Recently, Drew and Dustin from the Founder Institute HQ team sat down with Saumya Bhatnagar, the Co-Founder & CTO of InvolveSoft, a San Diego Founder Institute portfolio company. InvolveSoft has raised more than $2.5M for their community workplace platform that allows leaders to drive alignment with their employees: streamlining both top down and bottom up communication to unite employee sentiments with the mission and vision of the company.
By her own admission, Bhatnagar ‘checks many boxes’ – which can be both an advantage and disadvantage – she is a female person of color, an immigrant, a C-level Executive, and a technical Co-Founder. We asked Saumya Bhatnagar about the full spectrum of challenges she faces as an entrepreneur: a technical CTO, a female leader, and an immigrant person of color.
Read the conversation Q&A highlights below, or checkout the video for the full interview!
Q1 - What is InvolveSoft?
A1 - InvolveSoft facilitates effective communication amongst leaders and their employees by breaking the barriers of conventional communication approaches. It aims to achieve this by developing new and improved communication channels through the use of Artificial Intelligence.
Using modern methods, in turn, aligns employees with the vision of the company and motivates them to engage in its culture extensively.
Q2 - What challenges have you faced as a CTO?
A2 - I think the top challenge as a CTO is finding and using new technologies and applying them in a way that they are a valuable resource to our clients.The right amount of experiment and application is the crux of the CTO paradox.
Another essential challenge is finding the right talent. It takes a series of trial and errors to build a team that shares your vision for the product and can carry it out.
The next challenge that I was faced with, which is particular to me is overcoming the stigma of being a woman in tech in a leadership position.
Q3 - What are the challenges you face as a female leader? What strategies have you used to overcome them successfully?
A3 - I have encountered people who have formed their first impressions based on my gender. I have also met people who have based their opinions on my skin color; and then some have done both. It is upsetting to encounter individuals that wouldn't want to share a conference table due to this. It may ruin your day, especially when you have just commenced your journey.
I, personally, dealt with these encounters by adopting an extremely neutral attitude towards them, letting them go as part and parcel of desiring to make a significant change. At the end of the day, you have to remind yourself, never to be disheartened due to incidents like these, what you aim to achieve is for the greater good and is bound to cover up for them - this is from where I derived my strength.
It is also essential to speak up about particularly bothersome incidents to someone you hold close. Venting is necessary to drop the mental baggage; it prevents it from weighing you down and facilitates a brand new wave of optimism.
Q4 - What advice can you offer to earlier-stage and aspiring entrepreneurs?
A4 - Keep your ear to the ground. Be extremely connected with your target audience. Assess and reassess your customer personas, and know everything about them. Take an iterative approach to building out your offerings.
And make sure you find VCs who you connect with, and have a good working relationship with!
Q5 - What are some of the unique challenges you have faced as a team comprised of immigrant Founders?
A5 - Being an immigrant entrepreneur is like having two jobs full-time jobs: you are always working on your immigartion, and always working full-time working on business. The immigration process can sometimes be easier for people with employment or employer-provided visa sponsorship - but this is not a luxury that entrepreneurs have, so it is a major added challenge.
Entrepreneurship is inherently unstable, and often does not provide you with a stable source of income - and that in itself is a huge hurdle that every immigrant founder has to face in the immigration process. There is not only the uncertainty of building your company, but the uncertainty of whether you will even be here at all a week, a month, or a year from now.
Q6 - How can Founders make sure they are really doing good in the world? How should Founders be thinking about, quantifying, or measuring impact?
A6 - The newest employee benefit on the rise is VTO: Volunteering Time Off. This is an emerging part of HR policies, and one that increase employee engagement, because it lets employees know that the value they derive from volunteering their time, is also something their employer sees as equally valuable. It empowers workers to feel fully enabled in making an impact not only in their job, but in how they spend their time outside of work.
Impact is an effort that companies need to spearhead - but empowering their employees to go make an impact is probably the best thing companies can do to achieve this.
Team Building through Volunteering is more meaningful than generic “Corporate Social Responsibility” measures. So building systems that will encourage alignment of employee and company vision to create meaningful impact is probably the single best way to maximize both efforts and returns, however you ultimately measure the impacts made.
Q7 - What’s the latest news and happenings at InvolveSoft?
A7 - The InvolveSoft team is growing like crazy! The company is close to $1M in ARR, and now counts over 55 enterprise-level companies among their growing list of clients - which means the Co-Founders are working to expand their customer success team very quickly. Alcohol brands and major manufacturers are interestingly among the startup’s growing list of enterprise clients, who want to engage their floor workers on the ground to align employee incentives with company goals.
We want to say thank you to Co-Founder and CTO Saumya Bhaynagar for being so generous with her time in speaking with us.
To learn more about IvolveSoft, please click here to visit their website, or read some of our past articles below to see how far this team has come in such a short period of time:
- How Gaurav Bhattacharya and Saumya Bhatnagar Raised $2.5M for Their Employee Volunteer Platform
- Southern California Startup InvolveSoft Streamlines Social Responsibility Programs
- InvolveSoft Ushers in a New Era for Social Entrepreneurship
Graduates of the Founder Institute are creating some of the world's fastest growing startups, having raised over $950M in funding, and building products people love across over 225 cities worldwide.
See the most recent news from our Grads at FI.co/news, or learn more about their stories at FI.co/journey.