customer lifecycle, from marketing and sales to customer success). In a dynamic role since starting Notabene 3 years go, Alice's success evolves adjusting to the needs of a fast-growing business, translating vision into a GTM strategy and building great teams to execute on it. Alice is currently working on building out Notabene’s partnership strategy, as they recently launched their first reseller partnership.
A unifying theme in Alice's career has been in solving complex challenges that have a large and lasting impact on society. After a double major in Math and Economics at MIT applying modeling and analytical skills to the economical world, she spent two years at Bain & Co as a management consultant tackling Fortune 500 business problems. Moving on to the Economist Intelligence Group, Alice specialized in public policy consulting for organizations like the Gates Foundation and the World Bank. After a career break to get an MBA and policy degree, Alice led teams building privacy-preserving digital identity at Consensys, a blockchain venture studio. To create a much bigger impact as an entrepreneur, Alice started Notabene in March 2020 alongside 3 colleagues to tackle complex regulatory challenges that the crypto space is facing.
"One of the things I am most proud at Notabene is the culture we built", Alice says, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, they built a remote-first global company with employees today spanning 5 continents. "Highly talented people were driven by culture at Notabene, and it was never about the words we speak, but rather in the actions we take - leading with authenticity, humility and curiosity." Transparent communication is encouraged, and the teams are empowered to ask for help, break silos to collaborate and always eager to learn more. At Notabene, diversity is inherently aligned to build a global product and more than 50% of management is women with teammates from over 14 countries.
Notabene is impacting the FinTech industry with the belief that in 5-10 years, crypto transactions will form a large part of the everyday economy and for that, users must feel confident when transacting with crypto. Notabene enables safe and trusted crypto transactions by providing crypto businesses with a real-time compliance and risk-management platform, and detecting / potentially blocking suspicious activities.
More on Alice
Where you currently live: Brooklyn, New York
Favorite part of your day: Preparing and having dinner with my partner, while also prioritizing self-care and eating balanced / healthy meals.
Hometown: Roumieh, Lebanon and Sofia, Bulgaria
Media inspiration: Wait But Why blog by Tim Urban, with an uncanny ability to take complex topics of interest and distill them into simple storytelling. For example, The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence.
What's the best job decision you ever made? What's the worst job decision you ever made?
Starting Notabene was the best job decision I ever made. Choosing to become an entrepreneur was not easy and there were many risks, including business school loans, a global pandemic and income stability. However, I had the high conviction that the moment was right: there was a very urgent and critical problem and my co-founders and I were uniquely situated to tackle it. One of my worst decisions was early-career, when I took on a higher responsibility project without the accompanying title and salary change, which is prevalent for women at the workplace. At the time, I was driven to achieve success on this project, but in retrospect, I should have insisted on receiving credit for it sooner.
Can you tell us about a time someone encouraged you to try a task or take on a project you didn’t think that you would know how to do/or be good at?
Back as a management consultant while building my first optimization model, I was nervous about where to start but my manager encouraged me to break it down into smaller pieces and to build it step by step, and trusted me to own it completely. Since then, I learned that no task is big enough and the key is to always try to break it down into less ambiguous and more achievable steps. This has helped me often succeed at seemingly impossible projects.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past?
Building fundamental identity technology that was too early for market adoption at Consensys, I dedicated hours exploring different industry needs and evaluating a GTM but ultimately realized that this was a product looking for a market and that is rarely how product-market fit is achieved. At Notabene, we have a very tight product-market fit by listening to current customer needs and building products for their needs in the future.
Do you have any productivity hacks? What keeps you motivated? How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I recommend creating a balance in your daily work between more ambiguous, larger tasks and quick execution-focused wins. The output from more creative or deep work that goes into the larger tasks has a much larger impact, but doing the work can be draining, especially with the day-to-day context switching required in a COO role. By layering smaller execution-focused wins into a longer deep work schedule, it feels rewarding and motivating.
6:45 am: Started my day with a quick shower, coffee and reading the news.
7:30 am: Reviewed Asana and my calendar to prioritize deep work vs operational tasks, and by when.
8:30 am: Dedicated attention to urgent emails and slack messages from the Notabene APAC and EMEA teams.
9:00 am: ~2 hours of cross-team collaborative sessions, like a monthly GTM team meeting for EMEA activities.
11:00 am: Weekly one-on-ones with my direct reports to plan, guide & support.
1:00 pm: Enjoyed a mid-day break with healthy salads/soups that I prepared.
2:00 pm: Deep work time (blocked my calendar from meetings, so I have no distractions).
6:00 pm: Exercised, prepared dinner and shared with my partner.
8:30 pm: Monday evening focused hours for APAC team to flexibly reach me (either internal meetings or external / client-facing ones).
10:00 pm: I wind down and go to sleep.