Why did you start Awato? What is it about Awato that makes you want to invest your time in it?
I spent most of my life thinking I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up. I went to a small liberal arts school and majored in English. I took the pre-law classes and minored in philosophy all to that end.
But three years into my undergraduate, I realized that law wasn’t the path for me. With my English major, I tried my hand at journalism my junior summer. I didn’t think reporting was a fit for me. I didn’t want to teach and I wasn’t sure about the relevance of my English degree.
I entered my senior year petrified about what life after college held for me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that overwhelming feeling of dread.
So, a year and a half after college, I co-founded Awato to make sure other students never had to feel that same anxiety.
Working on helping people find a pathway to their career continues to energize and excite me, four years into the journey. I’ve found that as we continue to expand our impact, our entire team is more resolute in fulfilling our mission of creating a world where every learner reaches their full potential.
What are the most important traits for an entrepreneur?
Persistence and storytelling. Entrepreneurs need persistence because there are so many unforeseen obstacles between them and bringing innovation to their customers. Even the best ideas will encounter setbacks and tons of “nos” that an entrepreneur will need to push through to prove the importance of what they are doing.
Similarly, an entrepreneur needs to be able to convince a number of different stakeholders(customers, investors, employees) to join with them. Their success in doing this will largely come down to storytelling. Can they convince others that what they believe in and where they are going is worthwhile?
Finding a way to make people feel emotionally connected to a startup is key and stories are how people connect.
What’s one piece of information you know now that you wish you had known when you started your company?
The importance of understanding a customer’s pain over your solution. It can be hard as you set out working for months on a new product to focus on the root problem you’re trying to solve but your customers don’t care about what you’re building, they care about how it solves their problem.
For us, our first solution was a step in the right direction but it didn’t solve our customers core needs. It took dedicated time, learning and speaking with our customers, to understand what sort of challenges they needed addressed in a product.
It can feel strange to go into customer meetings without the intent on selling them what you’re building, but it can be key to building exactly what they need. Listening; just listening and not selling can make all the difference.
What do you like to do in your free time away from Awato?
When I’m not working I spend time with my family and friends and get outdoors. In the winter, I love going snowboarding all over New England and occasionally out in Colorado. In the summer, I enjoy running and hiking in New Hampshire’s presidential range. New Hampshire is the perfect place to get outside and enjoy nature.
Entrepreneur Matt Guruge Co-Founded, Awato, which offers a comprehensive platform for career assessments, career and degree matching, and guided pathways.