Introduce yourself and tell us what motivated you to be part of the Stealth Mode program.
Salima: My name is Salima Douven, I am Head of Open Innovation & Incubation at Henkel dx, which is our unit for digitalization and digital business. Together with my team, I am working on new digital business models near and beyond the core business. And I have been working on the digital transformation journey since more than a decade. To engage at Stealth Mode is great because it’s for me an opportunity to contribute to the change of a topic that is driving me personally and professionally: gender diversity. I worked in an environment surrounded by men who are in leading roles. And the modern, young start-up scene is facing in this regard the same struggles as 140 year old companies. We have to drive change and open all doors for equal chances between men and women.
Priyanka: My name is Priyanka Singh. I am the Founder of social messaging app PLATONIC. The app encourages people to go out and meet friends and new locals in real life through 1 click gatherings and rewards them on leisure spend. Going from Sales to entrepreneurship I realised the playing field has very little diversity and even fewer women of color. Stealth mode was a chance to see like minded and brave women in one room. Our strengths and weaknesses collectively for our ambition to change the way business is conducted in several industries through participation. Stealth mode was also for me a source of gaining access to information, knowledge and the network.
As the Head of Open Innovation at Henkel dx, you come in contact with a lot of bright new ideas from founders. What are the qualities of a standout startup and its founder?
Salima: First of all, I think you need to have this visionary thinking of how you see certain topics and want to really drive them. You need to be resilient and very flexible. A great entrepreneur sees the world full of opportunities and tackles them with courage, passion and persistence. As a founder and / or someone driving innovation you are also often going along a path that is new and the others are not there yet. That requires strong leadership capabilities and the strong believe towards your vision.
How has having Salima as a mentor during the Stealth Mode program pushed your founding journey even further?
Priyanka: Founders are often alone in head, battling fear of uncertainty. Having a friendly advisor/mentor is like having a support system. Salima and I connected on a shared passion for social togetherness but we are also able to communicate openly, which allows me to bounce my ideas off her and she often counterbacks with her network experts on the topic. She is “always” willing to help me.
What role do you think ‘network’ has in empowering a founder’s journey?
Salima: I think network is key! It can open doors, give different perspectives, give a holding hand, connecting you to others and so on. All this is very valuable when you are in a stage of getting your journey started and up- and running.
Priyanka: I strongly agree with Salima on networking being crucial to finding key individuals that help you achieve your goals. After All people have answers to your questions, not the other way around.
What’s your vision for the future of the tech industry?
Salima: I want the tech industry to be a network that uses its capabilities, expertise and power for the good of our society, environment and next generations. Tech is a tremendous enabler to bring us all to the next level if we use it wisely. The tech industry should be a front runner – also in the context of gender diversity, where there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Priyanka: I am so excited for the outcome of technology based on the speed of its evolution. Which of course is led by the new generation and new ideas! Can you imagine the ability of a 16 yr old vs 40 with a mobile phone? They operate on the same device very differently. It’s mind blowing to learn how they rely on technology today!
On the other hand, I do desire for a more open minded politics, bureaucracy and startup ecosystem to enable newcomers a chance to revolutionise the way things will be done.
To empower future female, non-binary and underrepresented tech leaders, Factory Berlin has teamed up with Henkel dx and Google for Startups to create Stealth Mode. Stay tuned via Stealth Mode page for news & updates.
To learn more about PLATONIC and sign up for early access to the app, check out their website here.