“Too often in our quest to fit in, we end up quashing the things that make us special”
~~ Justin Trudeau in his account of Andreas Souvaliotis’ autobiography, Misfit.
by Dorothy Guerra
I had the privilege to sit down with award-winning author and entrepreneur, Andreas Souvaliotis, CEO and founder of Carrot Rewards. Carrot is a free mobile app that rewards users for consuming wellness information in the form of short quizzes and surveys, and for achieving personalized daily walking goals. Users are able to collect their favourite loyalty points while making small yet meaningful changes to their health. There is no surprise that this brilliant concept of combining two social obsessions – our phones and loyalty points – landed Carrot as the best-developed Canadian app of 2017 on Mobile Syrup. In just two years, Carrot has already one million downloads, awarded over one-billion points/miles and has seen incredible results in incentivizing users to increase their measured physical activity by more than twenty percent!
To call Andreas fascinating would be an understatement. Andreas is different: colourful, charismatic, and completely out of the box. Born in Greece to a middle-class family, he recounts the feelings of being trapped and frustrated in his childhood. Andreas was born with autism, a fascination for understanding numbers, a strange obsession with weather and a natural gift for music. He eloquently captures his life of disadvantages, handicaps and oppression in his best-selling, self-published autobiography, Misfit, which was recently acquired by Penguin Random House to be republished in 2019.
After setting his heart on moving to Canada at the age of eighteen, Andreas arrived in 1981. Twenty-six years later, he was faced with a moment of transformation while in the height of his career: sitting on his porch, his weather-obsessed mind came up with the idea to invent Green Rewards. Andreas zeroed in on the “green frenzy” and created a genius concept that ignited a brand new mega trend of eco-conscious consumer shopping. Green Rewards sold to Loyalty One, merging with Air Miles to become the first ever reward program that harnessed loyalty points to encourage healthier, greener choices.
Today, Andreas is CEO of his greatest success to date: Carrot Rewards. A public engagement platform, Carrot collaborates with private sector companies, as well as provincial and federal government agencies to entice Canadians to make healthier lifestyle choices by rewarding them with their favourite loyalty points.
Andreas has gained respect around the world from global leaders of climate reform, such as Al Gore and the Prince of Wales. This Toronto based, self-professed misfit has become a recognized leader in social change, masterminding the rise of a healthier Canadian populace.
As I spoke with Andreas, I was intrigued not only by his accomplishments, but also by his human spirit. His passion for life and his love for Toronto shone throughout our conversation.
Waterfront: Can you give advice to readers that are striving for more in their life and don’t know how to make changes the way you did? What steps do they need to take?
ANDREAS: There are two steps. First – don’t close your mind. Always be curious. Even if something you hear shocks or embarrasses you. Try to be curious about it and learn from it. Step two – instead of trying to force objectives, or goals or dreams for yourself, focus on what you have. Focus on who you are. Then, the rest will come together. Life has a beautiful way of opening up ideas and possibilities for you.
Waterfront: Where was your edge; what was your defining moment of change?
ANDREAS: I had a few. First, transitioning from a society that birthed me to a society I adopted and making a home for myself. The next was becoming an entrepreneur by accident. I went from being an employee running successful companies to building something.
Waterfront: Can you address the obstacles of getting Carrot Rewards going?
ANDREAS: With Carrot, we had a very different problem than most other start-ups. Most start-ups have money, suppliers, employees and a crazy founder and are looking for customers. We were lucky to have the customers because of our partnership with the Government of Canada; what we needed was suppliers. The giant companies that make these points didn’t take us seriously. We had to find a way to buy these points from the suppliers to make this thing work. Our first supplier that came on board was SCENE; they understood the concept and were with us from day one. But I still had to find a way to get others on board. I feel that being a misfit like me, I was able to be relentless, shameless, to keep going by telling my story and making people listen.
In summary, Carrot is the new way of advertising. In the old way you had to buy the advertisement and hope it worked. In the new way, Carrot utilizes a pay-for-performance model that makes it a risk-free platform the government can work with. We have the ability to engage a captive population in an effective and efficient way and collect data that impacts change.
Waterfront: Would you call Toronto your home?
ANDREAS: Toronto is my home. I am one of the biggest Toronto-lovers you will ever meet on so many levels. It’s an awesome city of the future. The Manhattanization of Toronto creates the energy and capacity to draw young people in and they often will never leave. The diversity of our city is its biggest weapon. Toronto is the only city in the world that has the majority of its inhabitants born outside of the country. This gives us a massive edge in skills, perspectives, and languages.
Waterfront: Seeing Toronto in the eyes of a tourist, can you tell me your favourite things to do and see?
ANDREAS: One is eat. I consider Toronto to be a city with tremendous food diversity. It is almost impossible to pick just one favourite spot but if I had to, I would say it’d have to be a restaurant called Rasa. This is just one example of the many innovative Toronto restaurants where creativity and passion shine through in everything they do. My other thing to do is to bike, especially along the waterfront. Toronto is blessed as a waterfront city in that it has a defining geographical feature that creates a destination with an edge. As a Greek islander, the very first thing I did when I came to Toronto was come to the waterfront. My first address was Harbour Square.
Waterfront: How about off the beaten path, what would you recommend for tourists?
ANDREAS: I strongly recommend renting a bike and riding all the way to the end of the Leslie Street Spit Trail, to the lighthouse so you can look back at the city and enjoy one of the most dramatic views of Toronto.
Waterfront: What would you change about Toronto?
ANDREAS: I feel that as Torontonians we need to be a little less humble. We should be a little more cocky and recognize how cool we are and how different we are. We envy other great cities just because they are elsewhere, without realizing we surpass them.
Dorothy Guerra is a Freelance writer, published author, show host of Get LOUD, a life coaching channel that inspires people to amplify their life with mind/body techniques based on yoga principles and self-health philosophy.