On data-driven empathy and leading a startup through COVID-19, a conversation with Andra Vaduva, founder of HibooFeatured

I spoke with Andra Vaduva, Forbes 30 Under 30 awardee and CEO and Founder of Hiboo, an AI-enabled, empathy based solution that reduces anxiety and depression for women in the workplace. Hiboo provides an ally at the right time to support employee’s engagement, happiness, and productivity. In the recent weeks with the COVID-19 outbreak, Hiboo is temporarily pivoting their focus to supporting women’s work from home lifestyles and specifically to reduce feelings of isolation and angst. Andra is a first generation American. She came to the United States from Romania in 2011 to obtain her masters degree. Coming from a communist country, she was deeply inspired to extend opportunities to women and ameliorate the challenges she saw women go through in Romania. After her master’s, Andra worked in consulting and tech startups, particularly in growth and product marketing related roles, but always had a feeling of isolation from workplace exclusion as an immigrant. Instead of feeling defeated or returning to Romania, Andra sought to see the silver linings in her challenges and make a more supportive and inclusive future of work for other women. Specifically, she aimed to formulate a solution through bridging tech and empathy with the launch of Hiboo.The initial version of Hiboo personalized content to uplift people. Over time, Andra realized that powerful content could not only alter moods temporarily but also give people a more long term sense of belonging. So, Hiboo pivoted to focus on solving workplace exclusion . Corporations in the United States have spent over $8 billion on diversity and inclusion training but have made limited progress in creating palpable positive change as over 40% of employees still face workplace isolation. Hiboo aims to solve this challenge through delivering an ally at the right time to better support employees. With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, Hiboo is offering their product for free and specifically to help women working at home cope with feelings of loneliness and isolation. Andra shared advice for CEOs and founders in leading their businesses through COVID-19 and managing the morale and mental health of themselves and their teams.Apply empathy in everything you do. Be flexible with schedules as people may have children to watch throughout the day or people may have their own, distinct timelines and processes for productive work and creativity. Engage diverse perspectives to understand the unique challenges each employee may be facing. Really put yourself in someone else’s shoes to see what they are going through. Some people may be afraid to speak up, so make a special effort to hear every voice. Address the elephant in the room by opening up about the common anxiety we are all experiencing.Meet more frequently and check in with your team not just on work products but to truly see how they are feeling, professionally and personally. Think of your team as partners and not employees. Re-communicate the company’s mission and values to reconnect and realign your company to be focused on a common, meaningful goal rather than a pure transaction.Aim to keep the same routine, have a dedicated office space, and set schedules each day to create a sense of normalcy even during the otherwise chaotic time. Start the morning off by addressing the most important issues so they do not drag your work or mental health throughout the day. Take breaks throughout the day and physically step away from your office or working space when you do so. Use the time to catch up with friends on Houseparty, meditate, or take a walk. Apps can be helpful in timing and reminding you of breaks (like Calm for meditation or Apple Watch to remind you to get steps). If you have kids at home, make a plan to divide and conquer with your partner. For example, your partner may be an evening person and you may prefer the mornings, so take different children duty shifts depending on when you work best. Do not be afraid of requesting guidance, time, and assistance. Be open about issues and find release in asking for help. Listen to your intuition and have empathy for yourself. Andra Vaduva, first-gen American from Romania and a Forbes 30 Under 30 awardee, is the CEO & Founder of Hiboo, an AI-enabled, empathy-based solution that reduces anxiety and depression for women in the workplace. Their mission is to improve the future of living well and ultimately build empathy with technology. After working in tech for almost a decade at the intersection of growth, marketing, and product, growing startups from zero to level of investment, and building her own startup, Andra decided to dedicate her time outside of Hiboo to building empathy in marketing and leadership with her consultancy company, Empathy Global, where she helps entrepreneurs, predominantly women, ramp up their businesses with applied empathy and data. Andra believes that teaching the skill of acting empathetic to leaders and their communities will eventually change the world. LinkedIn: @andraradvadInstagram: @andraradvadFacebook: @andra.vaduva
Such a fun and cathartic interview! As part of my mission to build and spread empathy across companies and individuals, I'm launching a series of 1-on-1 no-BS conversations called 'Founder to Founder Empathy Talks' where I connect with women founders to talk openly about the realities of being a founder during hashtag#COVID, challenges with building a team, while managing personal life, and love. We need to know we are in this together, sometimes an “I got you, don’t worry” or “I am in this with you” can make all the difference. Want to talk? Let's connect here: Excited to e-meet everyone.