Did you know that in 2021, only 2% of all awarded capital in the UK went to female-founded businesses? Mindbeat’s CEO and Co-founder, Elisa Krantz was part of that 2%. She discusses her journey of global resilience and hard-fought entrepreneurialism with Mike Fletcher.
Mindbeat’s Elisa Krantz (or Ellie as she’s happy to be called) undoubtedly has the entrepreneurial family gene.
Her late Swedish grandmother was a pioneer for women succeeding in business, overcoming the male-dominated worlds of venture capitalism and golf to build what became one of the largest golf courses in the Nordics at the time.
Her Maltese family meanwhile built a property and cross-industry franchise organisation in Malta. Much of her teenage years on the Mediterranean island were spent listening to stories around the dinner table of her family’s businesses, which introduced luxury car marques such as BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Audi to the people of Malta; plus beverages including Coca-Cola, Schweppes and several well-known beer brands.
Perhaps though, what sets Ellie apart from other successful female entrepreneurs is how the blend of different nationalities in her life, (she moved from living on the Swiss-Italian border to Malta at age 10, has a Swedish father, Maltese mother and an Australian husband), informs her identity as a global citizen and ensures she never lets borders get in the way of new opportunities.
For instance, the idea of Mindbeat first came to her as a 29-year-old, sent to India by YSC, a CEO advisory and leadership consultancy she’d worked for during spells in London and Hong Kong.
“It was my first leadership and P&L role and although I had people who supported me in-house, there was no structured mentoring or outside guidance in place,” Ellie recalls. “I had to learn through intuition and by leaning into my relational values. I just thought, wouldn’t it be great if I had an external coach or mentor whom I could talk to about issues I can’t speak to my colleagues about, and who knows how to navigate the cultural nuances of starting a new business in India?”
Much of Ellie’s experience at the time was in leadership consultancy, working with CEOs and senior leadership teams to provide coaching, develop more effective workflows and advise on cultural change.
“I noticed that, while the work we did at the top-end of organisations would be impactful and effective, when you took a pulse-check with people over time, four to five layers down into the company not much ever changed,” Ellie admits. “The ‘trickle-down’ approach simply doesn’t work in isolation. To truly make change happen and to make it stick, it needs to be driven from the inside out so that it permeates the wider workplace ecosystem. This is where coaching and technology, which are strongly aligned to the needs, cultural imperatives and language of an organisation have such a transformational role to play.”
The Mindbeat seed germinated for ten years until Ellie began working with her co-founders, Joanne Payne and (for the initial 18 months) Mike Stivala, who would help her by recruiting a network of brilliant coaches and by building the technology.
Their first client was a high-profile retailer who needed digital coaching and development for store managers and district managers.
“The speed at which we built the initial platform and recruited our first 60 coaches was like jumping out of a plane and building the parachute on the way down,” she exclaims. “For the first time, managers had coaches working shoulder-to-shoulder with them to implement learnings into day-to-day business practices and to hold them accountable for driving cultural change.
Ellie and her start-up team had raised initial funding with anchor investor Go Ventures, which specialised in supporting and accelerating technology start-ups in Malta.
Following her return to London, Ellie faced her toughest challenge yet – raising more start-up funding within the UK’s male-dominated VC markets to realise her Mindbeat dream of further expanding the business.
She explains: “In 2021, only 2% of all awarded capital went to female-founded businesses so it was, and still is, incredibly tough for women launching a business and seeking VC funding here in the UK.
“I experienced a powerful dynamic at play in the UK’s fund-raising world – predominantly male networks that can be hard to break into, coupled with unconscious female gender traits when pitching, such as being overly cautious, risk-averse and not over-inflating your figures.
“If you’re not aware of this, as a female entrepreneur you expose yourself to a form of gender bias. On the one hand, you run the risk of being seen as ‘not being ambitious enough’ while on the other hand, investors tend to halve your projections or valuation, partly as a negotiation tactic and partly because they assume the majority of people who pitch inflate the potential.”
“It’s a cultural dynamic that needs to change,” Ellie continues. “I’d like to see the UK Government do more to bridge the gender divide and find new ways to encourage female entrepreneurs into business without them having to be untrue to themselves or the value they place on their business idea.”
Since then, Mindbeat’s digital coaching offer has had a hugely positive impact on the measurability of organisational change.
It has led more companies to understand the commonality between stronger leaders, thriving teams and better business. Supporting business transformation and supporting individuals earlier in their careers can now go hand-in-hand.
Looking back, Ellie says it was her Swedish grandmother’s achievement of turning the property she’d inherited into a renowned golf course that had always made her feel that anything was possible.
As for the future? Ellie smiles: “I always say, we’re not in the business of coaching, we’re in the business of change and growth. Our technology and content will keep evolving and with our fantastic team of people and the best coaches from across the world, we’ll grow a company that makes a real difference.”