Joyeeta Das is an Oxford Fellow, a classical dancer, a public speaker, and a techie who is a serial entrepreneur. She is the founder and chief executive of GYANA, a self-service data science platform. In addition to this, Joyeeta is the Ambassador for Women in Innovation for the UK Department of international trade and has represented the UK at trade delegations such as the US-UK space mission, UK-Canada AI mission and the UK-Brazil Newton Fund Mission. She balances her art life and her deep tech life effortlessly and holds a degree in classical dance as well as Physics and Electronics engineering.
Her career began in Silicon Valley, and having risen through the leadership ranks in large international Fortune 100 tech companies such as Cisco and Wipro. She became an entrepreneur with two exits under her belt within the age of 25. Joyeeta holds an MBA from the Saїd Business School at the University of Oxford, where she received a Fellowship from the Entrepreneurship Centre and was the digital ambassador for Oxford University 2014-2015. Her blogs have helped provide hope for women in many developing regions of the world and inspired them to join Oxford.
Joyeeta’s activities have inspired many women (and men) to reach out to her and share their stories of courage and hope across the world. She stands for dreams, hopes, and a super bright outlook of the world.
- Her TEDx talk gathered 2000+ emails from many unknown individuals across the world, and every time she speaks at the Oxford Entrepreneurial Society, or UCL she received accolades
- She has mentored at least 400 grad and post-grad students in Oxford, UCL, Cambridge and Dartmouth (USA) to become entrepreneurs
- She has been awarded the ‘rising star 2019 award by EG Tech’, she is Top 100 techie in the UK according to PwC and a KPMG 2018 Fastpacer.
- “Women of the Year 2019” award by TiE – Global Entrepreneurship Organisation.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Joyeeta Das says:
I would say take chances, embrace failure, wear your scars with pride, and invest in a few close friends. Mentors who will stand by you no matter what. More importantly, ‘prune’ your life like bonsai-any unwanted leaves need to go so you can be lean, mean, and be effective.
Read on to know more about Joyeeta and her successful journey.
Please tell me about your background, and what are you working on currently?
Joyeeta Das: A physicist/engineer by training and then an Oxford MBA. I have been an entrepreneur building profit-based startups and non-profits over the last 7-8 years—also, a mentor to several startups across the world. Currently, CEO and CoFounder of Gyana Limited HQ in London (3 + years)- David Kell is the CTO and Co-founder.
What motivated you to get started with your company?
Joyeeta Das: We wanted everyone to become “citizen” data scientists. The ability to use data/data science for everything that we do will transform our sectors, create a data-driven culture, and unlock many opportunities in the economy.
What is your current main product, and (If there is any) can you share any product pivot story from founding to the current product?
Joyeeta Das: The current product is VAYU – VAYU means AIR in Sanskrit. It is meant to empower anyone who wants to be a data scientist. It is 100% NO CODE – which means you need no training to use the tool and do not have to have a tech background at all. First product NEERA (means WATER) did the same but only for the property market and finance market- so actually we did not pivot- just expanded the scope significantly to many other sectors and data types
How much money (funding) have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Joyeeta Das: Around 6.8M USD. Recent round closed four months ago (3.9mn USD)
How have you attracted users and grown your company from the start? And Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
Joyeeta Das: We do host a lot of meetups, we host events/hackathons, partner up, and attend other industry-specific events, speak at key forums, run digital campaigns.
Digitally we focus on both inbound and outbound. Building a good product is still our main “marketing.” Any organic word of mouth from real users who become “real champions” of the company is way more powerful than any strategy.
Which is the best marketing tool for the growth of your startup, and why?
Joyeeta Das: There are many. However, social media and SEO are obvious ones. Other non-obvious ones are your employees- and even ex-employees. If they like what they are building- half of your job is done.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
Joyeeta Das: Most startups want to create buzz without focussing on the core offering or being clear about the value proposition or their own vision. The result is a mix of messages that confuse the masses. Better to have clarity first. Also, have a good website, landing page, and call to action. So, once marketing works, there is a natural next step. Why do marketing if you are not sure ‘what exactly’ you are “market”-ing to them?
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fundraising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far and how did you meet these investors and which channels worked best for you?
Joyeeta Das: We usually have brainstorming sessions amongst me and David Kell (cofounder) and core members to make sure we are all aligned on the vision. Then we walk backward from how much we need and when to understand what needs to be done now to reach those goals. Also, you usually will meet 10x more investors than you think you need to – for practice, advice, and relationships, not just for funding. Think of it as an industry- you need to give some time to get back something.
We usually work with investors where our friends and cofounders ( we both run huge WhatsApp groups of founders and also participate in many forums ) have reviewed them well. We do a lot of DD ourselves on what investors to work with. It is a long term relationship, and both sides need to do their homework- not just investors, you should also choose who you are getting so heavily entangled with. Also, have clarity on what investor is bringing to the table- smart money, quiet money, passive money, contacts, intros, geographical access, long term horizon, secondary sales- what is it you need from them?
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles in the process of fundraising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently? (Your insight or advice on this would be very helpful for startups)
- I would be more cautious and be more controlling of who/where to pitch. If you do not want certain types of capital or people on your cap table – why pitch to them? The refusal will only add to your agony.
- Watch for early signs- how they treat you is a good way of gauging where their values are. After all, they will be with you a long time
- Have your own list – who is your ideal investor rather than going for “whoever will take my meeting.” Remember, college SOP for admission? The more targeted, focussed, and passionate you are- more chances of getting into your favorite college- right? Same thing here- know who you want and go after them.
- Desperation is stupid- better to fail and go home (and write a blog for others to learn lessons from!) than be entangled with completely wrong people for next ten years making your life borderline miserable every day- after all, they are giving money, but you are giving your life, so you must not be desperate. Choose with dignity and control
- Start fundraising earlier than you would and expect to go longer than you imagine.
- Know the refusals will come- but you got to keep going until you get to the YES
- Have faith, courage, and a person to call up when the day has been 100% crap 8. Ego trips have no place in fundraising. Be professional and neutral, no matter what is happening to you or around you.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Joyeeta Das: We are looking at users, adoption as well as revenue. These are common-sense goals to build a business, not just to make VCs happy. If I were doing this 200 years ago when equity capital did not exist– I would still be building a business with common sense. With some amount of risk, reasonable optimism, and logical signs /KPIs- one should be able to create something that works like an engine. So if it works that way- surely we get funded—simple rule for us. We do not believe in artificial parameters bloated up and being worked upon just to get into good books of ABC even though those KPIs will actually not make sense for our type of business. Thankfully our current investors completely support and understand that.
How do you plan to expand globally?
Joyeeta Das: We are internet-based sales, so it is not really about being everywhere. That being said, customer support, and on the ground ‘hands’ are always needed for good quality expansion, and we do not have that type of support across the world. So, most likely, we will focus on the UK, US, EU first and then Asia, the Middle East, and then finally the rest after.
What are the most common mistakes companies make with global marketing?
Joyeeta Das: GLOBAL MARKETING people think that because the internet is the form in which the transaction takes place – no physical connection is necessary, not true at all. There is always a need for physical connections, events, and face to face trust. Once you have the critical mass- and you become a mini brand, the internet is enough to do global sales. ALSO GLOBAL does not mean we forget how important LOCAL IS. Even then, you will need local techniques like language, images customization – local hyper trends spotting and capturing those, etc. So pay attention to LOCAL!
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company? (or What should all first-time startup founders know before they start their business?)-
1. It is psychologically much harder than we think it is. So if you have too many other bandwidth occupying things in your life already, then this may not be the best time to start a company. Not that one cannot do many big things at once- it just costs a lot in life- it becomes even harder. The truth is making a company great will take everything from you- do you have a type of support system? Are you mentally strong enough to go through that? Without being honest, this can end badly. Most importantly, are you ready if you are going to fail? Most founders start without asking themselves if they care about being “embarrassed” or not. 2. Many founders alienate a lot of people while they build their startups because it is naturally very time-consuming. I would say have a few very close people- do not lose them – you will need them on very dark days.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Joyeeta Das: I would say take chances, embrace failure, wear your scars with pride, and invest in a few close friends. Mentors who will stand by you no matter what. More importantly, ‘prune’ your life like bonsai-any unwanted leaves need to go so you can be lean, mean, and be effective.
What are the one or two things that you would do differently to improve your life (or what kind of personal habits would you improved?) if you could go back to 10 years ago?
Joyeeta Das: None. No matter who we are and where we come from- all of that adds up to who we become – it becomes the story of our life. Sometimes it means we fail at some things and win at others- so be it. I would have it no other way. Similarly, every life is unique. It has come with its own path and creates its own way- no change needed. Whatever needs to happen will happen, and if it does not work out- then like I said, “wear your scars with pride and go write a blog.” But in no circumstances would I advise ‘over-engineering’ the experience of our earlier life to get “fixed” outcomes- I value the journey more than the outcome.
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