Julie Chakraverty began her career on the trading floor. She quickly blazed a trail in the male-dominated sector, rising through the ranks to become the youngest female director of a FTSE 100 company. She left her role as a board Member of UBS Investment Bank to start her own business, work-life advice app Rungway, after seeing an opportunity for technology to offer personalised support for those needing relevant career advice, fast.
Chakraverty believes that she wouldn’t have achieved her career milestones if she hadn’t sought out insights and short-cuts from people outside her personal network, she tells GrowthBusiness. Here’s her story.
What does your business do?
Rungway is changing the way people give and get help, in work and life. The platform is a new way to ask questions and give bite-sized advice. You can ask publicly, or anonymously. It’s really easy.
We have an open community, where everyone can benefit. We also provide closed groups and talent insights to businesses who wish to empower their employees with “peer-to-peer” learning and support.
It can be hard to admit you need help. Anonymity is the ultimate equaliser! We see a really wide range of discussions, ranging from career development to wellbeing. Businesses focused on culture benefit from the sentiment analysis Rungway brings.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
As a young woman starting out on a trading floor in the early ‘90s, I was always aware of being different. This was the archetypal male-dominated environment, so diverse role models were few and far between, and establishing a professional network was tough. This was before LinkedIn! The challenge of making everyone feel included became a conscious part of my thinking early on and it has stayed with me since. Also, I’m a regular provider and seeker of advice myself, and noticed it typically takes weeks to get a face-to-face meeting in people’s diaries. I created Rungway as I was convinced there had to be a digital solution for sharing fast, bite-sized advice – the “virtual” grab a coffee! So, I formed the company and built the platform. The response so far has been fantastic.
How did you know there was a market for it?
I feel very privileged that as well as being a start-up founder, I’ve also had a range of board roles in large organisations. This gives a unique perspective into the most pressing corporate challenges and the sorts of solutions that companies are currently seeking within culture and talent. At the individual employee level I also carried out my own research which found one in five women said they fear they will be seen as a pest if they ask for advice on work and career issues, while one in 10 UK workers said they feel like they have no one to talk to about work problems.
Since launching the platform, the response so far from both individuals and companies has been really positive. Individuals face multiple challenges navigating the changing world of work, and companies and boards need to empower their workforces while understanding what’s on people’s minds.
How did you raise funding, and why?
To raise funding, the co-founding team decided to capitalise the business themselves, as we wanted the freedom to develop the platform and the business on our own. We are fortunate to have a strong board who give us wisdom and challenge!
Describe your business model in brief.
The platform is free-to-use in open groups for the general public and can be also used by closed groups that are only accessible to employees of companies that pay for a subscription. Employees benefit from additional functionality whilst their companies benefit from strengthened employee engagement and new talent insights, from trending topics to workplace sentiment.
Your lowest point was…
As an entrepreneur, you need to steel yourself for plenty of rejection – whether from prospective clients, team hires and of course investors. It’s not always been easy and you do need a reserve of inner strength and self-belief to keep going.
Your highest point was…
Starting Rungway, of course. I believe that deliberately taking twists and turns within your own career journey will allow you to build up new skills and ideas, and help you be a different kind of role model too. For me, I’m proud that my daughter gets to see me trying new things, taking new risks, and exploring different environments.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
While it’s easy to come up with great, disruptive ideas, actually executing these ideas and creating a business is very hard. My advice is to set your goals high though. Lack of confidence leads to missed opportunities so I urge people starting out to take chances. The world of work is changing and if you find your voice you will achieve amazing things.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
The changing world of work has both good and bad consequences. Disruption, automation and transparency over gender pay gaps for example are causing discomfort and new solutions are required to tackle these. I want Rungway to become the “go-to place” when you need help, feel self-doubt, or worry that you just don’t fit in at work. There are so many people out there with years of work and life experience, but it’s not being utilised. Rungway matches these people together, and reduces workplace stress.
If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you would be…
A concert pianist! It is what I thought I would be as I was going through school, and in fact one of my proudest moments was performing a Shostakovich piano concerto with an amazing orchestra when I was 18.
If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?
There is no point looking backwards. We all learn from both our successes and our mistakes. You are where you are – what matters is what you do next.
What is your philosophy on business or life, in a nutshell?
We all have different motivators in our careers, and expectations of where we want to get to. But with new entrants into the job market now needing to prepare for a 60 or even 70-year working lifetime, even those of us in our 40s could be planning a 30-year journey still ahead of us. It’s so important that you are flexible and learn new skills.
None of our careers have a rule book any more. Take risks and don’t be worried about what other people think or don’t think. You’ll surprise yourself with what you achieve.