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Sharath Jeevan OBE : Must-Have Skills for Entrepreneurs in 2024


Sharath Jeevan OBE is the globally recognised authority on Leadership at Inflection Moments and the Founder & Executive Chairman of Intrinsic Labs.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what got you into entrepreneurship?

I’m a serial entrepreneur who founded two organisations in education that impacted over 10 million children in the UK and in emerging countries. I raised over £30m in external funding from corporations, governments, etc. to achieve that. Now I advise and coach some of the most innovative entrepreneurs in the world as they face inflection points in their growth. I love this moving from “being in the ring” to being outside the ring and helping many founders, entrepreneurs and leaders be successful. The leaders I work with collectively impact the lives of over 100 million people on every major continent.


What are the top three skills you think are crucial for entrepreneurs today?

I believe that Mastery in Entrepreneurship is rapidly migrating to the human elements - particularly around entrepreneurs deeply understanding themselves as Leaders. And knowing how to unlock their own potential. I see so many entrepreneurs get “stuck” at different organisational stages. For example, a Series A CEO needs to behave and lead differently from a Series B entrepreneur.


That’s why I find my work and interests suggesting 3 key leadership pillars that every Entrepreneur should master:


Authenticity - discovering and becoming the best version of yourself (not the version your board/VC/family think you should be). This will help you know your strengths and what strengths you need to build in your wider team that complement yours


Connection - staying deeply in love with the problem you are solving and the entrepreneurial journey (but not getting wedded to a specific solution or “mousetrap”). Time to exit is growing rapidly (even in places like Silicon Valley) so the get-rich-quick mindset is less relevant; the key thing is to love the activity itself and therefore stay the course


Excellence - holding yourself to high standards and being willing to go many extra miles (but not succumbing to perfectionism). As an entrepreneur, you have to dabble in so many areas that it’s important to be reflective and focus on growth and learning. You can be kind to yourself but measure success based on how much you develop. And find great external people around you who can provide that useful “mirror”.



How do you think the role of technology has impacted these skills in recent years?

They have made focusing on ACE (Authenticity, Connection and Excellence) even more critical, as human mastery has become the core of entrepreneurship. Many technical and logistical elements of the entrepreneurial role can be automated - these human elements will become so much more important. And hopefully, make the role of founder and entrepreneur more fulfilling in the process.


Could you share a story with us about how you used some of these skills to overcome a challenge in your journey?

I started my second education venture thinking it was about finding promising “micro-innovations” from teachers in some of the poorest parts of the world and then scaling these innovations. I learned that there was a bigger issue - the issue of motivation. I pivoted the organisation early on despite significant pressure from our stakeholders.


Ten years later, it’s reached over 60,000 schools in six countries (https://www.ted.com/talks/sharath_jeevan_nurturing_the_fertile_soil_of_lifelong_learning).


The entrepreneurial journey was absolutely critical along the way and I shared a lot of my learning in my first book “Intrinsic”, which gained endorsements from smart thinkers like Nir Eyal to the founder of Moonpig.



In your opinion, how important is it for entrepreneurs to adapt to changing trends and what do you see as the biggest trend in 2024?

The funding market is likely to remain challenging and so it’s critical entrepreneurs are really distinctive in what they do, not just a better version of something already out there. Play bigger and try to reinvent a new category. Indeed, try to create a “category of one” where you really are seen as (ideally) a global leader. And try to build an external platform and thought leadership position around that uniqueness. Stand out, be different.


What's one common mistake you often see new entrepreneurs make, and how can they avoid it?

The need to ensure team and stakeholders are deeply connected with the work and have high levels of intrinsic motivation. As companies grow, the risk is that the additional organisational complexity doesn’t overshadow this key component. Realise that you need to reinvent your role as an organisation develops, your role is to provide the connective tissue and “glue” - and to align the organisation on its journey. That’s the only way you’ll be able to take it to a place it wouldn’t have reached otherwise.


How do you keep learning and growing as an entrepreneur?

Find great nurturers around you who can develop those elements of Authenticity, Connection and Excellence (ACE). This can start from a Personal Advisory Board to more formal structures like a governance board. But most important it’s about keeping a learning mindset, learning with peers, and always thinking “What I can do better”? Take the time to get off the treadmill and reflect.


Finally, what advice would you give to someone just starting their entrepreneurial journey in 2024?

Not all Leadership Time is created equal. Watch out for the key Inflection Moments on your journey and navigate them well. If you do, you’ll futureproof success for years to come.






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