This week we talked to our friend Ekta Mahajan, Founder of Emplio about how the next stage of Innovation will not be in the products or services of a startup but the evolution of founders themselves.
Weighed with the burden of running a business, a founder today must solve a problem better than its competitors, be easy to monetise, have a finger on the social media and marketing pulse, attract funding and investors quickly and of course be home to the best talent and team culture. All on a shoestring budget, if there is even a budget, during flexible working hours while maintaining a work-life balance. The net effect of all these expectations is leading to one moment in time - the evolution of the founder themselves.
In this week’s Startup Spotlight we talk to Ekta Mahajan, Founder and CEO of Creatives for You about the battlefield that is happening for the inner resources of founders today and where they are innovating for a brave new world of startup life. Here are the five ‘biomarkers’ of the evolving Founder 2.0 that Ekta has seen shine through in her own experience as a founder, as well as the startup community around her.
They show more mental elasticity than just resilience
For me, resilience didn't come naturally in the beginning of my startup journey. It was through facing multiple rejections early on that I realised the need to develop a more resilient mindset. These rejections pushed me to become more open-minded and adaptable. It was during this time that I discovered a book called 'Mindset' by Dr. Carol Dweck, which helped me understand the importance of regularly reconditioning the human brain to keep progressing forward, asking yourself the right questions to step out of your own bubble and develop a growth mindset.
It takes more than just an individual resilience to move forward. Building a startup, much like raising a child, is an exhilarating roller coaster ride and requires a mental elasticity to match a landscape that is constantly and often dramatically changing.
I recently stumbled upon a quote by Rumi: ‘There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.’ It got me thinking about how it relates to being a founder. Often, as founders we get so focused on our own ways of doing things and get stuck in a plan that we hit a wall and find it challenging to think creatively and outside the box. For me, one of the solutions has been to engage and collaborate with the tech community, irrespective of the sector as that has broadened my horizons. One eventually learns that there are ‘hundreds of ways’ to achieve the business goals as the open (vulnerable) conversations bring about valuable guidance and resources, leading to opportunities.
They explore an alternative approach
Albert Einstein once said, "A problem cannot be solved by the same mind that created it." This quote resonates deeply with me. When my mind becomes too one-track and absorbed in the challenges of running a startup, I recognise the need to take a step back, practice mindfulness, and immerse myself in nature to clear my mind. Meditation has become a valuable practice for me, and has allowed me to let go of conditioned thinking and exercise more open-mindedness into alternative approaches. Which in turn has led to some really unexpected but important outcomes. Distinguishing between my own conditioning and the valuable insights offered by others, has meant that I have often been able to regain momentum and flow in my work just by being open to an alternative approach.
They’re not afraid to be vulnerable
I have come to completely embrace the role of vulnerability in my leadership style. I believe in being open and honest with my team, setting clear boundaries, and fostering an environment where everyone feels safe to engage in honest conversations. By demonstrating vulnerability to them, I have found that my team feels empowered to share their thoughts and ideas, which contributes to our collective progress. I have experienced the value of acknowledging small wins along the way and how they also help redefine success within the journey of entrepreneurship.
They reframe the investor conversation
When it comes to positioning myself in front of investors, it’s important to change the approach. Remember to be adaptable! There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. What works with one investor might not with another.
For me this adaptability stems from recognising that investors are individuals with unique preferences, priorities, and backgrounds. It's important to remember that while the core problems and solutions of the startup remain the same, how they are articulated and presented can make all the difference. It’s like tuning an instrument, but with a different melody for each investor.
Ultimately, reframing the conversation is about making a connection with an investor beyond the business plan and inviting them to be a part of the story.
If you would like to learn more about Ekta, feel free to follow her on LinkedIn or learn more about Emplio.link, the skills-based future workforce. Recommended reading by Ekta: Mindset by Dr Carol Dweck.