…The most difficult thing to learn is to listen. To put yourself and your biases aside and to be present and to truly listen to what your team members have to say. I have only started to hear more, it is incredibly challenging to not instantly judge ideas. One good way to prevent that is to use more data and to test every important presumption.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ada Jonuse. Ada is the chief executive officer and co-founder of blockchain startup Lympo, which has just released an app motivating people to be healthier by rewarding Lympo Run app users with its own cryptocurrency. Before diving into the startup world Ada worked in international politics including the German Parliament, the European Parliament and the United Nations. Ada is a passionate entrepreneur awarded with the New Europe 100 emerging European tech star award, Women Tech Leader of 2018 for Lithuania, her home country, and spends her time between Berlin and Vilnius.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for inviting me! Actually, the story starts with my failed political career in my home country of Lithuania. I was even running for a parliament seat at that time! When that did not work out, I was searching for a new start and I got this proposal to co-found a startup helping people to find the best personal trainer. I strongly believe that living a healthier life can make us happier, I saw the bigger vision. That was the beginning of Lympo. Last year, I got very interested in the new exciting blockchain technology and this is how the idea to create an ecosystem powered by the user-generated, user-controlled healthy lifestyle data was born. We have just launched the first version of the Lympo Run app where people can earn our crypto tokens by running or walking.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Oh, there are so many stories! I can share the most rewarding experience that I had so far with Lympo: This was last year, when I met my two current business partners in Marius Silenskis and Tadas Maurukas. I hired their team to help to conduct a token sale for Lympo and in the end we went through such an extraordinary journey together that Marius and Tadas closed their former business and stayed with Lympo as Head of Product and Chief Strategy Officer, respectively. Meeting such special people and working together to reach one goal — no matter what — gave me a chance to experience how good teams can create miracles not only because of a great skill set, but because of some chemistry that is produced within a team, some kind of extra dimension.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It is not exactly a mistake, but when the company was founded we worked on the first product called “Lympic”. Until one day the National Olympic Committee called us and threatened to sue, because it was too similar to their trademark. We had less than a week to think of a new name, to get new domains, to rename the social media channels and to redesign the logo and the website. That was not funny at all at that time. While “Lympo” might sound like a strange name, it is memorable and funny. Recently, the NBA star Dirk Nowitzki shared a picture with Lympo logo and a witty comment on his Twitter account! I love our new product name and we avoided big possible future troubles. From this situation I learned that something that looks like a tragedy might not necessarily be one, and that in the end a crisis can lead to really great results.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At Lympo, we are working in a completely unknown area using blockchain technology in the healthy lifestyle data industry. At the same time, we operate in the evolving regulatory environment dealing with a lot of uncertainty in all business aspects. This is extremely challenging sometimes. But the whole team is so motivated by our goal to inspire people to become healthier and happier. Our ambassadors include the world’s №2 women’s tennis player Caroline Wozniacki and the NBA club Dallas Mavericks. Running a crypto startup is like being in never-ending emergency mode, but when I saw thousands of people using the Lympo Run app in the 15,000 runners VIlnius marathon, in Lithuania where we tested our product, I knew it was all worth it.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Right now, we are working full speed to prepare the Lympo Run app launch in the United States. I believe that having this extra bit of motivation that Lympo gives crypto tokens that can be exchanged for goods on our marketplace, for example, new running shoes, can help many people to form healthier habits and change their lives for the better.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Stop questioning yourself, start acting. There will never be an ideal moment when you feel ready. No one feels ready until they actually do things.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Team management has no genders. All leaders have to find their own style. At Lympo, I experiment a lot with collective leadership letting teams and team leaders to steer their processes independently and to learn by doing. This means a lot of responsibility for teams which might be hard sometimes, but I believe that this is the only way to considerably increase team competences in a very short time. I have also made all salaries transparent to everyone else in the company. We have processes to make sure that every team member can contribute their ideas to all other teams, so that we use all creative minds in the company.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The person who inspired me to lead this company is Antanas “Tony” Guoga, a Member of the European Parliament, a former poker star and also our seed investor. Tony has always supported me and believed that I can make things happen. This empowered me a lot. Recently, I made a big mistake related to the company’s management. Tony’s response was: “I’m with people who make mistakes, because I’m so imperfect myself. You have to now learn how to deal with that. Focus on this.” In that situation it was very important for me to learn that it is not the mistakes what defines us, but rather how we manage them.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I hope that the business that I lead with the mission to inspire healthy lifestyle can really make a considerable impact in this world.
What are five leadership lessons that you have learned in your experience?
1. Be humble. Everyone makes mistakes. You will make them as well. Being humble will help you to deal with that honestly and openly in a team. If a leader creates an image of being always right, every slightest mistake will hurt. Besides, being open about the wrong decisions will encourage others to share theirs. That will prevent big future problems.
2. The most difficult thing to learn is to listen. To put yourself and your biases aside and to be present and to truly listen to what your team members have to say. I have only started to hear more, it is incredibly challenging to not instantly judge ideas. One good way to prevent that is to use more data and to test every important presumption.
3. Decide what is important. Stick to the important things, because only your belief will make them happen. Leave the details aside. So many people will be giving advice and sharing their opinion on your work. It is crucial to not get destabilised by that and to find the right balance between using the lessons learned by others and choosing your own way. Just because someone succeeded in a certain way, it doesn’t mean that this will be true for your company. Innovation happens when businesses find paths that no one else took before.
4. Find the right people to build the company with. At Lympo, we value the interplay of two things: skills and dedication. Skills can be learned quickly, especially, if the teams and team leaders are trusted. Dedication and motivation is very hard to inspire. Search for people with a sparkle inside them, this will make all the difference.
5. Have fun. “Life is too important to be taken seriously”, said Oscar Wilde. I could not do anything with passion without having fun. A startup is a community. People enjoy being in a community with a purpose. Fun is just as important.
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?
I am inspired to create a worldwide network of women professionals to make more women leaders seen in the public and to use these role models to open up opportunities for girls around the world. It is impossible to reach a goal that you cannot imagine. The first step towards a great achievement has to happen in your mind. This is often the most difficult step. Once women and girls realise they can be whoever they want to be, we will see a massive change. Diversity is good for everyone and it is proven that diverse teams contribute to a better business outcome. We need more diversity in so many fields including blockchain which is very strongly dominated by men.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson?
“Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing,” Oscar Wilde said. This quote helped me to understand that everything what we experience is valuable. The worst thing is to get stuck and do nothing. When I face big challenges, I think: “Ok, now I’m one step further. I survived this as well.”
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Thank you so much for these inspiring insights!