Life’s Work: An Interview With Amra Naidoo, Co-Founder, Accelerating Asia

Life’s Work: An Interview With Amra Naidoo, Co-Founder, Accelerating Asia

From Zimbabwe to Australia to Singapore, from working for UN Women to the world of startup investing, in this fascinating interview Accelerating Asia Co-founder Amra Naidoo walks us through her early life, how her childhood experiences continue to shape her life and work, her path to what she is doing today, gives us a peek behind the scenes of Accelerating Asia, discusses her investment philosophy, how Accelerating Asia operates and works with startups in the region, talks about everything startup, what separates winning startups, useful founder traits, mistakes founders make when trying to raise investment, the challenges of being a founder, dealing with challenges and stress, and reflects on death, regrets and legacy.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

I was born in Zimbabwe and lived there until my early teens before moving to Australia. I actually came to Singapore after leaving my marketing job in Australia in 2013, for a 3-months internship at UN Women Singapore. It was a massive risk for me at the time, and I chewed through all my savings for the opportunity, but I was looking for a career change, and it ended up being the catalyst for everything that I’ve done since. That 3-months ended up turning into seven years in Singapore – much much more than I could have imagined!

I’m not one of those people who had always known what they want to do with their life, but I firmly believe that as long as you’re taking small steps in the direction that brings you closer to the things that fulfill you, then you will eventually get there.

We started with no investment capital and bootstrapped the business ourselves. We’ve been lucky to receive support for our accelerator from Enterprise Singapore, and from the excellent limited partners in our Venture Capital fund who trust us with their funds to invest in the startups selected for our accelerator program.

Being a first-time fund manager was a challenge when we first started. Although we had managed portfolios and investments before, we did not have our own fund. Hence I’m so grateful to the investors that came on board with our fund at the start, as without them we wouldn’t have been able to kickstart everything. Those investors enabled us to go on and raise more capital for our fund, invest in great startups, and prove out the Accelerating Asia model.

Accelerating Asia is headquartered in Singapore, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore licenses our early-stage venture capital fund. But we have a portfolio footprint of pre-Series A startups that cover 10+ countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Our core focus is on the accelerator and venture capital fund, supporting startups to scale and grow while also de-risking investment for our Limited Partners. The program is run by a team of experienced startup founders, focusing on goal alignment from day 1 to generate relevant and high-impact results.

From an ecosystem development point of view, it still has some way to go in, coming into its own with common industry standards and sound governance practices among founders and investors. On this front, Bangladesh still has a way to go. Still, overall, I’m excited by the energy of the founders and investors in the ecosystem and hope that we can continue to participate in its growth actively.

Things can change quickly, and that applies to both. You have to be adaptable and act fast in certain situations to ensure your startup and business remain strong – COVID-19 is a good example of that.

I realized pretty early on in my life that I want to live a life with no regrets. I also want to live a life that has been full of giving, and that leaves the world a little bit better. I don’t want to look back at the end and realized that I didn’t do something because it made me uncomfortable or wished that I had done something or made a different decision. This doesn’t mean that you don’t make bad decisions, but bad decisions shape who we are and are made with all the available information that you had on hand at the time.


Future Startup 

Could you please tell us about your background i.e. your childhood, education, career, and your path to entrepreneurship and your path to what you are doing today? 

Amra Naidoo

I was born in Zimbabwe and lived there until my early teens before moving to Australia. I actually came to Singapore after leaving my marketing job in Australia in 2013, for a 3-months internship at UN Women Singapore. It was a massive risk for me at the time, and I chewed through all my savings for the opportunity, but I was looking for a career change, and it ended up being the catalyst for everything that I’ve done since. That 3-months ended up turning into seven years in Singapore – much much more than I could have imagined!

That time with UN Women is really where it all started and what has led me to become the Cofounder of Accelerating Asia. At UN Women Singapore, I led Project Inspire – a global social entrepreneurship program in partnership with Mastercard. We looked for entrepreneurs around the world, creating impact for women and girls, brought them to Singapore for an intense bootcamp which culminated in a pitch day where the winners received grant funding from our partners.

At the same time, I was looking after corporate partnerships, working with multinationals based in Singapore on their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and diversity initiatives. It was an insightful time for me as I was able to see how multinationals were looking at impact from a top-down perspective, while at the same time working with entrepreneurs and tackling it from a grassroots, bottom-up perspective.

After leaving there, I looked after community and operations for Telstra’s muru-D accelerator in Southeast Asia. That’s where I met Craig Bristol Dixon, who at the time was the Entrepreneur in Residence, now my cofounder! 

Future Startup 

How has your childhood and upbringing shaped your work and worldview? 

Amra Naidoo 

I think my upbringing and all the things I’ve experienced have shaped my work and worldview in ways that I’m both conscious about and yet to realize.

Having lived in a number of countries and having exposure to so many different entrepreneurs and business ideas and people, you see the positive benefits diversity can bring to the table from a business perspective. It’s that drive to want to meet more inspiring people and to be able to support their vision that has shaped my approach to work.  

Future Startup 

What motivated you to get into early-stage startup investing? 

Amra Naidoo 

I’ve realized that the journey to starting Accelerating Asia with Craig is something that I have been indirectly working towards for the last decade at least. I’m not one of those people who had always known what they want to do with their life, but I firmly believe that as long as you’re taking small steps in the direction that brings you closer to the things that fulfill you, then you will eventually get there. I’m passionate about supporting people and am all about people. I love connecting dots and piecing together seemingly disparate ideas or pulling together resources and connections for people. I love seeing people succeed, and it makes me happy when you see people who have found their stride or flow. If I can enable that and be part of the journey, then that’s pretty awesome. 

So for me, it’s important that I understand where I can best contribute and focus my efforts on. There are so many challenges in the world and causes that I feel strongly about, but you only have so much time in the day and resources as an individual. I realized that the most significant contribution that I can make is to lend my resources, networks, and time to support others who are better equipped to solve various issues. For entrepreneurs in countries like Bangladesh who are solving some really important problems, being able to contribute to their success in some small way has the potential to create exponential impact. 

Our work also combines my passion for entrepreneurship and business for good. I believe that profit and doing good don’t have to operate in isolation. And that’s evident in startups like iFarmer, Shuttle, and Romoni who are part of our portfolio.

It all feeds into our guiding vision at Accelerating Asia – entrepreneurs are one of humanity’s greatest catalysts for positive change.

Future Startup 

How do you approach investing in early-stage companies? What is your investment philosophy? 

Amra Naidoo 

We operate an accelerator and venture fund, which means we invest in the startups who come through our core flagship 100-days accelerator program.

Accelerating Asia’s early-stage VC fund focuses on pre-Series A startups in Southeast and South Asia with untapped potential that are 6 -18 months away from institutional funding. We invest up to S$200,000 into these startups to help scale their growth.

It is an intensely focused investment thesis in this sense, and we get to know our underlying investments extremely well by working alongside them for the duration of our 3-months program.

As most angel investors, startup programs, and venture funds in the region focus on ideation-minimum viable product stage startups, and solid product-market fit, pre-Series A startups with a robust product at early stages of customer traction are often overlooked. This is what makes Accelerating Asia a unique and key player in the industry – our accelerator and venture capital model targets this gap in the market and it is specially designed to support and unlock potential in pre-Series A startups.

I’m also passionate about working to embed and integrate impact investment into commercial goals and sound business models. I believe that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and that impact investment can be part of commercial KPIs in a profit-driven business. As such, I’m committed to identifying and investing in startup founders who are passionate about developing solutions that are relevant to their local communities, while also being applicable globally and from there, offer a path to growth.

Future Startup

When and how did you get started with Accelerating Asia

Amra Naidoo 

I started Accelerating Asia with my Co-founder Craig after we met and ran the muru-D accelerator for Telstra in Singapore. When that ended, we saw an opportunity to do more, and Accelerating Asia’s doors opened. We identified a gap in the market for an independent startup accelerator that supports pre-Series A startups, or the “missing middle” as we like to call it. And then we just got to work, recruiting startups, building our network and that is how we’ve grown from there.

We started with no investment capital and bootstrapped the business ourselves. We’ve been lucky to receive support for our accelerator from Enterprise Singapore, and from the excellent limited partners in our Venture Capital fund who trust us with their funds to invest in the startups selected for our accelerator program.

Future Startup 

What went into building the initial operation of Accelerating Asia? How did you put together initial investment and other things to get started? Please walk us through what the first few months to one year of Accelerating Asia and your journey were like. 

Amra Naidoo 

With no investment capital, Accelerating Asia’s initial operations were supported through consulting work that we did running startup programs for corporates, governments, and other organizations. The hardest part about running an independent startup accelerator is that often the business model relies on exits from the fund investments to sustain operations. For early-stage investments, the exits can’t come quick enough to do that. We knew that we needed to bridge that gap, but it was important for us to remain independent so that we could be aligned with the founders that we work with and ensure that they are our core focus. In order for us to stay independent, the consulting work enabled us to have our own revenue sources. We still do work with partners to support them in running their startup programs, but we’ve also diversified this part of our business and run some of our own programs outside of the core accelerator including Amplify, a 6-week virtual pre-accelerator, and Angel360, an 8-week virtual angel investing course. 

So in the beginning, while doing these consulting projects, we were also establishing the actual accelerator program – the curriculum, pulling together mentors, recruiting startups, and busy letting the startup ecosystem know that Accelerating Asia was open for business! Thankfully, Craig and I have been working in the regional startup ecosystem for a long time, so we were able to establish ourselves a lot quicker than we had initially anticipated. I remember our first Roadshow events meeting startups around the region attracted hundreds of founders, and our first cohort received 300 applications. 

During this time, we were also going through the process of getting our Fund license and setting up the infrastructure to invest in the startups we worked with through the accelerator program. Apart from all the meetings with our fund manager, accountants, advisors, and legal team, we were actively meeting with potential investors to kick off our first investments. 

Essentially we were starting three separate businesses at the same time which in hindsight seems absolutely insane (and was!). But in reality, all three parts of our business complement each other well and feed into each other, creating a robust ecosystem of startups, investors, and partners with Accelerating Asia fitting right in the middle. I look back on it and think about how crazy that time was at the beginning, but I think that work enabled us to establish ourselves and support more startups a lot quicker. 

Future Startup

What were some major challenges you faced in the early days and how did you deal with them?   

Amra Naidoo 

Working with startups is challenging in that things are changing all the time at a breakneck pace. This means that as a company that supports startups, we need to be able to adapt at the same speed, and even to anticipate potential barriers or challenges that a startup might have in advance of that happening. It also means that when things are changing with a startup constantly, the founding team of that startup needs to have the skills and personalities to adapt. It’s a challenge to be able to keep up with the needs of the founders and the business, but it’s a challenge we enjoy and is why we do what we do.

Moreover, being a first-time fund manager was a challenge when we first started. Although we had managed portfolios and investments before, we did not have our own fund. Hence I’m so grateful to the investors that came on board with our fund at the start, as without them we wouldn’t have been able to kickstart everything. Those investors enabled us to go on and raise more capital for our fund, invest in great startups, and prove the Accelerating Asia model.

Personally, the venture capital space is filled with buzzwords and acronyms. When I first started, I had no idea what people were talking about. Not because I didn’t understand the concepts – they are logical, but it’s the words that are used that make breaking into the industry-exclusive. I’ll admit, a little intimidating to participate in if you can’t speak the same lingo. Once I realized both of these things, I worked hard to upskill myself and put myself out there. Not coming from a finance background, and having gone through this process (and still going through it every day), I also realize your difference is your strength. When we look at startups from our portfolio and everyone in our team, we all come from a completely different background personally and professionally, which means we’re better equipped to look at challenges and opportunities from various perspectives.

Future Startup

Could you please give us an overview of Accelerating Asia i.e an overview of your operation, how your operation works, supports you provide, your size, etc? 

Amra Naidoo 

Accelerating Asia is headquartered in Singapore, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore licenses our early-stage venture capital fund. But we have a portfolio footprint of pre-Series A startups that cover 10+ countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Our core focus is on the accelerator and venture capital fund, supporting startups to scale and growth while also de-risking investment for our Limited Partners. The program is run by a team of experienced startup founders, focusing on goal alignment from day 1 to generate relevant and high-impact results.

We support startups through our flagship 100-days program, where startups receive investment. And we’ve recently launched a new 6-weeks fast track program, Amplify, designed for early-stage startups preparing to raise investment and looking to gain traction or wanting to take capital raising to the next level.

We also run programs on behalf of partners – MNCs, governments, and universities who are looking to 10X their startup engagement and join with an organization with an existing footprint and network in the startup ecosystem. We operate with a pretty small core team for all that we do and the fact we’ve such a strong team enables us to do more with less.


Photo by Accelerating Asia

Future Startup

How does Accelerating Asia help startups to improve their chance of success? 

Amra Naidoo 

There are a few different ways that we help startups, and it all fits together. Ultimately as an accelerator VC, all the work we do contributes to derisking startups for investors.

When you join our portfolio, you also become a part of our community and network, which includes fellow founders, mentors, partners, and potential clients. And it also includes investors, angels, family offices, and of course, institutional investors. We’ve connections and work closely with angel networks like Bangladesh Angels across the region to help facilitate connections.

We also work closely with the top venture capital firms across the region. Our startups during the cohort have direct access to partners at Cocoon Capital, Monks Hill Ventures, Golden Gate Ventures, and others. This helps to set the groundwork and build relationships for future rounds.

Startups in our flagship program have raised over S$6M within the 100-day program – often raised through our investor network and connections. Then on the growth front, startups have had on average 2.5X growth.

We also work closely with service providers and ecosystem partners, such as AWS, Google, Stripe, Enterprise Singapore, the United Nations, and more, which has helped to empower and develop the startups in our program.

Future Startup

How much has Accelerating Asia evolved over the past years i.e. if you compare Accelerating Asia today with Accelerating Asia from the early days? 

Amra Naidoo 

Well, it’s no longer just Craig and me in a random office. We have a full team that supports our startups and us. It’s a diverse group of ex-Founders, operations, program, and marketing specialists, all of who contribute to what we do in a meaningful way.

And of course, our community and founders. We’ve evolved to have such a great, strong, and supportive community from our mentors, investor partners, and key players in the ecosystem including government and corporates. We’ve gotten to where we’re because of all of the great support we receive from everyone around us.

Future Startup

What are the plans for the future? 

Amra Naidoo 

We’ve a lot of exciting things in the works, and that has just started.

There’s Amplify which is up and running with the first cohort. This is a 6-weeks program designed for early-stage founders who are looking to raise capital for the first time and who would like to 10X their approach to grow and measure traction. It’s also an excellent primer if you want to join an accelerator in the short term because we realized that most of the top programs require startups to show some traction and have some level of investment.

Next up, we’re launching Angel360, which is strictly for investors. It is an 8-week course covering the A to Z of startup investing. For this, we’ve partnered with angel networks across the region, and it serves as a means to encourage the development of the ecosystem that benefits everyone. 

For the flagship program, we’re well into our third cohort who will be graduating in November. Following that, we’ll begin recruitment for our fourth cohort. We’re hoping to expand the number of startups joining the program so we can support and invest in even more great companies.

For our fund, at the moment we’re actively working with and bringing investors on board as we’re approaching the final close of this first fund in the coming months. So on the horizon, we’re of course also thinking about what is next for 2021 and beyond – watch this space! 

Future Startup

You have invested in a handful of Bangladeshi startups, could you tell us about your experience of investing in Bangladeshi early-stage companies? What is your take on Bangladesh’s startup ecosystem?  

Amra Naidoo 

Yes, we do, we have a number of Bangladesh companies. As a startup ecosystem, Bangladesh is still developing, but it is an exciting time to be an investor there.

On the investor side of things, it offers immense opportunities for those comfortable with taking some risks. Economic growth in Bangladesh is among the fastest in Asia. Considering the country’s economic development level, the number of mobile subscribers and users combined with a fast-growing economy that is digitally well-connected both internally and externally to the rest of the world. On top of that, there are many well-educated, experienced, and motivated Bangladeshis who are building startups to solve big problems. All of these factors make the country well-suited to embrace technology to solve its challenges.

We see opportunities in the digitization of traditional industries (logistics, manufacturing), solving inefficiencies in service and product delivery (eCommerce, telehealth, edtech), and combinations of these like fintech/agritech.

From an ecosystem development point of view, it still has some way to go in, coming into its own with common industry standards and sound governance practices among founders and investors. On this front, Bangladesh still has a way to go. Still, overall, I’m excited by the energy of the founders and investors in the ecosystem and hope that we can continue to participate in its growth actively.

Future Startup

What are some mistakes startups make while raising investment that they should avoid?

Amra Naidoo 

Gosh, there’s so many! Haha and part of the reason why it’s crucial to have good advisors that you can consult when you’re out of your depth. 

The most common mistake I see being made by founders is that they’re not aware of what’s involved in terms of fundraising and bringing on investors into their business. Apart from the amount of time fundraising actually takes away from a founder’s ability to run their business, there’s much hype about fundraising and pumping up valuations with many founders not understanding the implications. TL;DR, a high valuation at an early stage is not necessarily a good thing, and the amount that you raise should be suitable for the stage you’re at. 

With regard to investment terms, there are definitely some things to avoid and keep a lookout for. My cofounder Craig developed a great resource on this – Traffic Light Terms – for things to watch for and avoid. 

When negotiating with investors, we often see startups in this region giving away too much equity too early on the cap table – remember, founders you should not lose control before Series A. 

Outside of the terms, one thing we see is that founders are not taking a strategic approach to fundraise. As a result, they approach the wrong investors at the wrong time, and that burns much energy. You also wouldn’t believe how many startups don’t have the right paperwork completed or have all the documents in order before making investments or receiving funds. This is important to protect yourself and the investor to set expectations and is essential if you want to bring on institutional investors.

Future Startup

How do you find and solicit startups for the program? What type of ideas/teams make it into the Accelerating Asia program? 

Amra Naidoo 

We recruit startups in two cycles annually, and as an accelerator VC, any startup that wants to receive investment from us goes through the application process.

When travel is possible, we run events across the region in significant cities like Dhaka, Jakarta, Manila, and Singapore. These usually include masterclasses on key topics of interest – fundraising or growth, pitch competitions, and information sessions on the program and application cycle.

Due to the pandemic, our last recruitment cycle was done entirely virtually, and we ran many webinars on topics about how to submit a winning application to capital raising and SAFE notes.

The selection process is challenging, and we often find startups giving us feedback. It’s a worthwhile experience, as they can learn what investors are looking for. For our last recruitment round, we had an acceptance rate of around 1.5 percent, so startups have to put in a well-thought-out application to make it through.

Once the applications close, the team will begin to review them. We’ll then proceed with our first round of interviews, which involves the team and the startups. This is followed by the selection week where startups meet with around 20 mentors and partners from investors, legal and financial specialists. 

Future Startup 

What types of ideas make it through?

Amra Naidoo 

We’re a vertical agnostic accelerator VC, so we don’t look for any idea in particular as we work across sectors, and right now, we work with startups across more than ten industries. But there are a few things that we specifically look for.

We target a specific maturity level that we call “Pre-Series A”. We define that as startups that already have a full team; a product used by customers; and usually some revenue traction and early investment before they come into the program. We found that these startups tend to be underserved in the region and from experience, we know that we can upskill, derisk, and qualify them for institutional investment during or soon after leaving our program. As an investor, it is also important that startups coming into our cohort are in a position to be able to incorporate into Singapore, have sound business practices and governance structures, as well as clean cap tables. This is especially important for startups looking to raise outside capital, especially at the institutional level.

Future Startup 

People often say that team/people are more important than ideas, what do you look for in a founding team or in founders? Do you think there are a set of skills or traits that are important for founders to have or develop? What separates successful startups from those who fail?

Amra Naidoo 

There are a few things we look for at Accelerating Asia in the founding team.

The team should be complete – that’s important. I don’t mean complete in terms of you have a big team. I mean complete in that the founders have complementary skill sets that are needed and capable of executing your vision. We usually advise budding founders to find someone that has a complementary skill set to yours. Some of the strongest founding teams we’ve come across have a deeper connection outside of their relationship as founders. Maybe they’ve worked together before or in some teams we’ve even seen married couples (though being married and working together comes with its own set of challenges, I’m sure!)

And diversity, because diverse teams are strong teams. It relates to the point above. A diverse set of skills and opinions reduces the chances of something falling through the gaps. It also means that different team players can help to identify blind spots. In a nutshell, diverse teams think differently, and that is important.

We also look for founders (especially CEOs) who are team players, who believe in “paying it forward” and are intentional about it. You will be helpful to the other people in the cohort and will be a positive influence on its success. In our founder surveys, about 50 percent of the value of our program is from your cohort-mates. This intentionality comes with a view of how you treat your employees and how you do business overall. We’re looking for founders who are driving a certain standard of doing business from an ethical and moral standpoint too – this is really important!

Future Startup

How do you work with your incubatee companies?

Amra Naidoo 

So, through the 100-day accelerator program, we work with startups in a variety of ways. Each week we run stand-up where startups in the cohort share progress, tips, and goals – we find that this promotes collaboration among the cohort. Then there are the weekly masterclasses with our guest experts and mentors that cover capital raising, growth, marketing, pitching, and more. We also run weekly pitch events where we partner with the region’s active VC funds and angel networks as well as community partners in the network.

Then, there are the 1-1 Entrepreneur in-residence sessions. Our startups consistently feedbacked to say that these sessions are the highlight. This is where the founders meet with our in-house entrepreneurs to deep dive into specific problems with their startup. Our entrepreneurs have raised startups and had successful exits, and sometimes we all need another experienced person to help you see things in a new light.

We also work with the founders to set up company incorporations and documentation that they need to raise investments.

Lastly, we continue to work with companies long after the accelerator program finishes, as they transition to become a part of our alumni network and continue to be a portfolio company. I often hear updates about a particular founder or startup who has just signed a new deal or hit a milestone and excitedly shared it with the team. So, we’re really in it for a long term relationship.

Future Startup 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many startup accelerators are turning to virtual setups to continue running their programs. Most notably, the requirement for physical distancing and remote working could cause a significant shift in the way accelerator programs are implemented in the region. How do you see the role of accelerators to support and nurture startups changing in the coming years?

Amra Naidoo 

As a Singapore based accelerator that works with startups from 10 different countries across the region, we’ve always made our program available online because it can be hard to get founders all in the same place outside of events like Demo Day or the international immersion.

In that sense, we’re lucky to work in the startup industry and to be in a position to adapt rapidly. It’s also one of the benefits of being a young organization with a flat structure, and we’re able to move as needed to ensure we continue to support our startup founders and create value for our investment portfolio. 

I see the role of accelerators as continuing to be about supporting startups and founders. Programs are designed to deliver high value from top-tier startup experts, investors, and mentors in a flexible format, wherever they are located, and that will remain. Maybe we’ll see some changes in terms of delivery with more online components or more virtual investor meetings, for example. But ultimately, the core role of accelerators will remain. Having said that, the startup industry changes quickly, so who knows what the future will hold.

For us, we’ve also recently launched a second type of program and expanded the opportunities for startups. This virtual program, Amplify is for startups who are a bit too early for the flagship program, and it enables them to still participate in a high-impact program that can benefit their company without the full-time commitment of an accelerator.

Future Startup

What suggestions would you give to early-stage entrepreneurs looking to improve their chance of success?

Amra Naidoo 

Entrepreneurship is a test in resilience and adaptability. Apart from that, I think it is vital for early-stage entrepreneurs to build and utilize their networks. This is where communities like Accelerating Asia or other founder communities are really important. 

Because apart from running the business, they also have to adapt to all the changes in government regulations, changing industry environments, support their teams and their personal relationships, while also remembering to care for themselves – it’s a lot of work! Having a support network that you can trust and ask for help is important. 

Future Startup

What are some sectors/verticals you bullish about?

Amra Naidoo 

The stage of companies that we invest in means that we’re taking very long term bets. It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen next year, let alone what will be happening in 10 years.

As venture capitalists, we’re essentially making a bet about what the future might look like, and by investing, we also have the opportunity to shape that future. This is why we operate across all verticals so that we can make multiple bets at once.

We like to invest in startups that are not only commercially viable and have the potential to scale exponentially but are working on innovative business models or solutions that are solving some difficult problems that the world is currently or will be facing in the future. 

Future Startup

What are some lessons you’ve learned in terms of running an accelerator program both in terms of building an accelerator program from scratch as well as about startups? 

Amra Naidoo 

Things can change quickly, and that applies to both. You have to be adaptable and act fast in certain situations to ensure your startup and business remain strong – COVID-19 is a good example of that.

Also, that no two situations are the same, everyone and every startup are different with its own unique sets of strengths and challenges. That really plays into what we do and how we operate at the accelerator level as we focus on customizing and tailoring sessions to everyone’s needs.  

Future Startup

How do you deal with challenges and stress? 

Amra Naidoo 

Early on in my career, I didn’t prioritize this enough, and it led to burnout, taking a long time to recover from.

I realized that having time with the people that I’m close to or even by myself keeps me energized and appreciative of the time that I do have with them. I’d never sacrifice that for any project. Now, not only do I prioritize my own personal time, but I also try hard to create a culture where that is ok for others to do too. Not only is everyone happier and more energized, but much more creative and productive!

Future Startup

How do you stay productive and positive as a founder? 

Amra Naidoo 

I’d say my approach in leadership is to try to create an environment that each individual can uniquely thrive in. There’s nothing better than seeing someone find their groove and excel at something that excites and motivates them, that they are passionate about and that challenges them to grow as an individual.

Future Startup

How do you start your day? What does a typical day for you look like? 

Amra Naidoo 

The thing with working in our industry is there is no typical day.

Since we’ve moved to remote work, we now have a daily 10 am meeting; usually, that’s over our morning coffees. Then my day is usually mainly meetings. I try to book them together so that I can still have time to catch-up on other things like working with our partners or investors.

On any given day, I’ll meet with investors looking to become part of our network or interested in joining as a Limited Partner in our fund. I’ll sit in on sessions with our startups – pitch events, workshops, and masterclasses. I might have a 1-1 with a startup as well focusing on their impact measurement or connections they’re looking for with B2B partners.  

I usually wrap the day with emails. And I always make sure I fit in some exercise, often in the middle of the day because it refreshes me to power through.

Future Startup 

5 books you would like to recommend to our readers. 

Amra Naidoo

  • The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  • The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks
  • The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

Future Startup

How do you think about life and work given the fact that we are mortal beings and our time on earth is limited? 

Amra Naidoo 

This is a great question! I think that when thinking about life, you should also think about death. I’m currently reading A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death by B.J. Miller, Shoshana Berger which has made me think about the more practical elements of our mortality, and that for the people that I leave behind, I want to make sure that my end is not a stressful time for them. It’s pretty morbid for some to think about, but as an example, this means making sure that I have my affairs in order and I don’t live in clutter (that they would have to deal with and sort through at the end). 

Apart from this, I realized pretty early on in my life that I want to live a life with no regrets. I also want to live a life that has been full of giving, and that leaves the world a little bit better. I don’t want to look back at the end and realized that I didn’t do something because it made me uncomfortable or wished that I had done something or made a different decision. This doesn’t mean that you don’t make bad decisions, but bad decisions shape who we’re and are made with all the available information that you had on hand at the time. It’s how I approach my life and work right now and is the reason that my career has also been so diverse – I want to be someone that’s pushing for more, continually learning, and embracing the uncomfortable. Recently I’ve been thinking about what success looks like for me and what I’d consider a well-lived life. I’ve realized that it means leaving a legacy – what that ends up being exactly, well, I hope that I’ve still got time to work on! 

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