Create a balance among your roles: As entrepreneurs we wear many different hats within our jobs. As humans we have to learn how to balance the different roles within our lives — both personally and professionally. I never truly understood how much of my work life would spill over into my personal life — and that’s OK.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Caroline Gyllensporre.
Caroline Gyllensporre is a Miami based tech entrepreneur focusing on the intersection of immersive technologies and communication. Born in Sweden she moved to the US to establish a female led organization that will allow people to feel empowered and achieve their dream of reaching their best selves. Her company Lantern is building out a suite of connectivity apps, bringing people together in a meaningful way.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
Born in Sweden, I had the honor of growing up in a military family. My fathers’ work as Chief of Defense Staff and now UN Force Commander, came with constantly moving and having to quickly adapt to new environments.
During my childhood I lived in Sweden, Kansas, Belgium and Turkey. Frequently relocating gave me real insight into different cultures and fueled my passion for building meaningful products that are inclusive for people of all backgrounds.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I’ve always been curious about behavioral psychology, and what makes people think and reason the way they do. I discovered Malcom Galdwell’s “Blink — The power of thinking without thinking” and was instantly drawn to his storytelling format using a combination of questions, experiments, and case studies. His work made an impact on how I base my decisions when problem solving.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Pursuing what is meaningful to you while also making a positive impact on other people. Having passion behind your project and creating a path you didn’t have so that others can gain from you experiences.
Focusing on inclusivity and diversity is a great example. We focus on diversity not because its vogue but because our stories, our organizations, our work is so much more impactful when it includes views and ideas from people with different backgrounds. We want these opinions so that we can better understand how to create space where everyone feels welcome and appreciated.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
Lantern aims to create a more empathic world by changing the path to how we connect to one another. When the internet boom happened, as a society we became focused on earning external validation and instant gratification. In the online dating world physical attraction became the foundation (and sometimes the only factor) on which new connections were built. And that sends a very dangerous message.
We set out to create a platform that focuses on creating connections based on shared thoughts, interests, ideas and values — taking the focus off other people, and putting it back on you. We want to empower people to connect through fun, meaningful content that provokes thought and promotes individuality.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Like many single people out there, I was disappointed with the current dating landscape. I was tired of all these different apps claiming I would be compatible with someone based solely on their appearance and a few lines of highly curated information in their bios.
They all seemed to be built exclusively to satisfy men; “here is an easy process where you sift through thousands of people with no effort, centered around who is the most physically attractive”.
We needed a dating app that was truly designed for women, and not just a marketing slogan. We needed a platform that was centered around self-exploration, personal growth and achievement. That focused on real personality traits in a fun, engaging setting filled with people who are interested in deepening their connections with themselves and with others.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
Having a big dream and a vision for how to achieve it is great. But, having the confidence to execute on those dreams is a different story. Being a young female immigrant in the US work force, I never felt like I had any leverage in my employment. Companies are well aware that opportunities are scarce, employment options are limited, and they often take advantage.
When the covid crisis hit, the company I worked for asked me to keep working for deferred pay. I worked for 4 months on the promise of being paid. Payment never came. I was not entitled to the same benefits as my American co-workers, so when both my mental and physical health took a hit — I had to dig into savings to cover medical bills.
The experience taught me that as long as I worked for someone else, I would remain vulnerable. I wanted to make sure this never happened again. There are so many women in similar situations, and I feel a sense of responsibility in sharing my experience — showing others that it’s possible to break out, raise funds, build something meaningful and take back control of your future.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
Finding the right partners is everything. Our development company, Swing Dev, loved our idea so much that they came on as an equity partner after the initial development call. Being pioneers in the space they understood the established dating world was ripe for disruption. It is because of their initial investment we were able to launch with such a great first-to-market product.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Development had started six months earlier and 85,000 dollars had been spent when we received a concerning call from our developers. “We’ve run the algorithm, and what you’re trying to achieve is actually impossible.” It turns out our process was too complex and now we understood why nobody had tried to do it before. If we had realized this at the beginning of the project, we probably would have never pursued it. But because we were already so far along at this point, we had no choice but to figure it out. And we did. We achieved something that seemed technically impossible, not because we’re smarter than anyone else but because we had no other choice.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I am very fortunate to have amazing friends and family members who have always cheered me on. I really learned the importance of partnership through my parents. My mother’s support throughout my fathers’ demanding career — and my father’s encouragement towards my mother’s studies and work really taught me how to be a better partner both on a personal and professional level. I would never be where I am without their continued support and guidance.
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I can’t speak for other people, only my own observations — but as my co-founder was using the app he ran into a profile that made us both smile. A young woman had written in her bio how happy she is seeing all the diverse couples in the content on the app. We are continuously working hard to prioritize making sure that everyone is represented and feels at home. Seeing this bio served as an indicator that we were moving in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Education around what is and isn’t appropriate behavior when it comes to treating and interacting with women is a topic that is massively overlooked. The same way we educate our children and young adults on what is appropriate behavior at the dinner table, in school and the workplace — we need to have the same urgency in educating around how to interact with women in a respectful way.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
- Stick with your mission: It’s important to listen to feedback and have the ability to pivot when necessary but not at the expense of your core mission. Following our launch, we had a consultant approach us with the strong opinion that “Dating focused on you” wasn’t “niche” enough. We changed all of messaging and positioning only to realize that this took us further and further away from our core mission — and after a few weeks we had to change it all back. If your original idea doesn’t work you can always adjust it but if you completely change course you’ll never know what would have happened if you had stuck to your original idea.
- Guard Your Time: Not everyone will respect your time, and it’s your job to place boundaries around it. We had the launch of our product coming up that week, and a longtime friend called me. He wanted me to help him with a big project on the day of our launch. I reminded him that we were launching our product that day — to which he replied that he was aware, but still wanted me to spend those days on his project. I politely declined and gave him the number of a creative agency we work with. Protect your time. Protect your energy.
- Beware of the Desire to Burn Out: As startup founders, there’s immense pressure to always be working. If we don’t feel burnt out by the end of the day… did we even work? We were at lunch and met two founders. I asked what they did to unwind and re-charge, and they replied, “we don’t”. I think the concept of working 24/7 is deeply rooted in start-up culture and when my co-founder and I first started we lived by the same misconception that long hours = productivity. Consistently burning out is not a sustainable approach and hinders growth. Pausing to meditate, take a jog, read a book are as critical to your company’s success as responding to that investor email.
- Perfection never Launches: If you wait for your product to be perfect you will never get it out there. A lot of times we refine our projects over and over again because we are perfectionist, or we are afraid to launch it. When we launched our app we knew it was far from perfect and we had long ways to go. But sitting around waiting for perfection was not an option. We needed to launch with imperfection so that our first users could let us know what they wanted to see more of, and how we could improve the experience. Don’t wait for perfection. Get it out there and refine.
- Create a balance among your roles: As entrepreneurs we wear many different hats within our jobs. As humans we have to learn how to balance the different roles within our lives — both personally and professionally. I never truly understood how much of my work life would spill over into my personal life — and that’s ok. Communicating with close friends and family about what your priorities are will help them get an insight into your life and will set a new expectation of how available to them you can be. Make time outside or work to re-connect with loved ones.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Making a positive impact gives you a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Even if you fail or things didn’t turn out quite how you wanted them to. The fact that you pursued something with the intention of creating a positive impact on others is an accomplishment in itself.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Tony Robbins! I have been such a big fan of his work for many years. Through his books, podcasts and seminars he really helped me understand my emotions and how important it is to never stop working on yourself. His work propelled my desire to make a positive impact on other people — and empower others to be the best version of themselves.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!