First things first - for our #FounderSecrets blog series we thought, who better to start with than Studio Graphene’s heart and soul, Ritam Gandhi?
He made his dream reality and founded the studio in 2014 with the goal of providing start-ups with the help they need to take off.
Over the years there were definitely some challenges and difficulties to tackle! The most difficult exercise was to define what we do, in a way people understand and see value in.
Looking back to the past few years, Ritam wished someone had told him what he knows now:
“Don’t panic, don’t stress out - you have to ride the wave!”
“The most important thing to always remember is to believe in you and your idea. Stick to what you aim for, no matter what everyone else has to say.”
One of the most important lessons learnt is to understand the stage your company is in and based on this, to know what you can do and establish what you can’t.
Regarding the future of the agency, Ritam gave us a teaser of our first piece of intellectual property that we’ll be soon launching – a tool to help people really *do* something with their idea and turn their vision into a fully fledged specification!
For the full interview and more useful insights and advice, keep on reading…
Our first Founder in the hot seat is the man himself, Ritam Gandhi, Founder of Studio Graphene.
From a young age, Ritam had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and found his niche in the business of delivering software. He started the Studio of Better Things with the mission of working start-ups, and to help them tackle the challenge of not having a full team to build a project from scratch.
Difficulties and challenges
One of the difficulties Studio Graphene encountered during the early years was something a lot of start-ups struggle with - defining what you do, in a way that people understand and see value in.
But then - as soon as you know who you are and where you want to go - it can be really difficult to find the right projects for your company and to discover and identify the “good” and “bad” ones along the way.
And how do you find the right amount of work for your team? You have to make sure that no one is too busy or worse, too bored. In Ritam’s experience, the biggest challenge with start-ups is that everything that happens feels like a huge deal. Something good happens and everyone is hyped and excited but then as soon as something bad happens, it feels like the end of the world.
Looking back on four years of running his own business, one of the things Ritam wishes he had known before is that nothing is as bad as it first seems.
“Don’t panic, don’t stress out - you have to ride the wave!”
Another essential rule to follow is that you have to stick to what you believe in. You can easily doubt yourself, especially when other people might criticise and question what you do. In Ritam’s case, everyone advised him not to work with start-ups because they don’t have funds and don’t pay fees. Even though he knew this was true and it would be the tougher route, he decided to stick to the more interesting market and Ritam now sees it as one of the biggest successes of the company.
Learning, successes and favourite moments
The most important thing learnt over time is to have a clear focus and alignment on what you are trying to achieve. With Studio Graphene in its early beginnings, the team tried to do everything at once, which just wasn’t possible. Now that the company is growing, some of the tasks and service areas that were dropped are now being re-established. It is essential to know what you can do, but arguably more important to establish what you can’t.
Another great learning is to ensure transparency within the team to make sure everyone pulls together and follows the same goals.
One of the biggest successes Ritam reflects on, was winning the first project for Studio Graphene. Since there was no proof - at that point - of how great our work is, it took a while to sign off on the first client (a start-up).
Highlights for the team are every time Studio Graphene’s work is recognised through an award, a comment or reference, but the biggest success of all is the awesome team itself that’s been built over the last four years (both in Ritam’s own opinion and everyone that gets to know Studio Graphene!)
His favourite moments at work?
The beginning of a project - when ideas are discussed for the first time, and you feel that buzz and excitement of something new. The second best moment is delivering a product, and seeing real-world users engage with a product for the first time. Tackling difficult times and ending up even stronger is also an amazing feeling!
Next steps and future plans
In terms of Studio Graphene’s next steps, there is something very exciting in the pipeline. Ritam talked about the first intellectual property product that will be launched – a tool to help people do something with their idea and turn their vision into a fully fledged specification.
“We will build an ecosystem of things that help to build a start-up. Taking the e-commerce sector as an example, this could be how to find the best payment method or the best customer support.”
Ritam’s plans for the future are to make Studio Graphene bigger, not only in size but quality! The aim is to work with other types of technology and grow in emerging sectors like VR, IoT and Blockchain rather than having a purely digital focus.
He also sees a huge gap in the innovation sector of big companies. Since corporates have already invested significantly in their business and have clear structures, they can fall into the trap of failing to approach ideas from a blank canvas point of view. This is where Studio Graphene can come in and help them to think like a start-up, and adopt a more agile approach to internal projects.
A piece of advice
And finally, here’s some advice Ritam would give anyone in his shoes:
“Baz Luhrmann said: “Sometimes you are ahead, sometimes you are behind, the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.”
Don’t feel that everything is a big deal and don’t get caught up in that race.
Be transparent with yourself and your team and have a focus on how you want to deal with situations.
Be really clear cut about what your boundaries are because when you are a founder there is no person above you to tell you what to do - You need the discipline to do that yourself!”