This Silicon Valley-based serial entrepreneur built three successful businesses before she turned 32
When Arjita Sethi was 16, she asked her mother, an entrepreneur, whether she could join her business.
Her mother ran The School of English, a Delhi-based institute that gives students vocational training in communication, language, and technology skills.
This sowed the seeds of Arjita's entrepreneurship journey later in life. After working with her mother for seven years, she moved to the US for her master’s in social entrepreneurship at the Hult International Business School in 2014, as she was keen to learn how disruptive technology could be used for social good.
“When I moved to Silicon Valley, I used that experience, along with my master’s degree, to create Equally, an AR platform that teaches kids. I run this startup with my husband, Anshul Dhawan, in San Francisco. We got venture-backed in 2018 and have been successfully growing since then,” she says. Equally already has 20,000+ users onboard and is present in 12 countries across the world.
Last year, Arjita, along with serial entrepreneurs Yatin Thakur and Upasna Dash, launched Indiarath, a 24-week long borderless incubator programme that offers personalised sessions and coaching to enable startups navigate business challenges across verticals.
Building new ideas and dreams
Her most recent venture is the New Founder School, an invite-only collective of value-driven, aspiring, and immigrant founders supporting one another in building their ideas in a sustainable way.
In her first few years in the US, Arjita had to face a number of challenges that come from being an immigrant, including visa issues and others.
“In 2019, a few aspiring immigrant founders started reaching out to me for help and I realised that many like me wanted to become entrepreneurs. Over the next couple of months, a lot of first-time founders also started asking for help. I knew that even though Silicon Valley is full of resources, something was missing for people without networks.
"So, in June 2020, I launched the New Founder School platform out of my one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. Over the last nine months, we have had over 250 founders from 30 countries graduate,” she says.
Arjita started the New Founder School as a training platform. As more and more founders started joining, she started taking regular feedback on what they were looking for. Founders started asking for legal, fundraising, marketing and branding, and accounting help.
“I knew that training would not be enough so I started adding my mentors and network to the platform so all founders at New Founder School could get help from their expertise and get answers to any burning questions they had,” she adds.
Training and building teams
The New Founders School membership platform gives founders access to weekly office hours, monthly trainings, accountability workshops, and a network of experts globally. It offers a 12-week accelerator programme for any idea-stage founder to get to their first launch, taking the founders through idea refinement, building user pipelines, creating prototypes, and finally market launch.
For founders who have recently launched their ideas and are looking for help with scaling to their first 10,000 users, it offers a 24-week incubator programme called Launch to Scale. This programme connects founders to specific mentors and custom training that helps them reach the growth stage, build their teams, and prepare for their first fundraising round.
It charges a membership fee of $10 a month.
“We have reached over 250 founders in the last nine months since we went live. The biggest factor that has contributed to our growth is my personal story of struggle as a first-time immigrant founder. I think it resonates with women in India who were looking for role models, immigrants who were looking for support, and first-time founders who were looking for their first step to build their startups. Our aim is to reach 10,000 founders this year,” Arjita says.
The pandemic was also the reason Arjita built the New Founder School. She realised how isolated first-time founders would be now during this time, and how accessibility would be at an all-time low. Her aim is to reach 10,000 founders in 2021.
Arjita offers some pragmatic words of advice for women entrepreneurs.
“Start now. There is no perfect time or place or idea, so do it now. You can figure it out while building it. You will either have an experience or an experiment. Both take you to the next level. So please, start now and I am here to help so reach out to me.”
Edited by Teja Lele Desai