The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #25

Your garden, the ‘field of dreams’ for tackling the twin crises of climate change and artificial intelligence

Guest: Shubber Ali

March 5th, 2024

Episode Teaser


“…I’m a big believer in… you have to understand the root cause of a problem and not put a bandaid on a bullet hole!…”

Shubber Ali is the CEO of Garden for Wildlife, a spin-out from the National Wildlife Federation in the US with a mission to restore biodiversity starting from people’s own gardens. Shubber has been spent over 30 years helping companies solve their most complicated and difficult problems through innovation, serving lead roles in companies like Accenture and Salesforce and founding several startups of his own. At the same time, he has nurtured his passion for gardening and combined it with a business opportunity to help tackle the pressing challenge of biodiversity loss by helping people gain access to native plants across the United States of America.

On today’s show, Shubber and I cover a broad range of topics, starting from how we should define innovation, to the story of how Garden for Wildlife started and where it is heading. We discuss the benefits of nature for humans and the impending twin crises of climate change and the rise of generative artificial intelligence, including the potential improvements in our livelihoods , but also how we must be prepared to adapt, going into the future.


Shubber Ali is CEO of Garden for Wildlife. He is a father, husband, avid gardener, and loves nature – and it’s those last two things that led to his current role. He has spent over thirty years helping companies solve their most complicated and difficult problems through innovation, identifying growth opportunities, enabling technologies and platforms. He was the VP and Global Lead for the Elevate team at Elastic from April 2021 to June 2022, and prior to that he was one of Accenture’s global leads for digital innovation from September 2017 to April 2021, where he worked with the National Wildlife Federation to create the Garden for Wildlife business. He has also served as VP of Strategic Innovation at Salesforce. He has co-founded multiple consumer technology companies, some successes including Centriq (acquired) and Flaik (privately held), and some great learning experiences (aka “failures”). He serves as an advisor to numerous startups. In addition, Shubber has served for 9 years on the Advisory Board to the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown (where he has also been an adjunct professor of Innovation Management in the Executive MBA program) and a guest lecturer for the Emory University Executive MBA program. Since 2014, he also has served as a member of the global advisory STAR program for Airbus.

Resources Related to the Episode

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Episode Chapters

(Chapters are embedded in the episode for quick access, click this to expand and view all chapters and time stamps)
  • 0:00 Intro
  • 1:59 Guest Intro and Gardening
  • 6:48 Innovation a love-hate relationship
  • 13:43 Shubber’s Origin Story
  • 16:16 Nature’s best hope
  • 18:46 Founding Garden for Wildlife
  • 24:35 Nature and human health
  • 27:10 Native vs. Non-native
  • 30:30 Green justice the Field of Dreams Hypothesis
  • 34:10 American fascination with lawns
  • 36:36 Reducing friction for change
  • 39:08 The IKEA for Biodiversity?
  • 41:26 Deal with it at source – cost of poor quality problem
  • 43:15 Current successes of Garden for Wildlife
  • 45:18 What’s next for Garden for Wildlife
  • 50:51 Coming to Europe?
  • 52:08 Climate Conference COP27
  • 55:04 We have too much information
  • 58:01 Artificial Intelligence and the dawn of Generative AI
  • 1:02:09 Potential downsides of AI
  • 1:08:55 Crisis breeds action
  • 1:10:53 What is the root cause problem?
  • 1:13:59 Q&A Start
  • 1:14:17 If you had a magic wand?
  • 1:18:25 What inspires you?
  • 1:22:55 Key book event person
  • 1:30:55 Biggest challenge to date
  • 1:34:55 Time Management
  • 1:40:50 Where can people find you?
  • 1:41:37 Final Message
  • 1:41:59 Outro

Connect with Shubber Ali

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