Wind of Change is a global e-health company offering a cloud based SaaS and analytics solution ‘Wellbeing As A Service’ to organisations. Sohini De is the founder and she directs all of her talents to make Wind of Change a huge success.
- Give a brief description of your company.
Wind of Change helps employers and employees, in both public and private sectors, improve their health, retain talent, drive productivity and save money in doing so. Wind of Change is a wellbeing programme, driven by analytics, individualised to include every participant’s medical, nutritional, lifestyle and behavioural data. The WoC platform is unique and globally scalable. Woc already has paying customers in Ireland and India, the world’s 2nd most populace country.
- How did you get the idea/ concept for your business?
I had my own serious health issues that drove me to devise the first iteration of Wind of Change, This brought me back to full health. From having had to crawl up the stairs in my home I am now fully fit and well, running a global health start-up.
Combining my trainings in both investment and nutrition I saw that existing corporate wellbeing programmes are missing a key component. They don’t deliver measurable results, they’re not individualised and fall at the first hurdle, that of getting employee engagement. An organisation spending money on employee wellbeing must be able to see a measurable return on its investment. Wind of Change addresses these issues, ensuring participating companies can see the total value and substantial savings WoC brings.
- Give a brief account of your education background.
I spent decades as an international fund manager. After my basic degree I took an MBA as well as qualifying as a CFA. Later, when I started thinking of the Wind of Change opportunity, I took a four year course in Nutritional Therapy that I passed with a Distinction.
- Did you always know/ ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?
During my days as an investment fund manager I used to work very closely with the management of the companies I invested in or those that we were considering for investments. I always loved that part of the work and seeing the different vision, personalities and their approach towards global strategies and problem solving. However, I did not think of becoming an entrepreneur till my passion changed to health and wellbeing which came to me later in my career.
- Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?
I come from a business family where my grandad set up and ran our family business from a very young age. He raised and supported not only his own family but also every one of the employees who worked in his company. From a very early age I was exposed to the idea how important it is look after a company’s employees as they are the mainstay of your business. My father also ran his own management consulting company after taking an early retirement from his job.
- Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company?
Yes, of course. I had spent years learning all about how the best companies succeed. I spent four years studying nutritional therapy, which along with my MBA, taught me an awful lot about the business…but every day I learn something new.
- What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?
I spent 18 years working as a fund manager in global equity markets. I specialised in environmental strategies and food and agriculture investments covering the entire food value chain ‘from farm to fork’. What I learnt about nutrition and lifestyle choices encouraged me to take a four-year long course in functional medicine based nutritional therapy. Completing this course confirmed to me that there is a world market in broad-based wellness that we can service from Ireland. So yes, my previous experience fed directly to my forming Wind of Change.
- How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc)
It was initially self-funded. Since then we have received support from Fingal LEO (Local Enterprise Office). We also were grant aided to create our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and our V.1 trials.
- Looking back, would you have changed the method of funding you chose?
I should have secured the SURE scheme tax relief earlier than I actually did. So, I initially put in some money as a director’s loan in the company, followed by equity investment through the SURE scheme. I should have put the self-funding through SURE from start. As I said earlier, I learn something every day.
- What difficulties, if any, did you encounter when securing funding?
Not so much a difficulty but I had to learn how to apply for funding. Every agency has different requirements and mandates. To suit everyone means making sure to articulate every single aspect of our business case. This was a very useful exercise as it is an ongoing process and as a CEO, I can never run away from it!
- Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them?
Probably every startup is cash strapped. You are trying to get people to work for free and convince them of your dreams, which will one day make everyone involved in the initial stages, millions.
Also going from a regular salaried job all my life to not earning a single penny meant cutting back on all personal expenses.
However, it is also the exciting time as you are giving shape to your passion and also looking at the bigger picture, small sacrifices don’t matter. But most importantly, necessity is the mother of invention, so our regular cash crunches encourage us to always innovate.
- What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?
Passion, grit and never say no are the three things that helped me. Whenever I face a problem, I refuse to give up and always look for alternative solutions to solve that problem. Starting a business is never smooth or easy. There are days when you feel the sky is falling and there are days when you are at the top of the world. It is important to acknowledge both the situation but also important to move on and do the work.
- To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to?
To the team, the mentors and advisors. Everyone contributed in their own way to bring the company to where it is today. Also, we are lucky to have support of NDRC, LEO, New Frontiers, Enterprise Ireland and our strategic investors, who not only provide help with the funding but also helped us in formulating our strategy and development.
- What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur?
Networking especially professional networking is extremely important for an entrepreneur and also for anyone working in the startup ecosystem. Initially when I was working from my kitchen table, networking provided that very important connection with other human beings who are in the same boat or have been in your situation. That puts a perspective on your phase.
Gradually as the idea and business progresses you get to know more people. People do business with people. The more you network, people know you personally and before you know it, you can help them or they can help you, a win-win for everyone.
- Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?
The basic essence of entrepreneurship remains the same. However, I feel as an entrepreneur I probably have more support in terms of developing my skills than what my Grandad had access to. So, it is an encouraging time to be an entrepreneur.
- Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?
Not yet. Every waking moment (and sleeping, I dream about WoC) is currently directed towards making Wind of Change a huge success.
- If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
Never say No. Be a problem solver while being flexible to change your paths of attaining your goal but never give up on that ultimate goal.