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Dr. Vivian Chan of Sparrho: “A year in a startup is about seven years in corporate life”

“A year in a startup is about seven years in corporate life.” As a founder, especially in your first few years of growing the business, you go through this torrent of emotional and psychological experiences within a compact period, and it’s not something you’re aware of until you’re deeply ingrained in building the business. As […]

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“A year in a startup is about seven years in corporate life.” As a founder, especially in your first few years of growing the business, you go through this torrent of emotional and psychological experiences within a compact period, and it’s not something you’re aware of until you’re deeply ingrained in building the business.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Vivian Chan, Co-founder & CEO of Sparrho.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In one word — serendipity. I started on this journey focused on creating a new and innovative career path. I was searching for areas where I could continuously grow as a leader and as a person — and I saw the marriage of science and business as the best way forward.

Since college, I have been interested in the intersection of commercialisation and science, which was a niche area, and now, a decade later, is becoming a massive global market opportunity. My entire career path has involved networking, building relationships, and taking chances.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

The need for science, especially during COVID, has been crystallised in the public’s mind. At Sparrho, our aim, and not a small feat, is to democratise access to science, and this has never been more important.

The intersection of science, communication, and brand loyalty is the next disrupted space because of the desire for truthful, science-backed marketing. Science is the most potent antidote to breaking the chains of misinformation, and this is an area that hasn’t been fully explored before. Sparrho is at the forefront of this, and I’m proud that we’re seeing significant traction now.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Having a CEO coach is invaluable. This is the single greatest piece of advice I wish I were given earlier. Having a CEO coach and mentors from diverse backgrounds and skillsets has been critical in my growth as a Founder and CEO. My mentors have helped me to lean into my strengths and weaknesses during each stage of this journey, and I couldn’t be more thankful for their support.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“A year in a startup is about seven years in corporate life.” As a founder, especially in your first few years of growing the business, you go through this torrent of emotional and psychological experiences within a compact period, and it’s not something you’re aware of until you’re deeply ingrained in building the business.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

The podcast series “Startup.” When it first launched, it was so authentic and raw, and I connected with that honestly. The story of how they built Gimlet media resonated with me, and it was rewarding to hear that building a business and trying to disrupt the status quote is hard for everyone.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The vision I have for Sparrho is admittedly quite exceptional — we are trying to democratise access to science — we are aiming to empower everyone, from all corners of the world. It’s a movement, a new way of educating the public and giving access to science. It’s not something that has been attempted before, and I’m acutely aware of its impact.

I want to be able to measure the value we could bring to our users. For me, the ideal situation would be that one day we’ll hear that someone could make decisions — whether that’s a personal or professional decision — because they better understand science and could access the latest research quickly and easily to validate that decision.

Separately, I want to be a relatable role model for other entrepreneurs who want to start a business. I wish there were more honest conversations about how hard it is to be a founder, the loneliness, the highs, the lows, and how it can be fulfilling. I want to show anyone interested that this isn’t an easy road to take, but it can be done.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Just Do It — I know it sounds cliché, but I believe there is power in acting, and not overthinking things. To me, the best entrepreneurs are not afraid to throw themselves in at the deep end, and problem solve. It’s not a matter of throwing critical thinking to the wind; instead, it’s the acceptance that you have to be open to failing and getting back up again. Understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you have to be open to equal amounts of success and failure.

How can our readers follow you online?

  1. Vivian Chan LinkedIn
  2. Vivian Chain Instagram: Vivians.Chan
  3. Vivian Chan Twitter
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