Kindling the Flame – Ali Mahlodji

On our path to a knowledge society, understanding the world around us is ever more important.

On any given day, 50 to 60 people vie for Ali Mahlodji’s time at his offices in the 4th district. So I was a bit confused when Ali (“Call me Ali!”) asked me to meet him at the historic Looshaus, an architectural landmark in the heart of the 1st district.

As it turned out, Ali, 35, keeps a private office there that he uses to collect his thoughts and get inspired. Looshaus invited him to take up residence after he wrote on Facebook about his desire for an ideal workspace. “What we really need are places to think. When information hits you 24 hours a day, you’re full of information but you don’t get anything for yourself out of it.”

He set up Watchado, an online platform that helps people identify their dream job, in 2011. But he quickly realized that the online world was only one step of the process in helping young people. Schools around Austria invited him to talk in person, which led to the Watchaskool project, for which he and his team have already spoken in front of 60,000 children in four countries in the past year. “The currency of our world today is the attention span of a human being. Everyone wants your attention. This also goes for kids when it comes to education. Everyone wants the attention of the consumers of tomorrow.”

He is aware that the impact also has to be transferred to the teachers, which is why he speaks at teacher conferences as well.

“I show them how important it is to understand the fears and hopes of the kids these days, that they’re totally getting hit by information everywhere, they’re living in a very uncertain world.” It seems that the angels are indeed heeding Ali’s wishes again: two investors have recently put €2.5 million into Watchado, largely because of the Watchaskool project.

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Janima Nam
Janima Nam is a freelance journalist, translator, and editor living in Vienna. She has a BFA in film from New York University and a Masters degree (MA) from the London Consortium in Interdisciplinary Studies.

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