Alex Ramamurthy tells Business Matters about why he co-founded retirement platform Mirthy and why you should ask for forgiveness, not for permission in business
What do you currently do at Mirthy?
I am the co-founder and CEO at Mirthy, a platform that is reimagining retirement. Mirthy offers a comprehensive programme of events and content library, designed to bring like-minded people together to share interests and experiences, learn new things and make new connections. It’s all about fulfilment and wellbeing.
Mirthy launched in 2020 and we now have over 30,000 users. The business is fortunate to have been supported by some top Venture Capital funds (Ascension, Ada, Redrice and True) and grant making organisations (UnLtd and Nesta). We’re a high-performing team of 12 with big ambitions.
My background spans health-tech start-ups and leadership roles within the Third sector and an innovation incubator. I am intent on solving problems in the ageing space that have a huge impact on society.
What was the inspiration behind the business?
I co-Founded Mirthy with Dhruv Haria. Both Dhruv and I witnessed the effects retirement was having on our parents. We noticed how their well-being was being affected by their decreasing social circles and the increasing inactive freetime they had alone. We wanted to bring a better solution to our parent’s lives and millions of others.
This is a hugely underserved demographic, who are feeling increasingly disenfranchised from society. While dialogue around an ageing population focuses on the growing burden on health services, my experience sees a generation of people with more energy, desire for life and time than ever before.
Our vision is to reimagine what it means to be retired. We’re starting with the discovery of new opportunities for learning and connecting through events, and the ambition is to evolve this into a game changing proposition once you’re no longer in full time work.
Who do you admire?
I admire super intelligent people, people who have the ability to easily learn and understand things or to lead and inspire large teams. People like Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg and Reid Hoffman. I also admire those who have dominated their field, like Lewis Hamilton, Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters.
The people that have inspired me as I grew up are much closer to home. My parents instilled integrity, hard work and the belief that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
There were countless mistakes made, and there will be many more to come. What’s important is that you learn from those mistakes fast and make adjustments.
I rushed into registering the company which caused some challenges down the road and also added some unnecessary admin (for example, Companies House filings). In reality, it took us over a year and several models tested before we were ready to launch. What we launched with was very different to what we set out to build.
What defines your way of doing business?
We closely follow the lean start up methodology adopting the build, measure, learn feedback loop in almost everything we do. If you haven’t read the book or are not aware of the methodology, I would highly recommend researching it.
At Mirthy, we believe in constantly improving, trying new things, and testing what works. We’re a curious bunch, always asking questions and striving to learn and get better. It makes it more challenging that the majority of the team are not our target market, i.e. we are not retired folk. So, we have to work twice as hard to ensure we are led by our users and build something that they truly need and love.
Above all integrity is at the heart of what defines my way of doing business. If you can’t trust someone, you can’t possibly have a relationship with them, whether that be in business or personal.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Be prepared for things to take twice as long as you expect and start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable! The idea you have in the early days will almost always be wrong. Whilst my vision for the future has never changed, we went through several iterations of the model in the first year at Mirthy, and then Covid struck and we had to pivot again from an offline model to fully online. If you are not prepared to be flexible, you will struggle to break through those early days.
If you can, find someone to share the journey with. In the past I’ve been against having a co-founder because I feared giving up equity. My experience at Mirthy has changed my thinking. It’s crucial you find a co-founder you can trust and who has a complementary skill set to you. Don’t rush into this, take your time to work with someone. Do you share similar values? Do they complement your skills? Do you have a similar view of the world and what you want to change? If things look good, then get going, but remember to protect yourselves. Founder conflict/break-up is one of the number 1 reasons for start-up failure. Ensure you put a vesting schedule in place for Founder shares and that you set clear expectations of each other. If you get it right, your journey will be much improved, as will your chances of success.
Finally, ask for forgiveness, not for permission – this is a mantra I follow in business and has (generally) served me well.