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Grit & Growth

Grit & Growth

Author: Stanford Graduate School of Business

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Meet intrepid entrepreneurs from Africa and South Asia, hear their stories of trial & triumph, and gain insights and guidance from Stanford University faculty and global business experts on how to transform today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities. 

From securing investment and planning family succession, to mindful leadership and managing in adversity, you’ll learn firsthand from entrepreneurs and experts on how to develop the grit you need to grow your business — in times of crisis and calm. Walk away with actionable information, new perspectives, and fresh inspiration to take your business to the next level. 

Listeners can also take a deep dive into entrepreneurship with masterclass episodes featuring interviews with Stanford faculty and global experts. It’s a unique opportunity to hear about cutting-edge research, get practical business tips, and learn proven leadership strategies from some of the world’s leading thinkers and practitioners.

Grit & Growth is brought to you by Stanford Seed, a Stanford Graduate School of Business-led initiative that partners with entrepreneurs in emerging markets to build thriving enterprises that transform lives. 

About The Host: 

Darius Teter is executive director of Stanford Seed, a Stanford Graduate School of Business-led initiative that partners with entrepreneurs in emerging markets to build thriving enterprises that transform lives. Darius has held leadership positions at Oxfam America, the Asian Development Bank and with the US Government where his experience included advising governments on economic policy, developing human rights programming, and financing infrastructure megaprojects across Africa, Asia and Latin America. All the while, he remained intrigued by the human experience and our universal drive towards growth and prosperity.

77 Episodes
Welcome to Grit & Growth’s masterclass on going global – a guide for expanding your business beyond borders. Steve Ciesinski, Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer in entrepreneurship, walks you through the pitfalls and possibilities of making the move from local venture to global enterprise.It goes without saying that having an outstanding product or service is key to business success. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when you want to expand your business – regionally and/or globally. According to Steve Ciesinski, scaling introduces additional challenges, including cultural and regulatory differences, economic and political risks, language barriers, supply chain struggles, and more. However, he believes that entrepreneurs who plan carefully and execute flawlessly can create value on a global scale.Steve Ciesinski has had plenty of experience advising entrepreneurs on global expansion. He’s a Stanford GSB lecturer in entrepreneurship, past president of SRI International and other Silicon Valley firms, and an investor and board member of growth-oriented tech companies and mission-based organizations. Three Key Takeaways for Going Global:Your product market fit might not fit in a different market“Things are very, very different and very subtle sometimes as you get into a marketplace. You have to be very agile. You have to be super flexible.”Find the right person for the right place“If you're going to go to another country and you're not going to be there personally as the founder, then who's going to run that country for you? You have to have somebody there that you completely, 100 percent trust, because things will go wrong.”Regulatory compliance is a tricky businessYou have to be very, very careful. You have a choice. When you have a new thing, do you try to cooperate with the government? How long will that government be in place? You have some choices early on as to what you do in whatever country. You may be successful in Nigeria, but in Kenya, or if you were trying to go across the pond to Mexico, you may not be so successful with your product.”Listen to Steve Ciesinski’s advice on what to keep in mind when entering new markets so you can scale with less friction and more success.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Welcome to Grit & Growth’s masterclass on AI — a practical guide for experimenting and engaging with artificial intelligence. Ethan Mollick, Wharton School associate professor of innovation and entrepreneurship, AI visionary, and best-selling author walks us through the hype, fears, and potential of this transformative and complex technology. AI is reshaping business, society, and education with unprecedented speed. Ethan Mollick urges business leaders and educators to get in there and figure it out for themselves — to experiment and discover, rather than sitting on the sidelines waiting for AI to come to them. His latest book, Co-Intelligence: Living and Working with AI, is a practical guide for thinking and working with AI so you can determine how and where it can be utilized most effectively.Mollick believes that AI can help entrepreneurs at every stage of business, including coming up with the very idea for the business itself. “AI out-innovates people in most cases,” he says, “so you should probably be using it to help you generate ideas.” In fact, he encourages us to think about AI as a co-founder to bounce ideas off. Mollick also acknowledges that people need to push through those initial couple hours of resistance when exploring AI. “There's a lot of reasons people stop using AI. It's weird. It freaks them out. It gives them bad answers — initially. You need to push through, like there is a point of expertise with this, where you start to get what it does and what it doesn't. Ten hours is my loose rule of thumb for how much time you have to spend using these systems to kind of get it.”Mollick’s Four Essential Rules for Integrating AI into Work and Life1. Always invite AI to the table. “You don't know what AI is good for or bad for inside your job or your industry. Nobody knows. The only way to figure it out is disciplined experimentation. Just use it a lot for everything you possibly can.”2. Be the human in the loop.“The AI is better than a lot of people in a lot of jobs, but not at their whole job, right? And so, whatever you’re best at, you're almost certainly better than the AI is.”3. Treat AI like a human AI models are “trained on human language and they're refined on human language. And it just turns out that they respond best to human speech. Telling it and giving tasks like a person often gets you where you need to go.” … (but tell it what kind of human to be)“AI models often need context to operate. Otherwise they produce very generic results. So a persona is an easy way to give context. ‘You are an expert marketing manager in India, focusing on technology ventures that work with the US’ will put it in a different headspace than if you say you're a marketer or if you don't give it any instructions at all.”4. Assume this is the worst AI you will ever use.“We're early, early days still. I mean, there's a lot of stuff still being built.”Listen to Ethan Mollick’s insights on how AI can level the playing field for startups and how entrepreneurs and teams can use it to enhance creativity, efficiency, and innovation. Also, be sure to subscribe to Mollick's Substack blog/newsletter One Useful Thing, a research-based view on the implications of AI, where Mollick offers free resources and prompts.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Meet Acha Leke, senior partner and chairman of McKinsey Africa and co-founder of the African Leadership Academy. Leke has been analyzing the economic prospects of the continent for decades, so he’s the perfect person to share insights on its future, from productivity and digital transformation to the impact of Africa’s youth boom and how to plan proactively for job growth. The economic landscape in Africa has shifted dramatically in recent years. In 2010, McKinsey's "Lions on the Move" report, co-authored by Leke, showcased the continent's incredible growth potential. But now in 2024, the story has changed, and the outlook is a bit more pessimistic. Still, Leke notes that there is no “one Africa” or one “sub-Saharan Africa,” so economic growth trajectories can vary widely between countries.“The reality is the last 10 years have been tougher. There's some bright spots, but growth has slowed down considerably from 5.1 percent in the 2000s to more like 3.4 percent in the last 10 years, in a continent that, on average, population grows at 2. 7 percent. So net-net, we're not seeing much per capita growth,” Leke says.Leke believes digital technology is the single most important lever to transform productivity in Africa across public, private, and social sectors. But he advises that more needs to be done to achieve widespread impact, emphasizing the role of political leadership and regulations.Key Insights:Africa's productivity lags behind other regions across sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, and services. Boosting productivity is critical. Large African corporate champions play a vital role in driving growth and innovation and in supporting SMEs in their supply chains.SMEs are critical as they provide 80-90 percent of jobs. Enabling them to thrive is paramount.  With the world's largest and youngest workforce, Africa has a chance to be a leading exporter of digital services talent globally. But it will take proactive efforts to develop skills at scale.With the right focus on productivity, skills development, infrastructure, and leadership, Africa stands on the cusp of rewriting its economic story for 2024 and beyond. Listen to Leke’s honest assessment of Africa’s economic challenges as well as an optimistic take on the path forward.Additional Resources:“The path to greater productivity and prosperity in Africa,” McKinsey & Company, August 2023Reimagining economic growth in Africa: Turning diversity into opportunity, McKinsey & Company, June 2023.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Starting a business and growing it are challenging enough. But expanding globally, across the entire African continent with 54 very different countries,  increases the difficulty exponentially. That’s what Taha Jiwaji, CEO and founder of Beem, is experiencing first hand. Hear what it takes to create a Pan-African business and gain strategic insights on going global from Steve Ciesinski, who teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford Graduate School of Business.After attending college in the United States and working as a consultant in Los Angeles, Taha Jiwaji left his safe corporate job and moved back to his home of Tanzania to become an entrepreneur. He had no idea what he was in for. But 20-plus years later, he’s built Beem, a Pan-African cloud computing platform that helps businesses create lasting relationships with their customers through their mobile phones. Beem is currently in 30-plus countries … and growing. On a continent where only 36 percent of the population has broadband internet, reaching customers on their phones through SMS is a huge win. And as connectivity across Africa increases, the opportunities for Beem and their customers expand, too.“You know, there's 54 different countries on the continent. Each one is different in terms of language, policies, etc. So you need to spend time in them, on the ground, to really learn about them,” Jiwaji explains.Steve Ciesinski is both a Stanford GSB lecturer in entrepreneurship and past president of SRI International and other Silicon Valley firms. As an investor and board member of growth-oriented tech companies and mission-based organizations, he’s had plenty of experience advising entrepreneurs on global expansion.What's the country like? What's the culture in the country? How do they do business? These are the very first questions you need to ask, according to Ciesinski. Then you need the right people. “You need to have somebody very, very close who's been with your company, understands your culture  — and is going to move there. And then find somebody there who eventually can become the general manager of that business because you're expecting that business to grow,” he advises.Jiwaji did just that, focusing on building relationships, on the ground, in person, getting customers and partners to sign up. When it comes to giving advice to other entrepreneurs, Jiwaji suggests “grit and persistence. Things take a long time, government regulation, people move very slowly across these markets. And sometimes it takes years for a relationship to finally come to fruition.”Get more insights and advice on going global from Jiwaji and Ciesinski, including how to create differentiation, establish your value proposition, handle regulations, and, most important, find and retain global talent to help you expand.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Season 4 Trailer

Season 4 Trailer


Welcome back to Grit & Growth from Stanford Graduate School of Business. In Season 4, you’ll hear tales of entrepreneurial trials and triumphs, obstacles and opportunities, and, of course, plenty of grit and growth. Plus, we share insights from Stanford faculty and global experts on how to avoid the pitfalls of growth and achieve success.We’ll talk to entrepreneurs from Africa and South Asia and hear their impressive stories of business growth despite a host of challenges, including poor infrastructure, unpredictable regulations, and limited access to finance. This season, we explore what it takes to expand your business across multiple countries, revisit the 4 Ps of marketing, and tackle the difficulties of both scaling and downsizing your workforce.Season 4 is coming soon. Tune in!See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Meet Mir Shahrukh Islam, cofounder and CEO of Bondstein Technologies Ltd. in Bangladesh. He created his IoT, or internet of things, company at a time when very few in Bangladesh even knew the term. Today, that future-focused, risk-taking spirit still defines and inspires his entrepreneurial journey.Taking bold risks is part of almost every entrepreneur’s DNA. Shahrukh demonstrated that trait from the get-go when he chose his company name, Bondstein, a mashup of James Bond and Einstein. “Daring and smart” is how he strives to approach business challenges. The company he created generates actionable intelligence by connecting assets to the internet for SMBs and enterprises, including tracking vehicles, solving customers’ operational efficiencies, and reducing costs.While risk taking conveys confidence to many, Shahrukh admits that doubts always remain. “Whenever I am taking a big decision, doubts always come. Will it work? Will it not work? Will I be able to convince my partners? Will I be able to convince my customers? Will I be able to convince my suppliers? But you never know until you take that decision, until you take that leap of faith. So it's always important to just trust the process, take that leap of faith,” he advisesGetting feedback — positive and negative — is essential for Shahrukh’s growth as a leader. “I constantly challenge myself with people who are more capable than me to deliver. I always meet with individuals who have achieved something that I aspire to achieve someday,” he says.According to Shahrukh, taking a break to recharge is how he stays motivated through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. He says, “Whenever I am very much cluttered or very much tired, I always take a break, go on a drive, talk with random people on the roadside, and try to understand different philosophies.”Hear how Shahrukh is navigating the entrepreneurial journey and finding success and happiness along the way.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Meet Raj Prakash, cofounder of Zifo, a science informatics company in India. While growing revenues is on almost every entrepreneur’s mind, Prakash believes building a thriving culture should be too. Hear how creating a great place to work is helping his company achieve great results.Zifo is one of the largest global pure play science informatics companies, with over 1,800 employees. And it counts many of the largest global bio-pharma companies among its customers. The company focuses on technology for collecting and analyzing data that has been instrumental in the development of medications and vaccines for global viruses and illnesses. But that’s more of the quantitative story. For Raj Prakash, thinking about the qualitative experience of his employees is essential to success. “We are a science-first, people-first company,” he explains.Prakash has a broader definition of what it means to grow. “It's just not revenue,” he says. “ It is about opportunity to people, opportunity to explore self. It's doing something impactful. It's a people-driven mechanism that encourages persistence and tenacity to get results."“There is a culture of playing to win. Every action is measured in terms of intent and intensity of action, not just on result. It's fun, it is tough, but winning it together, or playing it together, even losing it together, it's fun. We want to be a place which is highly valued as a great place to work.”And it seems to be working. Zifo has been listed as one of the great places to work for seven consecutive years. Hear how Prakash is building a thriving culture while growing a company that leads to scientific breakthroughs.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Meet Grace Macharia, a speech and language therapist and founder of SLT Support in Nairobi, Kenya. She created a social enterprise with a mission to support not only her patients, but also the profession of speech therapy in Kenya as a whole. “In 2011 there were about five speech therapists in Kenya, and all of them were trained out of the country. Can you imagine only five speech therapists for a population of 21 million?!” she recounts. When Macharia eventually found her true career calling in speech therapy, she realized that she couldn’t deliver the kind of impact she wanted without the help of others. So, she created a business, got the training she needed to formalize her business structure and organization, and began lobbying policy makers to give the profession the recognition and support it deserved.Not everyone is born an entrepreneur. Grace Macharia certainly didn’t think of herself that way. But she had the persistence of an entrepreneur and a deep concern for her patients, many of whom needed more than just speech therapy services. Today her company treats patients, trains new therapists, and offers a multidisciplinary, holistic approach to care that is yielding better outcomes. And she’s created an association of speech and language therapists in Kenya to support each other and lobby for reform.Of course, Macharia is still pushing for more. Speech therapy, she says, “is a profession that still needs a lot of attention. A lot of the people who need our services actually don't get it. When we have access to all this in every county, not just in Nairobi, not in just the cities in Kenya, but in every county, and not just in Kenya, East Africa, that would be a success and a dream come true.”Hear how Macharia got the entrepreneurial training she needed to run a business and promote her profession so that other therapists and patients succeed.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Meet Sakshi Kapahi, head of Omam Consultants, an HR consultancy in India, and a mother on a mission to balance home and work life for herself and her employees. Hear about Kapahi’s journey — the hurdles and highlights — as she grew both her family and the business her father started over 40 years ago.In India, a country where only 14 percent of entrepreneurs are women, Sakshi Kapahi has had to grapple with all the familiar obstacles that working mothers face … and then some. “You always get these questions, right? Oh, you must be working for your husband. Or you must be building this for your father or your husband. They assume there has to be a male member that will come through later,” she recounts. Having enough time for kids and business, what she calls “her two babies,” is a constant struggle. Kapahi says that building both a personal and professional support system is critical to juggling priorities and managing feelings of guilt. “One thing I'm still working on is you have to be kind to yourself as a woman, which is what we don't do. There's always guilt that I missed something for the team, in the office, at home. Everyone keeps saying ‘be kind to yourself,’ but nobody tells you how,” she says. Finding a female mentor with kids was incredibly helpful for Kapahi, and she strives to provide that kind of support for her employees as well, 70 percent of whom are women.Hear how Kapahi is tackling motherhood and entrepreneurship while growing a company that does the same for other women.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Welcome to Grit & Growth’s masterclass on friction — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Robert Sutton, Stanford professor in the School of Engineering and best-selling author, has stories and strategies to help you identify the causes of friction, eliminate it, and even learn how to use friction intentionally to create more space for success. Friction, according to Bob Sutton, “ is simply putting obstacles in front of people that slow them down, that make their jobs more difficult and maybe a little bit more frustrating.” Sutton has written multiple New York Times bestsellers, including The No Asshole Rule, and Scaling Up Excellence with coauthor and Stanford colleague Huggy Rao. His upcoming book with Rao is all about the friction that typically arises after companies scale, and it is appropriately titled The Friction Project: How Smart Leaders Make the Right Things Easier and the Wrong Things Harder.Sutton’s research shows that friction often starts at the top. Luckily, he has lots of advice for how to become more aware of the power and influence leaders wield and tips for eliminating unwanted friction in your organization.Seven Masterclass TakeawaysAdopt a trustee mindset. According to Sutton, “Leaders should be trustees of other people’s time.” This means not just trying to find ways of saving people's time, but also being aware of how you’re imposing on their time. Don’t be oblivious. “Leaders need to be aware of the power and influence they have,” says Sutton, because an offhand comment can send employees on a wild goose chase that costs time, energy, and money. “That’s what happens when people in positions of power…are unaware of their cone of friction.” Leaders also need to acknowledge their blind spots. Many assume that because of their success, they know everything that matters about their organization; what Sutton calls the “fallacy of centrality.” Either way, what you don’t know can certainly hurt you.Avoid power poisoning. “When people feel powerful or more powerful than others they tend to focus on their own needs over others and then they act like the rules don’t apply to them,” Sutton says. Friction is almost always the result.Embrace inconvenience. Leaders often get the VIP treatment. They don’t have to stand in line or wait on hold. But Sutton says that this “absence of inconvenience…is protecting you from the experience that your customers are facing.” If you don’t feel the friction yourself, how can you address it?Play the subtraction game.Sutton suggests approaching problems with a subtraction mindset as an antidote to what he calls addition sickness. He says, “First, make a list of stuff that's getting in the way and driving you crazy. Okay, so now what are you going to do to get rid of it?”Fight friction as a team.“Friction is often an orphan problem that we point at other people, and we tell them it's their job to fix it,” Sutton says. Given the high-friction nature of friction fixing, he suggests a team effort.Remember that not all friction is bad.Sutton acknowledges that some things should be hard, like cheating, stealing, and making stupid decisions quickly. He says “Sometimes, being fast — all that does is get you killed off more quickly. The goal of getting rid of mindless, unwanted friction is to clear the way for the things in life that are hard and should be hard.”Listen to Bob Sutton’s anecdotes and advice on how to recognize and remove friction in the workplace. The Friction Project will be released on January 30, and you can pre-order copies of the book now. ( Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Welcome to Grit & Growth’s masterclass on growth mindset and psychological safety and how they can empower employees to speak up, fail fast, and fail smart — with accountability but not retribution. Sarah Soule, Stanford Graduate School of Business professor in organizational behavior, has tips and tricks for leaders to help build a culture that encourages healthy debate and out-of-the-box thinking.Failure happens … whether you like it or not.  Yet, almost every entrepreneur would agree that learning the right way to fail is what enables businesses to succeed. But how do you create an environment where people aren’t afraid to fail? According to Professor Soule, it all starts with building an environment of psychological safety: a climate where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns and speaking up when needed without being judged or viewed negatively by the leaders when they do.Soule encourages leaders to remember that all humans make mistakes. And in some types of work, failure is actually part of the process. However, failure is not a luxury every organization has — especially in health care — so she recommends simulating failure instead. The key, she explains, is that when we make mistakes, we learn from them and don’t hide them. Otherwise,  they’re likely to snowball into bigger mistakes. “One of the elements of psychological safety is that people on a team don't hide their mistakes. They also feel comfortable and safe to challenge their superiors, to challenge their colleagues, when they see something is about to go amiss,” she says.5 Masterclass Takeaways Not all mistakes are the same.Soule encourages everyone to “distinguish between mistakes that are made that should have been preventable — because somebody has been inattentive or has been sloppy or has just been going rogue — versus smart failure.”Try to learn from failure. “When and if we do fail or fall short of what we hoped, we can learn from it. That can only happen if the team feels like it is okay to bring forward these possibilities without you judging them or firing them because they're challenging you. It’s not who failed. No blaming. But why did we fail? And what can we learn from that?” she says.Walk the walk. Talk the talk.Soule advises leaders to align their actions and values. “I think one of the things that's very important, particularly for a new leader in an established organization, is to come in right away and express what the values and expectations of the culture are going to be, and then to continually repeat them, and demonstrate that it’s what the leader believes.”Strike a balance between acceptance and accountability. Soule says, “Leaders actually really need to distinguish between those two and not just celebrate all failure. There's got to be some accountability, right? When we have made mistakes that should have been preventable, we do need to hold people accountable for that.”Pre-mortems can be a safe way to simulate failure.“Pre-mortems are a structured but simple way to bring the whole team together to pretend that something has failed massively,” Soule explains. “Think very hard about what were the reasons for this failure and then brainstorm ways that those reasons could be averted as a way to prevent the failure from happening.”Listen to Sarah Soule’s evidence, advice, and strategies for how to leverage psychological safety to increase team performance, productivity, and innovation by failing in the right way.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Does your company have a culture where people are truly free to speak their minds … without fear of retribution? At the start of the pandemic, Elikem Tamaklo, managing director for Nyaho Healthcare in Ghana, realized that the answer was no. Hear how he changed his company’s culture and his own behavior to lead his team through COVID-19 and beyond. Also, gain strategic insights from Sarah Soule, professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, on the process and benefits of creating an environment of psychological safety in your organization.Psychological safety wasn’t on Elikem Tamaklo’s mind when he joined his family’s private group medical practice. But in 2019 when the pandemic hit, uncertainty, fear, and challenging conversations were the norm. It didn’t take long to realize that if his team members weren’t willing to openly share what they were feeling and fearing, then decision-making would suffer. Psychological safety, according to Sarah Soule, professor of organizational behavior, is a climate where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns and speaking up when needed.  Most important, they must feel like they are not going to be judged or viewed negatively by the leaders when they do bring things up. Soule says the benefits to the organization are well-researched and impressive. “Morale is higher, burnout is lower, motivation is much, much higher. People are willing to participate in decision making and that leads to better decision-making. What we see is that team performance, creativity, and resilience increase, and we get higher levels of innovation,” Soule explains.During COVID, everything was amplified, especially for those working in health care.  The situation was made even worse when Tamaklo contracted the virus. He chose to publicize his diagnosis. “I said I would bear the risk personally. People acknowledged the bravery in sharing my COVID status and the narrative was more about people seeing that getting COVID is not your fault. So get tested,” he remembers. After much discussion, Nyaho became the first private organization to perform COVID testing.Expressing vulnerability is one of the ways Soule says leaders can model the behavior they seek in others. She explains “The hardest thing that leaders have to do is to both model the kind of behavior that they want on the team and be sure when they invite the truth, it's authentic and people believe it.” Soule also advises leaders and their frontline managers to speak less and last, engage in active listening, and construct norms for how teams interact.Listen to Tamaklo’s personal and company journey toward psychological safety and the challenges and benefits they’ve experienced. And get practical advice from Soule on how leaders and teams can create an open culture where productivity and innovation thrive.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
We're excited to announce that Stanford Seed has a new advisory board member: Andreata Muforo. We are thrilled to have Andreata on our team! To celebrate, we're bringing back one of our favorite episodes from Season 1, "Raising Capital in Africa: It's Not Just About the Money", which featured Andreata as a guest. Enjoy! Original Show Notes:Meet Elo Umeh, Managing Director and CEO of Terragon Group, a Nigerian digital marketing and data insights company, and Andreata Muforo and Ido Sum from TLcom Capital, and learn how to make the most of your fundraising efforts to successfully grow your business in Africa.Elo never intended to formally raise money—he initially relied on friends and family to launch Terragon. But as the business grew, so did his vision, and he needed to find an investor that understood the enormous opportunity in a rapidly growing sector. Since 2016, he’s led Terragon through two funding rounds: a $5 million series A round and a bridge round of $4 million. Now a leader in Africa’s data and marketing technology space, Terragon is currently raising another $16 million for its Series B. Elo shares his fundraising journey, explaining that it’s not just about the money, but who provides the capital is also key. He ended up working with Andreata Muforo and Ido Sum from TLcom, a venture capital firm with experience investing in tech-enabled businesses across Sub-Saharan Africa. Their relationship demonstrates how the right investors can help your business grow and actually enhance—not dampen—the quality of your decisions as a CEO.Andreata and Ido of TLcom also share what they look for in a company and provide tips for how you can approach your next fundraising round.Listen to Elo’s journey and Andreata and Ido’s insights to learn how to maximize the value of your firm’s next fundraising round.Resources:Terragon Group: TLcom Capital: Stanford Seed: Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Welcome to Grit & Growth’s masterclass on spontaneous communication — those unplanned moments when you’re called on in a meeting, asked to give feedback, or introduced to a potential investor. Matt Abrahams, Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer in strategic communications, has tips and tricks to overcome anxiety, gain confidence, and make sure you’re ready to speak when you least expect it.Matt Abrahams speaks a lot  in public, whether he’s teaching MBAs at Stanford or hosting his podcast “Think Fast, Talk Smart.” And yet, he still gets nervous. He calls it getting the “ABCs.” “There's the affect or emotional component, the behavioral or what happens to your body, and then the cognitive part, what happens in your mind,” Abrahams explains. Luckily, he believes there are tons of techniques to manage your nerves, like holding something cold in your hands to calm you down, saying positive affirmations to give you confidence, and even using tongue twisters to both distract your mind and warm up your voice. Abrahams’ latest book, Think Faster, Talk Smarter, is filled with practical advice for how to prepare for your next spontaneous conversation. He says the biggest mistake people make in their communication is starting from the wrong place. “We start by saying, here's what I want to say, versus, what does the audience or person I'm speaking to need to hear. And that's a fundamental mind shift. If I don't understand from your perspective what's important for you, what knowledge you have now versus where I would like you to be, I can't tailor my message.” 7 Masterclass Takeaways AMP it up. If speaking makes you nervous, develop an Anxiety Management Plan to help you overcome the nerves. Focus, focus, focus. Abrahams reminds us that sometimes people just want to know the time, not how to build the clock. Prioritize connection, not perfection. “There is no right way to communicate. There are better ways and worse ways, but there is no one right way. And when we put that pressure on ourselves to do it right, we actually reduce the likelihood that we'll do it well at all.”Think about your audience, not yourself. “We really need to be other-focused. And the nice thing about being other-focused is not only is the message more likely to land, the other person is likely to feel more valued because you're tailoring the message to them,” says Abrahams.Make it relevant. And connect the dots for people. “If you can make something relevant to people, it's been shown that they process it so much more thoroughly and invest a lot of effort. We assume that if I set up everything, that you'll connect all the dots, and that's not always true.”Be clear when giving feedback.  Many leaders find giving feedback one of the hardest parts of their jobs. “When you give feedback, be very clear on what it is you're looking for. Many of us are just so frustrated, upset, at whatever's happening or not happening that we're not very clear,” Abrahams recommends.Prepare to be spontaneous. Using common structures like “problem, solution, benefit” to tell your story can be practiced for your next spontaneous interaction. Listen to Matt Abrahams’ communication insights, advice, and strategies for how to think faster and talk smarter.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Creating a compelling strategy is step number one for every business. But almost no one gets it right on the first try. Aniket Doegar and “Guns” Ganapathy, co-founders of the Indian social enterprise Haqdarshak, pivoted multiple times while remaining focused on financial sustainability and their mission: eliminating generational poverty in India through access to social security.India, with a population of 1.4 billion, has about a billion people dependent on some form of social security, according to Aniket Doegar. And India has over 20,000 government programs. But most families are accessing only a tiny percentage of the programs they’re eligible for. “An urban family living in cities like Delhi and Bombay is eligible for about 25 to 30 programs, and all these families at any given point of time are not accessing more than 10 percent of them,” explains Doegar. That’s the problem Haqdarshak wants to solve — how to enable people in need to access the life-changing benefits they deserve. From the very beginning, Haqdarshak’s strategy was focused on generating revenue so the company wouldn’t be dependent on handouts or grants in the traditional nonprofit model. “It was almost an article of faith for me that scale can be achieved and lots of social problems can be addressed by thinking through a revenue model, by having financial sustainability built into the DNA of the organization,” says Ganapathy, who is not only a co-founder of Haqdarshak, but also its first investor, and formerly Stanford Seed’s regional director for South Asia.The two assumed that building a platform for end users to access benefits would be too expensive and that government contracts would be more financially reliable. Unfortunately they weren’t, and after not getting paid, they made their first pivot. And the pivots kept coming. But along the way, they  learned — and built upon —every setback. “I think this is an important lesson for social enterprises, that you've got to remain flexible sometimes and see the way in which the market responds to what you want to do,” advises Ganapathy.Ganapathy also warns social enterprises of the tension between financial sustainability and risk of mission drift. “It’s a challenge that most social enterprises face at some point in their journey. I think we did face this two or three years in where there was this temptation that we had this network of field agents, and we could have gone the way of adding financial products, insurance sales, things like that to the basket of goods that an agent carried, and made the organization more financially viable, but it would have meant a significant mission drift away from our original focus,” Ganapathy recalls.Having mission-driven investors can help you stay on track. Throughout the company’s journey, Doegar reminds himself of the big picture: “Do we want to be an organization which runs after capital and does everything, or do we want to be a specialized social security organization and really build an institution?Hear how Doegar and Ganapathy adjusted their strategy on the fly and stayed true to their foundational values, and learn where the company is headed now.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Welcome to Grit & Growth’s masterclass on strategy, featuring Jesper Sørensen’s insights on how to build a strategy for success and accept the inherent uncertainty of it all. This Stanford Graduate School of Business professor tells you what you need to know: from defining what a strategy is — and is not — to deciding who to involve and how to debate constructively. Every entrepreneur understands that their business needs a well-thought-out strategy to succeed. But the gap between knowing and doing can be daunting. Professor Sørensen, coauthor of Making Great Strategy: Arguing for Organizational Advantage, advocates for “starting at the end” by asking what it is you want to accomplish and what success looks like. “Then,” he explains, “you can start to say, okay, now here's all these things that we think might connect to what we want to accomplish.” While creating a strategy is a process that requires ongoing refinement, Sørensen reminds leaders to put their strategy into practice and learn along the way. What’s more, he cautions that successful execution depends on how well you communicate your strategy. He believes that everyone in your organization needs to understand the strategy and see themselves in it, because their work contributes directly to its success.If you want to hear more on strategy from Jesper, check out our episode Strategy: It's the Big Bets that Matter.8 Masterclass Takeaways A strategy is not a list of things you want to accomplish. “Essentially a strategy expresses the logic of success for the organization. How are we going to get the resources that we need in order to accomplish what it is we want to accomplish? You need to be able to articulate some sort of theory of how causes lead to consequences, how inputs lead to outputs, how actions lead to desired outcomes,” Sørensen explains.Strategy is about managing uncertainty. “That's why you have to think about strategy as an argument, built on assumptions about how the uncertainty is going to resolve itself so you can accomplish your goals,” he says.Your strategic argument needs to be logically valid. Sørensen says, “Look at whether the conclusion follows from the assumptions that have been stated. And what that requires you to do is to not say to yourself, that is a dumb assumption. For the sake of assessing validity, you just have to accept it to be true.”Make sure all the right people are in the room. “Everybody at the organization who makes decisions and allocates resources needs to understand the strategy, so that their own actions can support it.”How you debate matters. “The first thing you need to do is to create an environment where there is what we call psychological safety, where people feel free to dissent from the dominant opinion, and don't fear retribution,” he advises. He goes on, “Be careful about both verbal and nonverbal communication that shapes people's perception. No eye rolling. No shrugging.”Avoid arguing blue. Sørensen explains, “It basically means yelling at each other and sticking to your position and trying to win. Instead, you want people to be focused on whether the argument itself is logically coherent. Even if you don't believe in the assumptions, if you did accept the assumptions, the conclusion would follow.”Don't worry about it being perfect when you start. Sørensen encourages leaders to “go ahead and do the best you can and then take action. You're going to learn something. The data that's generated will shed light on your theory and then say, well, wait a second, I see that what we were assuming was that customers really cared about this, and that turns out to be wrong. So now how do I have to then adjust my behavior?”Your strategy problems are not unique. “What's always striking to me is how everybody thinks that their problems are totally unique to them. I like to encourage people to see that there's comfort in knowing that actually, no, those problems are the same problems that everybody else has,” he says.Listen to Sørensen’s insights, advice, and strategies for how to build your own strategy.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Almost every entrepreneur dreams of becoming a market leader. But a business's greatest potential for success happens with market creation. Andela, led by co-founder and CEO Jeremy Johnson, did just that by unlocking access to a global labor market — for both job seekers and companies in need of great talent. Hear Andela’s market-making journey and gain insights on this kind of disruptive innovation from Efosa Ojomo, director of Global Prosperity at the Christensen Institute and co-author of The Prosperity Paradox.Andela is a Nigerian company that began with a tightly focused mission to train software engineers to compete on a world stage. “The original problem statement,” Johnson explains, “is that brilliance is evenly distributed. Opportunity isn't. How do we move towards a world where those things are a little bit more uniform, where someone's potential in life has less to do with who their parents were and where they were born, and more to do with the impact they're able to create?” Andela quickly realized that the most valuable part of the business wasn’t training the talent, but making it accessible. So, to connect all that brilliance with opportunities, Andela created a global talent marketplace to help companies simplify the process of hiring and working with talent from all over the world. This “market-making innovation” — creating an ecosystem for “non-consumers” — is what Efosa Ojomo believes made all the difference to Andela’s success. In the case of Andela, he explains, “The brilliant talents in Nigeria are non-consumers of opportunity. They just happen to be born in a country that could not leverage what they would give to the world. Andela is creating an infrastructure that connects them to that opportunity so that they can add value to the world.” And they’re doing the same for companies that face barriers to recruiting the best talent. According to Ojomo, “Unlocking this double-sided non-consumption unlocks so much value and the world becomes a better place as a result.”While many companies suffered due to the pandemic, it actually helped Andela by reinforcing the power of remote work. In just four years the company expanded from seven to 120 countries, and its leaders realized that the tricky part of global talent was the infrastructure, or lack thereof. So, they spent time and energy building a supply chain to make it easy for people to work together between countries, covering issues from payroll to compliance to taxes. “The primary driver of the business was companies coming to us and saying, ‘We want to be able to work with great talent. Can you help us? And can you make that easy? And because you trained them, we would like to work with you,’” Johnson explains.Listen to Johnson and Ojomo discuss Andela’s meteoric growth, regulatory hurdles, the role of data, and how looking at your product through the lens of market creation can unlock a business’s true potential.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Welcome to Grit & Growth’s masterclass on coaching, featuring Laurie Fuller, a certified executive coach, who believes entrepreneurs can benefit from having a collaborator, connector, and cheerleader by their side. Fuller provides practical tips on what to look for in a coach plus tried-and-true techniques she uses to help her clients transform themselves, their teams, and their companies.Entrepreneurs are almost always on a quest to improve. But improvement can be ridiculously hard to accomplish on your own. That’s when an experienced coach can step in to help you focus on what’s most important, strengthen your teams, and transform as a leader. Laurie Fuller does all that … and more, sharing her insights and tried-and-true techniques to help entrepreneurs tackle their most difficult challenges. After a successful career in the private sector, Laurie Fuller channeled all her experience, passion, and curiosity into coaching. Today she’s a certified executive coach with Stanford Seed based in Nairobi, Kenya, a venture investor, and mentor to founders and CEOs across multiple continents. Fuller believes that being a sounding board is a critical part of coaching, whether her clients are talking about strategy, people, management issues, strategic HR, or just being lonely at the top. “This time that I have with my client is a way to reflect, remove ourselves from the business, and try to see the forest from the trees. Often as a leader, we get pulled into the urgent and we don't have time for the important,” she says.Questions to Ask When Considering a CoachDo they have the right credentials? “It’s easy to write ‘coach’ on a plaque, put it on the door, and open for business,” Fuller warns.Is it the right fit? Fuller recommends having a trial period and trusting your gut. “If it’s not working, you should politely move on,” she advises.Is the timing right? “If there's a lot going on in your life, personally or professionally, it just may not be a good time. Coaching takes a lot of mental energy and you want to be present,” she says.Are you willing to do what it takes? Fuller says that coaching also requires a lot of the “coachee,” so before you commit, make sure you’re willing to commit.More Masterclass Takeaways Beware of the evil letter I.  Fuller often stops clients when they say “I” and asks: “Do you really mean ‘I’ or do you mean ‘we’? Remember, it’s not just about you, it’s about your business.”Coaches and therapists are very different. There are limits to what a coach can accomplish. “I'm not trained as a therapist. I'm trained as a coach. I'm really focused on work, work behaviors, and how you present yourselves to others at work, in a work situation,” Fuller explains.Teams need coaching. If you want high-performing teams, you need to give them coaching, too.Delegate the things that drain you. Fuller uses the term “emotional runway” to get entrepreneurs to think about what parts of the business excite them so they can focus and add more value.Learn to say no. You’ve earned the right. Fuller says, “We need more entrepreneurs to really have that confidence to say, ‘This doesn't serve me anymore.’”It always takes longer than you think. Fuller encourages her clients to reflect on the progress they’ve made, not the end goal. “It always takes longer than you think to make change,” she says.Listen to Fuller’s insights, advice, and strategies for how to find a coach and make the most of the coaching experience.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
In Africa, as in the rest of the world, gay rights is a deeply divisive issue and queer people often face discrimination and violence. Wandia Gichuru, CEO of Vivo Fashion Group, and Chris Makena Muriithi, CEO of BOLD Network Africa, decided they wanted to do something about it using their collective strengths in business, fashion, advocacy, and storytelling. The Zoya X BOLD collection is about more than creating fashion for the queer community — it’s about starting a conversation about inclusivity and acceptance and welcoming everyone to the table.Saying you’re a socially conscious business is a lot easier than actually being one. That’s what Wandia Gichuru learned from Chris Makena Muriithi, whose organization BOLD Network Africa advocates for LGBTQ rights. When the two met — online and, ultimately, in person — they talked and talked. And then they took action, creating an entirely new product line for the queer community.“Fashion is a big thing for LGBTQ culture,” Muriithi explains, but clothing brands aren’t exactly serving the market. It was a perfect opportunity for Gichuru, whose Vivo Fashion Group had already built a business catering to the unique needs and preferences of African women. Educating and engaging Vivo employees was a key first step. “If we're going to do this, we don't want to do it just as a PR exercise so we can tick the box,” Gichuru says. “Can we figure out why we're doing it and why it matters, so that as an organization we learn from this and we become more accepting?” While Gichuru wanted to take a stand, she also wanted to respect her staff, many of whom were very religious. She told them, “I'm not going to force you to work on this but I want you to understand why we're doing it.” With pride, she recalls, “Literally everyone stayed on the project. No one, no one left.”As a former journalist, Muriithi saw that queer stories were never told with the decency they deserve. So, storytelling is a key pillar of BOLD’s advocacy work, and also of the Vivo collaboration. “Most of the stories that were told were negative. Yet we have such powerful stories about queer people who are doing well, who have businesses, who have been able to tackle life in many different shapes and forms. So for me, that was very, very important, just to be able to shed a positive light on the queer community in Africa,” he explains.While profit wasn’t the team’s first priority, the collaboration has been a success by many measures. “The sooner people see the importance of just leading from love, accepting everybody for who they are, the better we are going to be as a society, as an economy,” Muriithi says. Gichuru elaborates, “In the long run it is going to make business sense because what you'll see is, in a world of increasing choices and a lot more competition, people will start making choices based on what they believe a brand stands for.”Listen to their inspiring journey — the risks, rewards, and reactions — and how their professional collaboration had a profoundly personal impact as well.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
Do you have a strategy? Or do you just have a plan? Understanding the difference and how to define and execute on both is essential to transforming your business. Abhishek Rungta, founder and CEO of INT, realized he had been running his business without a strategy for far too long. Hear his journey and gain strategic insights from Jesper Sorensen, professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, on why strategy is all about managing uncertainty.Abhishek Rungta started his IT business in 1997 while he was still in college. But 10 years in, he faced a familiar predicament for founders. “We didn’t have any focus. Anyone who sent us an email was a customer,” he recalls. He admits that most of his business decisions lacked real strategy and were instead led “by gut feeling, not by real research or discussion within the organization.” By 2008, he was losing customers and employees because there was nothing that truly differentiated his company from the competition.To grow his business he needed to be more than a low-cost provider — he needed a strategy to truly differentiate his business. “The way I look at it now is, what can I do which my competition will find extremely difficult to replicate?” Rungta explains.According to Professor Sorensen, most organizations associate strategy with planning and tend to focus more on logistics (the planning) than on the logic of the underlying theory or strategy.  “Strategy is mostly about the things that you can't control. So it's about what customers are going to want. What are your competitors going to do? Those are all things that you don't have any control over, so strategy is about managing all this uncertainty,” he says.Sorensen explains that strategy is fundamentally about making an argument and then coming up with assumptions that support it. And you need to include assumptions about how uncertainty is going to resolve itself so you can accomplish your goals.While it certainly didn’t happen overnight, Rungta eventually constructed a more complete strategic argument based on clear assumptions, namely the fact that clients valued speed over price and that regulated industries were ripe for targeting. And then he let those assumptions drive action.Sorensen reminds entrepreneurs that there’s no real way to future-proof your strategy. “I don't think there's any kind of pill you can take that will guarantee your success against all the changes that might happen in the future,” he says. “But what you can do is you can say, okay, when a change comes in, I can then think about, well, does this impact the logic of my strategy or not?”Listen to Rungta’s strategic pivot and leadership journey for what he calls his “25-year-old startup.” And get advice from Professor Sorensen on how to construct your own strategy and examine the assumptions that matter most.See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at
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