Q&A Session With Anushka Sharma, Founder of NAAUT

Once you find your community of interest, for example, people who are interested in space or AI, how do you make the most out of it?

It does not matter if you have a business card with you or not – you should seek meaningful ways to connect to other people. There are different ways to network once you are in the same room with people you would like to connect, and you should really take this opportunity. After tonight’s #IAmRemarkable event in Vilnius is over, you should ask yourself: are you going to send an email to someone? Are you going to follow them on Instagram? Are you going to connect on LinkedIn? Or maybe you met someone tonight, and you are going to promise to keep each other as an accountability buddy? There are so many ways to do it, but you have to find the right way.  One of the things I say to people when they direct message me on Twitter or they send me an email – if I am slow on email, please send me a message on WhatsApp. Let people know the best way to get in touch with you because right now, they are overwhelmed with emails and WhatsApp and DMs – you name it. It is so overwhelming, so if people know very clearly the best way to communicate with you, it makes things much easier. 

What motivates you the most? What are your thoughts on work-life balance? Do you have it?

Do you know what really fascinates me? Considering the state of this planet is right now, we might have left ten years here. I love the momentum building, where we are really knocking heads together collaboratively to figure out what is happening with our planet.  I do not have children yet, and I would like to have them one day, but I have three nieces and a nephew whom I want to grow up in a world that does not have icebergs that are melting, and they do not need to think about where food will be grown or where to source it. I think one of the reasons why I created Naaut was to be included in the conversation around space. For example, the ethics of space is so important to me that next year it is one of the areas I am going to be moving into because the impact of humans on the space is huge. People want to take manufacturing off our planet and put it in space. While I see that as a quick fix, I do not want to transfer the problems of what we have done on our planet to space. So I think we need to get the right people together to solve these problems.  I am not the one that is going to come up with the answers, and I do not think I am ever be that person. But I am a sense maker that is my core skill, and I bring people together. So think about what are your core skills? What are you going to bring and get the most out of technology with that? It is okay to be the person asking questions. Talking about work-life balance -I am not perfect at it. It is coming up to Christmas, and I have jammed my schedules so heavily that I have to get up at 4 am in the next morning to fly back to London, and then I have a board meeting at 4 pm. Then I have another meeting at 6:30 pm. And then it is my last day of a project that I am working on in Cambridge in the health tech company. I feel like work-life balance is something I take much more seriously because, in all honesty,  the last six months have been ridiculous. I do not have the perfect balance yet, but it is something that I try to find. One of the things I love is an app called Insight Timer, which has guided meditations, and I find it incredibly powerful. Also, just being in the city, walking around last night in Vilnius drinking some hot wine, and seeing the beautiful Christmas trees    that was something I really needed.

What are your plans after Naaut? 

Naaut is really my mission now. I do not know if I would ever sell it. Has anyone heard of Gary Vaynerchuk? Gary is this prolific entrepreneur, and his dream is to own a football team in America. He does a lot of amazing videos. People can find him quite shouty and aggressive, but he is a man who is full of empathy.  He talked that sometimes when we run our business and company, we just want to do everything ourselves, but if you hire people within your team and set them to a task, you can delegate things, or you can train someone. Also, you can mentor someone and help them grow, develop, and grow your business together as opposed to trying to do it all by yourself. And you know what, when you are exhausted and you have you got flu, and no one else can do that meeting, you lose your business. So I have learned to be okay with sharing what I do because it is a mission I am building.  If anyone is interested in joining me on my journey,  I am always more than happy to take them together on this mission. 

What was the biggest challenge for you so far, and how did you overcome it?

I would say I have worked in extremely hard pressured environments – from working in general elections to the managing opening ceremonies of the Olympics. There have been times when I have been really overwhelmed with my to-do list. And one of the things that I really learned  – you must not overfill your plate because sometimes it just takes one thing like illness or your boiler breaking or a flood or something and then everything is gone. That stability that you were looking for, that you thought you were in control of is gone. So I have learned to unload what I do, take it much slower, and use my energy wisely. And it is really weird because I am a person who does everything, but now I am really thinking of quality, not quantity. And if I cannot do something, I will hire someone or delegate somebody in my team to help manage the task. This way, you are empowering a member of the team to help you with the project, and they will be happy because you are investing in their development. But equally, there is something also cool about taking that thing off your plate.

Question from the audience: I have been thinking recently about new products and whether there is a demand for it. But if I am not sure whether the demand is there yet, maybe I should create it with a new product. What are your thoughts on that?

So my advice – you should think about the concept of a minimum viable product (MVP).  That is your minimum idea for a version of your product and a very basic test way to figure out whether the market is that serious so you can proceed with manufacturing. The risk is much smaller, but the intention behind it is to show you whether there is a demand for your product. So sometimes, if you have an ambitious idea like do you think about what is the minimum way that you can recreate that? Just as the proof of concept to see whether it is going to be something that is going to have traction, because in technology, when you are looking for funding to support your idea, the money people, the venture capitalists only care about the profitability. And it is really unfortunate because sometimes there are social products and social impact ideas that do not necessarily tick off all those boxes. Think about what is the lowest risk version for your time, effort, and money to prove your concept. Someone like Gary Vaynerchuk would say, do not waste your time if there is no customers’ intention of purchasing it. However, sometimes when you try something, and you fail, it can be a big lesson in it. But just make sure the risk is managed. 

Did you have a mentor? Could you share some thoughts that your mentor gave to you?

When I graduated 18 years ago, I did not have a mentor, but I really wanted to have one. For me, it was essential finding people like Gary Vaynerchuk on Twitter, Instagram, and follow them for inspiration. But the best advice I got from somebody who did later on in my career mentor me was it is really good to have a board of mentors or an advisory board of counsel that you can go to. They can be members of your family or elders, that you can trust because they have experience. Others are mentors from this program that you are taking part in. But others, you might find in your work just a few steps above or below you in the ladder. There are lots of different ways to get different perspectives.  For instance, if you were thinking about building a product, you want to discuss it with every person that you know on your network because they all know you professionally in different ways. So they might know facets of your personality that might help you be that little push on, which hopefully will help your ideas scale. Never lose heart, there is always someone that will give you a piece of advice.