LAUNCHING: LALIT SRITARA
Time at the company:
WHAT IS ONECROWD?
OneCrowd is a personal network utiliser – a mobile app – to help you remember important things about your valued contacts and spot potential collaborative opportunities. Apart from pulling data from social media, we will provide systematic and visual sections for you to note down important information about your valued contacts, and a search feature showing your results in the form of diagrams.
You can learn more by visiting www.onecrowdapp.com.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA?
As I got to know more and more people organising events and coordinating projects over the past few years, I realised I failed to remember everything I wanted to remember about everyone. This had led to embarrassment, awkwardness and the loss of potential collaborative opportunities.
My co-founders and I have been inspired by the remarkable ability of a respected figure to recall various stories about most of his acquaintances. We found out that he has been using paper cards to note down the information and looked through them before meeting up with the acquaintances again.
But that requires too much effort, time and organisation for us millennials – paper cards can easily be lost and there is no quick method for notes search. Besides, it’s 2017. Social media are helpful, but they don't help us remember stories that haven't been posted. So we thought: why not build a digital version tailored for the purpose?
WHAT DO YOU DO ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS?
It changes every day: from attending networking events and meetings to reviewing my co-founder’s app designs to recruiting programmers.
WHAT DID YOU WANT TO DO WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD AND WHAT CHANGED?
When I was a child I wanted to become a businesswoman, but I had no idea how and what kind of business I wanted to start. Then I wanted to become a medic. At 14 I dreamed of going into politics. At 16 I started taking part in activism. At 18 I started a non-profit project with the aim of solving social problems I faced. I am now 21 and have come to believe that, at this stage, what’s right for me is a startup.
WHAT ACADEMIC QUALIFICATIONS DO YOU HAVE?
I took IGCSEs at Bangkok International Preparatory School and A Levels at Wycombe Abbey School. I am currently studying BA Philosophy at UCL.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR CURRENT WORKING ENVIRONMENT?
Working on a startup gives me the flexibility to surround myself with people I enjoy spending time with: like minded and supportive people. These include my co-founders as well as others who are kind enough to offer guidance and feedback. Working without them would be painful.
DO YOU FEEL YOU CAN BE THE SAME PERSON AT WORK AND IN PRIVATE?
Yes, for the most part. I love the idea of a founding startup because it offers the opportunity to express oneself fully at work! We get to decide on the problems we want to solve, what solutions to offer, the people we work with and so on. One of my co-founders is my boyfriend (Eng) and the other is a good friend (JJ). It’s great how I can joke around with them one minute and serious the next.
Now, of course, it’s a different story when we interact with others, especially those we meet for the first time. I like opening up to people, though, as long as they are willing to do the same.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR TOUGHEST MOMENT?
Definitely when we were invited to participate in the UCLU EFS Startup Bootcamp. What happened was our application was originally rejected; Eng and I had broken up for a few days, and someone dropped out of the Bootcamp so we were suddenly invited to join. He was my only co-founder back then and although we were very confused as to whether we should work on the idea together, I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation.
With the support of my friends and family, I confronted my devastation and anxiety, and joined the Bootcamp with a friend of a friend who is now my other co-founder (JJ); we worked very hard and won the startup competition.
The three of us are now working together and Eng and I got back together. I’m glad the storm is now over, but we obviously need to be prepared for the next one!
HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR TEAM?
I do most of the talking; JJ specialises in UX/UI design; Eng helps with the rest. We meet up almost every day. I actively try to open up to my co-founders about our work as well as our personal lives, and encourage them to do the same. Despite the fact that we get along really well, it's not always easy to express or accept disagreement and criticism. I think it’s important to be gentle with one another because blunt criticisms tend to cause more harm than good for a team's work. I try hard to understand the team, not to hurt anyone's feelings, and not to be too sensitive when I face disagreement and criticism myself.
DOES DIVERSITY MATTER TO YOU?
Of course. Diversity brings in new perspectives, ones which are likely to be neglected in a team of people with the same backgrounds. It can bring tremendous value in the refinement of ideas. However, being able to agree on the team’s ultimate mission is also important.
HOW GOOD IS YOUR WORK LIFE BALANCE?
To me work and life should not be considered polar opposites. Although there are some things I love doing which have nothing to do with my current work, to me work should be a huge part of life. I am chasing this ideal; the overlap between passion, mission, profession and vocation – it’s the dream. I want my work to define my life.
WHAT QUALITIES DOES BEING IN YOUR ROLE NECESSITATE?
Firstly, the role requires fascination with the problem to be solved. For OneCrowd the problem revolves around human connections so I need to be eager to observe and conceptualise the way people interact with one another. This is very important for customer development, as well as for one’s own mental health (because working on something one has no interest in tends to be demoralising).
Secondly, the eagerness to learn new skills. This one applies particularly to startup founders as having too many co-founders tends to lead to chaos. So what usually happens is the few co-founders are required to learn a broad range of new skills quickly and continuously.
Finally, grit; this one is pretty obvious, but it applies to any difficult role. Startups can’t get anywhere without the founders’ grit. There is an infinite amount of reasons to slack off or give up.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEXT STEPS?
We are looking to build an MVP very soon and plan to launch later this year. Stay tuned!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU FOLLOW AS AN AMBITIOUS WOMAN?
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, wrote about how important it is to have a supportive and understanding partner in her book Lean In. This piece of advice is particularly significant for ambitious women because some still do not expect women to take their careers ‘too seriously’, especially in certain cultures. It seems to me that an ambitious woman should either have a supportive and understanding partner or no partner at all (rather than one that squashes her dreams).
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF PROFESSIONALLY IN FIVE YEARS' TIME?
In 5 years’ time I want to make OneCrowd a well-established app. I’d like to expand the business to provide the services for people around the world, and perhaps cater for each region’s networking culture by offering relevant additional features. I’d also love to do some activist work around education and gender issues.