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Recap for Natasha’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) Session



Last Monday, August 30th, 2021, the LevelUp community Slack group hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session with the founder of LevelUp, Natasha Khimji.


Natasha Khimji is the Founder of LevelUp and previously worked at various blockchain/crypto startups in business development, marketing, and product roles. Her areas of interest include mentorship, diversity & inclusion, marketplaces, and startups/entrepreneurship. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Political Economy and a Certificate in Entrepreneurship & Technology.


Below is a recap of the AMA session:


What inspired you to found LevelUp? How did you come up with the LevelUp idea?


I was inspired to found LevelUp from my own personal experience graduating university and feeling as though I could really use a professional mentor for career advice & guidance, but I quickly realised that it was extremely hard to find a mentor. I then conducted over 100 user interviews to see if other people experienced the same problem, and realised that early career professionals, especially women, were struggling the most to find a mentor as well as advance in their careers.


Do you have any advice for mentors?


Mentors, especially those who are mentoring for the first time, should take the time to ask their mentee questions about their career goals and what they want to get out of the mentoring relationship. Additionally, share ideas about whatever situation the mentee might be facing and offer to act as a sounding board for their ideas. Don't be afraid to challenge their assumptions and get them thinking in a different way. Lastly, be sure to encourage your mentee, celebrate their successes, and offer to make introductions to people in your network.


Do you have any advice for college students who want to start networking?


You should first start with researching the companies or industries you are interested in, as well as the recruiters and/or key decision makers at those companies. Make sure you know about what the company does and have a few questions prepared. Next, research if those companies are attending any virtual or in-person career events, and if so be sure to attend those events. At the networking events, just be yourself and ask the recruiter or professional about their own experiences and why they chose to join the company. Lastly, be sure to follow up with a personalised thank you message!


What’s your favourite podcast?


My current favourite podcast is the Twenty Minute VC, hosted by Harry Stebbings: https://www.thetwentyminutevc.com/. It has a great in-depth analysis of the technology & venture capital industry as well as interviews with prominent entrepreneurs & venture capitalists. I would recommend you check it out :)


What are some of the most important lessons that you've learned while creating LevelUp?


I've learned that prioritisation is super important, whether it is with my own time or when deciding which features should be added to a product, for example. I think it's also important to get customers before you have a product and build up the demand initially. You should also always validate your idea with users who would actually use your product or service before going out to build it. Also, engaging with potential users and customers is crucial, especially at the early stages of a startup, and thinking about company branding and messaging early on.


What does a typical day of work look like to you?


It really depends and varies from day-to-day; it could be anything from speaking to product and engineering about features to creating content for a social media post, various operational tasks, attending conferences and events to spread the word, or speaking to companies about a partnership.


What is the most rewarding and difficult thing about being an entrepreneur?


The most rewarding thing is definitely seeing your product and vision come to life, as well as seeing initial interest in what you are working on from both paying and non-paying customers. The most difficult thing at the early stage is probably lack of funding & resources, as well as the sheer volume and amount of things to do in any given day; task/context switching is something I do daily and it can be mentally draining.


What does the website release timeline look like? Will it be ready anytime soon?


We are planning to release the web app by October; stay tuned to our social media for more details, as well as to find out more about our upcoming web app preview meeting!


When you are not working on LevelUp, what else interests you?


I enjoy travelling, hiking and being outdoors, spending time with family & friends and listening to music & podcasts!


Any final words of advice?


For recent college graduates just entering the workforce, I would say definitely keep an open mind and always be asking questions. There’s so much you can learn from the people around you at work. And definitely find a mentor!


For entrepreneurs who are just starting out, definitely conduct multiple (ideally at least 100) user interviews with your potential customers/users before deciding that your startup is worth spending time (and money) on. Always be open to change and don’t be stuck with your original idea, as your startup will go through multiple iterations as it grows!


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