I have the pleasure of journeying with Roshni Mahtani (Founder & CEO of theAsianparent) over the last 4 years. Now that we have closed a Series C round, and with many exciting plans ahead, I thought it apt to share several notable observations.
1. Leaders have to be super communicators so that the team knows the rhythm and goes alongside Leaders. Roshni knows her business very well, and so does her team – this is achieved only because they spent hours discussing processes, values and culture. I have witnessed this several times when theAsianparent opens new markets and in fundraising.
In new markets – Roshni will be involved in hiring the pioneer local team members, getting the first clients; thereafter her lieutenant will take over and station in-country for a good year or so, to impart culture and best practices. In fundraising, her team works around the clock to ensure due diligence questions are answered promptly – somehow, they know who and where to find the right responses so that the team can keep pace with the fundraising exercise.
2. Leaders are creative in engaging talent. I have observed different team members staying with theAsianparent for several years, and some who have left within a year or two. Despite facing talent war, Roshni continues to keep tabs on people who can contribute to the business.
This includes being creative in engaging the talent and keeping them within close range of the business such as having them as advisors/ consultants or working part-time while transiting between life stages. She is willing to wait and adjust HR policies to accommodate valued talent.
3. Founders must remain committed to their business even when there seem to be few cheerleaders. The lowest point in theAsianparent’s journey was about three years ago when the company was raising its Series B round. The company had a small glitch and lost some people, and Roshni was fundraising while also pregnant. Cashflow was tight and stress level was high. Roshni’s maternity leave was peppered with meetings with her team.
She had deliberately chosen to stay within walking distance from the office so that staff could ‘pop by’ and team meetings could happen even while she was breast-feeding baby Shan. Reflecting on those times – I will say Roshni didn’t have maternity leave – she was working during her leave! I am thankful that Series B is a thing of the past, and we have way surpassed our performance since then.
4. Courage to pursue despite doubt. When Roshni suggested the ParentTown App a few years ago, some of us were uncertain about the stickiness of the app – this is despite Roshni sharing the project at length with us. Regardless, we gave her room and a small budget to ‘try it out’. Within half a year, Roshni came to the conclusion that the app was not suitable for her audience.
Nonetheless, she continued to evolve the concept of ParentTown and it is now the theAsianparent app – and is such a big success! The TAP app reaches a community of more than 2 million parents from across SouthEast Asia, where the content is generated by the community itself. How powerful is that! It has certainly evolved from the early days of ParentTown. This speaks to her determination and courage to be open and creative to pursue what is good and beneficial to her community.
As I reflect on the journey thus far, I am so proud that Vertex Ventures has the great opportunity to partner with a star in our startup community. I look forward to the larger impact this platform will bring to more mommies (and daddies) beyond the Southeast Asian region.
Carmen Yuen is a Partner at Vertex Ventures Singapore. Prior to joining Vertex, she was with Majuven, a Singapore angel fund. Carmen currently serves on the Board of TickledMedia (dba TheAsianParent.com).
This article was first published on LinkedIn.
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