Catalytic Leadership

Unyielding Grit: How Female Entrepreneur Denzil Eden Secured $2.5 Million for Her AI Startup

May 21, 2024 Dr. William Attaway Season 2 Episode 52
Unyielding Grit: How Female Entrepreneur Denzil Eden Secured $2.5 Million for Her AI Startup
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Catalytic Leadership
Unyielding Grit: How Female Entrepreneur Denzil Eden Secured $2.5 Million for Her AI Startup
May 21, 2024 Season 2 Episode 52
Dr. William Attaway

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Embark on an enlightening journey with Denzil Eden, the creative force behind Smarty, as she shares her ascent from a child prodigy in coding to a leading light in the entrepreneurial realm. Our conversation peels back the layers on what it takes to carve out success in the world of AI productivity tools. Denzil, a former Microsoft maven with academic laurels from MIT and Harvard, opens up about the trials and triumphs of securing a significant $2.5 million funding round for her brainchild. Her narrative is a vibrant tapestry, illustrating the role of grit and the delicate art of welcoming feedback as cornerstones of her entrepreneurial philosophy.

As we navigate the ebbs and flows of leadership and innovation, Denzil and I dissect the growth mindset and its antidote to the imposter syndrome that plagues many a visionary. We discuss the magic behind the word 'yet' – a simple suffix that transforms doubt into a launchpad for learning. The practice of keeping a wins journal emerges as a beacon of self-encouragement, alongside an exploration of the shifting landscape for female tech founders. With venture capital's warming interest in women-led startups and the indispensable scaffold of mentorship, Denzil casts light on the path forward for leaders and innovators in the tech arena.

Concluding our exchange, we confront the concept of Ikigai, seeking the sweet spot where passion and skill converge with what the world needs and is willing to pay for. Denzil's odyssey with Smarty defies the myth of overnight success, underscoring the steadfast labor behind each milestone.


Ready to revolutionize your productivity? Denzil Eden is offering personalized onboarding for Smarty, the AI productivity tool transforming industries. Visit www.smarty.ai to learn more and connect with Denzil Eden on LinkedIn for exclusive insights and updates.


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About Dr. William Attaway:

Meet Dr. William Attaway, your guide to peak performance. As a seasoned Executive Mindset and Leadership Coach with nearly 30 years of experience, William empowers high-performance entrepreneurs and agency owners to conquer challenges and maximize their potential. Join him on the Catalytic Leadership podcast as he shares insights on achieving Clear-Minded Focus, Calm Control, & Confidence, helping you thrive in business and life.

Grab your free copy of Dr. William Attaway's new book, CATALYTIC LEADERSHIP: 12 Keys To Becoming An Intentional Leader Who Makes A Difference.

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Connect with Dr. William Attaway:

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Embark on an enlightening journey with Denzil Eden, the creative force behind Smarty, as she shares her ascent from a child prodigy in coding to a leading light in the entrepreneurial realm. Our conversation peels back the layers on what it takes to carve out success in the world of AI productivity tools. Denzil, a former Microsoft maven with academic laurels from MIT and Harvard, opens up about the trials and triumphs of securing a significant $2.5 million funding round for her brainchild. Her narrative is a vibrant tapestry, illustrating the role of grit and the delicate art of welcoming feedback as cornerstones of her entrepreneurial philosophy.

As we navigate the ebbs and flows of leadership and innovation, Denzil and I dissect the growth mindset and its antidote to the imposter syndrome that plagues many a visionary. We discuss the magic behind the word 'yet' – a simple suffix that transforms doubt into a launchpad for learning. The practice of keeping a wins journal emerges as a beacon of self-encouragement, alongside an exploration of the shifting landscape for female tech founders. With venture capital's warming interest in women-led startups and the indispensable scaffold of mentorship, Denzil casts light on the path forward for leaders and innovators in the tech arena.

Concluding our exchange, we confront the concept of Ikigai, seeking the sweet spot where passion and skill converge with what the world needs and is willing to pay for. Denzil's odyssey with Smarty defies the myth of overnight success, underscoring the steadfast labor behind each milestone.


Ready to revolutionize your productivity? Denzil Eden is offering personalized onboarding for Smarty, the AI productivity tool transforming industries. Visit www.smarty.ai to learn more and connect with Denzil Eden on LinkedIn for exclusive insights and updates.


Support the Show.

About Dr. William Attaway:

Meet Dr. William Attaway, your guide to peak performance. As a seasoned Executive Mindset and Leadership Coach with nearly 30 years of experience, William empowers high-performance entrepreneurs and agency owners to conquer challenges and maximize their potential. Join him on the Catalytic Leadership podcast as he shares insights on achieving Clear-Minded Focus, Calm Control, & Confidence, helping you thrive in business and life.

Grab your free copy of Dr. William Attaway's new book, CATALYTIC LEADERSHIP: 12 Keys To Becoming An Intentional Leader Who Makes A Difference.

Discovery Call:
Book your free 30-minute strategic and discovery call.

Connect with Dr. William Attaway:

Website
LinkedIn
Facebook
Instagram
TikTok
YouTube

Dr. William Attaway:

I'm so excited today to have Denzil Eden on the podcast. Denzil built Smarty, an all-in-one AI productivity assistant that plans your best day ever. A trailblazer as a solo female technical founder, Denzil carved her niche with an AI-focused degree from MIT, an MBA from Harvard and a distinguished career at Microsoft. Denzil is devoted to making your life smarter with AI, enhancing routines, automating those mundane tasks and maximizing every minute when she unplugs. Denzel plays the piano, authors fiction and op-eds and sips teas. Denzil, I'm so glad you're here. I'm looking forward to this conversation.

Denzil Eden:

Me too. Thank you so much for having me.

Intro/Outro:

Welcome to Catalytic Leadership, the podcast designed to help leaders intentionally grow and thrive. Here is your host author and leadership and executive coach, dr William Attaway.

Dr. William Attaway:

Author and leadership and executive coach, Dr William Attaway, I would love for you to share some of your story with our listeners. Denzil, I hit some of the high points, but I'd love to hear about your journey and your development, particularly as a leader. How did you get started?

Denzil Eden:

Yeah, it's been a long journey to get to this point. If I go way back, I grew up in California. I started coding very young in life. I was eight years old and I started with a language called Logo, which is just coding for kids. It was a little turtle and you would give it commands, telling it where to go, what to do. I loved it.

Denzil Eden:

I fell in love with just the logical thinking behind programming very young and kind of just pursued that passion through high school, through MIT, learned that I was a builder at heart, just enjoyed creating things from scratch and creating services or products that users loved. I took that with me to Microsoft. I started as a PM at PowerPoint and then switched to being a software engineer at Yammer because I would just miss the technical side of things. At that time I was also trying out a bunch of different careers, from being a lawyer to being a teacher to being like in politics. Just was trying to figure out what I really loved and I don't know.

Denzil Eden:

At that time I guess it felt like I needed to pick one thing and stick with it for the rest of my life, which I know better now, but it was a big part of my early career development, of just trying different things and seeing what resonated with me and what didn't, and I always found myself coming back to being a builder, to being someone who wanted to build something from scratch and create value for the users that I was serving, decided to go to business school to really kind of reflect on who I wanted to be, where I wanted to go, and I think that really shaped a lot of how I view leadership as well as like how do I believe someone should figure out their career and trajectory in life, and I came up with the idea for Smarty while I was at business school, mostly because I needed it.

Denzil Eden:

In my own life, I was feeling really overwhelmed with all of my professional work, my personal commitments, and I wanted something that could automate a lot of these existing tasks away from me, and so I started building Smartie. As a chatbot, I would tell Smartie things I had to do, and either it would add it to my to-do list or get it done if it could, and that was how I got started, and I pitched to my first investor in business school. Did not get funding, got a lot of feedback, though, and then just kept iterating, kept reaching out to that same investor, and that's how I got started.

Dr. William Attaway:

Wow, and as a first-time founder, you raised $2.5 million.

Denzil Eden:

I did Not all at once, but I've raised a total of $2.5 million. That first investor wrote my first check of $150K and it took me a year and a half maybe a little longer to convince her, but it was really through this grit and resilience and willingness to take feedback. I think a lot of the fundraising journey is just that over and take feedback. I think a lot of like the fundraising journey is just that over and over again. I think the best advice as a founder that you can ever get is that your only job as a founder is to not quit.

Denzil Eden:

You have to keep going, keep iterating, keep taking the feedback.

Dr. William Attaway:

So what motivated you to have that kind of grit, that kind of commitment?

Denzil Eden:

That's a great question, because I don't know if I would have necessarily thought of myself as a super, like gritty or resilient kid, but I think that was always there within me and I know Angela Duckworth wrote that book called Grit and I think it's true. I think, like building up that muscle to keep going, to keep being resilient is probably the number one thing you can do to predict success or to predict your ability to like find success, and I think it's something that you can work on at any point in your life. It's not something that you either have or you don't have. It comes through practice and through continued perseverance.

Dr. William Attaway:

You know I've always thought of grit as being one of the X factors of successful people. You know it's hard to say this is how you develop it and this is, but you know it when you see it.

Denzil Eden:

Yes, I think that's a good point. I think, like the best, the most successful people have had to have had moments of grit in order to get to this period of success, and I think that's true for all of the big founders Steve Jobs, elon Musk, jeff Bezos If they had given up, we wouldn't be talking about them today. And so I think that is so true that, like to reach that level of success, you have to have grit. But, at the same time, I don't think grit is something you're born with. It's something you practice. It's a muscle. You have to act on it, and it's hard. It's hard to act on grit because you don't need grit unless things are going badly. That's right.

Dr. William Attaway:

You don't need grit on the great days, right.

Denzil Eden:

Exactly so. It's a hard muscle to work on.

Dr. William Attaway:

Yeah, but it's necessary Definitely, and I want to circle back to that in just a minute. I want to talk about your journey, because coming from an engineering background and moving into entrepreneurship, that is not a common path, that is well trod, and so I'm curious like, what motivated you making that kind of a turn?

Denzil Eden:

Yeah, it's a great question, and I'm actually not sure what exactly like prompted me into entrepreneurship, because when I was in college, I did a master's degree as well, and in my master's degree, I ended up working on building this platform, which was pretty much a precursor to Slack for the classroom. It was called.

Denzil Eden:

Quora no one revises alone. And I now think back and I'm like why didn't I turn that into a company? Why did I not just take that product, try to get funding right out of my master's degree and turn that into a tech company? And it was just because I didn't believe entrepreneurship was for me. I thought it was like, not something someone like me did. It was like someone else out there who was the founder mold and I don't know what it was about, either business school or the idea of Smarty, but there was this almost inevitability to it. I was like I want to build this. It does not exist. I want to be a part of building this for the future of our world, for the future of tech, and I think that driving why is really got me into entrepreneurship. Because I was like I want this. I know other people want this, let me build it. And I think really, my takeaway now is that everyone is a founder, anyone is a founder and everyone is a founder. You just need to have something that you're passionate about building.

Dr. William Attaway:

It's a mindset.

Denzil Eden:

Mindset definitely.

Dr. William Attaway:

So talking AI for a minute. You know this is something that some people will hear, that and there's a fearful response. Right, there's some people who are more of the early adopters and early adapters where they're like ooh, yeah, let's dive in. How's this going to help? You know, I think AI is redefining a lot of our lives. It's particularly around productivity. What do you see from your vantage point as an AI founder?

Denzil Eden:

It's a great question and, I think, one. I'm very optimistic about AI. I think it is something that everyone should work on developing their AI literacy, which doesn't mean understanding how AI works, but actually understanding how to use AI in your job, in your life, both personally and professionally. I think AI is going to transform every industry that is out there today. Everything that exists today is going to be transformed by AI tools, and that's everything from cooking and gardening at your home to construction and vertical farming and transportation, like every industry, especially the ones that are extremely non-technical today, will be fully transformed by the AI tools that are coming out there, because, at the end of the day, ai is just taking past data, past activity, and creating personalized recommendations and actions based off of that, and everything in our world today has data and has activity and history that we can learn and study and improve upon. So everything is going to be affected by AI In terms of people today.

Denzil Eden:

I think the number one thing you can do to set yourself up for this future is to develop your AI literacy, and that just means understanding how AI tools work, how they think and how do you use them, and I think the best way to get started is by taking a hobby or a passion that you have and finding the AI tool related to that passion.

Denzil Eden:

So, for example, if you are a writer, play around with ChatTPT and see how it makes you a better writer. If you like composing music, there's so many AI music composition tools out there. Give it some of your music or use it to help you write new music. For artists, there are tools like Midjourney or Adobe Premiere has a bunch of like AI art tools. Give it your art or learn how to like prompt it for art inspiration so that you can make cooler things yourself. I think if you use one AI tool in one space, you'll start to get a sense of how to prompt it, how to work with it, how to make yourself better using that tool and the more time and energy you can invest in learning how AI tools work today, the more of an expert you'll be in five or 10 years.

Denzil Eden:

You'll be ahead of the curve.

Dr. William Attaway:

Well, that brings me to Smarty.

Denzil Eden:

Yes.

Dr. William Attaway:

Your AI tool. So tell us a little bit about Smarty, and what problem does it solve?

Denzil Eden:

Yeah, so AI Smarty is? Let me start over. Smarty is an AI powered assistant in the form of a conversational calendar. So what we're trying to do is create conversational commands for everything administrative that you do at work. So, for example, I can say something like coffee with Stella at Blue Bottle in San Francisco at London 2 pm time, and Smarty will handle the time zone difference, the location, the contact and automatically send the calendar invite to me and Stella, and so that's one conversational command around calendar event creation. But Smarty has a library of conversational commands that you can use to create calendar events, to create scheduling links, to create emails, to send emails, to brain dump your tasks and like have Smarty auto schedule your days. So really what we're trying to do is create this AI executive assistant that is conversational, and today Smarty is used by small business owners, freelancers, solopreneurs like me in order to help them plan their best day every day.

Dr. William Attaway:

So it's a virtual assistant.

Denzil Eden:

It is, but it's all software. So it's all trying to empower you to be better, instead of you delegating to a human being that you have to train or teach or work with. So it's really about empowering you.

Dr. William Attaway:

Wow, it sounds incredibly practical. I work a lot with entrepreneurs and one of the biggest challenges is like what is the best use of my time right now? Right, how do I plan my day in such a way that I'm leveraging the one non-renewable resource we all have our time right. How do you leverage that in a way that is most effective towards your goals, and this sounds like a great tool to help with that.

Denzil Eden:

That's exactly how I started like building Smartie. It was very much around this idea that time is a fixed commodity and you place bets with your time. Every 24 hours you're deciding what deserves your priority in time, and that's an investment into the future. And so Smarty was really for me, a way for me to understand my energy levels every day, to understand where am I putting my time every day and to see that visually in one place.

Denzil Eden:

And a lot of our customers are small business owners who have deadlines from different clients. They have all of these tasks that they have to manage and get done before a certain date, and the way that Smarty helps them is that they will brain dump all of these tasks into Smarty and you can say something like prep strategy session before the end of the month, two hours during the afternoon, and Smarty will find an afternoon before the end of the month and put down two hours of time for you to work on that activity and if you don't finish, smarty will automatically reschedule it to a new day before the deadline. So really a lot of our users are using Smarty as this AI tool to help them optimize their time. To get recommendations like this is what you should be doing today, and if you do this, you're going to handle everything that's on your plate.

Dr. William Attaway:

Yeah, I would imagine your journey is a little bit different now on this side of Smarty and being the CEO of your company. What are some of the lessons that you've learned making that transition into the CEO role?

Denzil Eden:

It is so different than being a builder, and I think that is like one of the biggest mistakes I've made as a technical founder. It was this idea of build, and they will come like me, personally getting involved in the code and writing the products, which I still do, but that isn't where my time should be spent. My time really should be spent talking to our users talking to our customers, understanding what are their needs and strategizing around our roadmap and building out how is this product going to work? What are we focused on today? How am I selling this product to new users and finding new markets, and then, on top of that, it's also just cultivating our network of investors as well, so that we have the resources we need to keep the company alive.

Denzil Eden:

And so it has been a huge mental shift for me, and it's definitely required me to embrace the growth mindset, and something that I've been really embracing recently is that the only difference between a growth mindset and the imposter syndrome is the a growth mindset and the imposter syndrome is the word. Yet. So the imposter syndrome is very much this idea of like I can't do this, I don't know how to do this, and the growth mindset is all about I can't do this yet, I don't know how to do this yet, and that either means finding an expert that can do it for me, or finding someone who's willing to teach me, or finding a way to teach myself, and I think that is something that everyone can use. A little bit more of the growth mindset, but it's easier said than done, and I think the word the yet word, really kind of anchored it for me. How do I transform my insecurities into growth?

Dr. William Attaway:

I love that. That is a word I often use with my clients to help them reframe.

Denzil Eden:

Yes.

Dr. William Attaway:

Because it is so easy to focus on what you can't do right, so easy. I can't do that. I can't do that yet.

Denzil Eden:

You can't do it yet, hold on I think it's like a magic bullet, like reframing your mindset is all you really need sometimes to get that extra motivation.

Dr. William Attaway:

Yes, a hundred percent.

Denzil Eden:

I also think celebrating small wins. As a founder, you have a lot of high highs and low lows, and so it's really important to celebrate when things are working, even if it's something small, because you never know where that momentum is going to come from.

Dr. William Attaway:

The one of the tools that I teach my clients is to use a wins journal and every week capture your wins right, I love that.

Dr. William Attaway:

And, over time, this builds a knowledge base that you can pull from, so that when you have those days and every entrepreneur and leader I know has those days when you wonder can I do this, is this any good, am I making a difference? And those feelings begin to swamp you. Okay, that's how I feel. But what does the data say? And you have a data set you can pull out in this wins journal and say, okay, well, wait a minute. When, when, when? Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah. And it begins to change your neurochemistry, you begin to change how you're feeling about this. Right, it's just a simple tool, but you're creating a different mindset through a data set, through a data-centric approach.

Dr. William Attaway:

I think that what you're describing is exactly that. It's saying celebrate the wins. And one thing I'm so glad you said is celebrate the big and the small, celebrate them all, because we all have that little referee in our head. He's like oh, wait a minute, that's not big. Like, oh, wait a minute, that's not big enough. Oh, wait a minute, I'm sorry, that doesn't count, you need to fire that guy. You need to fire that guy because it counts. If you say it counts, it's big enough. If you say it's big enough. You're the founder, you started this thing.

Denzil Eden:

Definitely, and I don't even think that's just for professional, it's also for personal. I've started to embrace that more and more, just like celebrate everything. It's find joy in life, celebrate every good thing that happens, because that is going to help you keep going, keep staying motivated, and you'll find that it like increases your momentum. And I love this idea about a wins journal. I'm definitely going to start putting that into practice right away. I'm probably going to use smarty to also do that, because, yes, you can like quickly like pull up our command menu and take notes and you can tag things like hashtag win, and so I think I'm going to start doing that and see the data over time. I love that.

Dr. William Attaway:

What a great use for a tool like this. That's so fantastic. You know I have two daughters, you know one's in college and one's in high school, and you know your story is so inspiring and I can't wait for them to hear this. You know I'm curious. You know your experience thus far as a solo technical female founder is pretty unique. How has this shaped your perspective on the field? How has this shaped your experience so far? How has this shaped how you're the field? How has this shaped your experience so far? How has this shaped how you're looking at the whole landscape in tech?

Denzil Eden:

I have so many thoughts on this, but I first want to say that high school and college is such a transformative time in anyone's growth experience as they become an adult and as they figure out what they want to do as an adult. And I'm really happy to be a role model for women that are younger than me, who I hope are like, are feeling ambitious, are excited to pursue their dreams, because it's so important to take those risks and just put yourself out there and just try. Chase the stars, because you'll still like chase the moon, you'll still land on the stars, like that medium. It's something that I really have embraced, especially as I get older. And then, in terms of the numbers, when it comes to being a female founder, it's sad there's less than 3% of venture capital goes to female founders today, in 2024. Astonishing number, and I think I've talked to a lot of other female founders about this and it's one really important to surround yourself with people who are in the same boat as you and people who are maybe a few steps ahead of you and people who are a few steps below you, because these different experiences, they can really help you both grow as a mentor, but also help you grow as a mentee and also help you just professionally in general. So I think it's really important to have that community around you. But, as we've discussed, you should also make sure that the numbers never get you down.

Denzil Eden:

Women are getting funded. More women are getting funded today than they were two, three years ago, and so really don't care about what else you're seeing. Just focus on yourself. Just continue doing what you do well, keep persistent, keep that grit, and it always, it just always comes back to grit. You just have to keep going. I think one thing like on this is that, like where you get that grit right, like what drives you, and I think it's really important to have a very clear why, like why are you doing this? Because sometimes that's all you have as, like, the reason why you're going. It's like your personal why, and so it's really important that you understand that.

Dr. William Attaway:

So what's your why?

Denzil Eden:

I really like the concept of Ikigai. I don't know if you're familiar with it it's a Japanese, I would like to say mindset philosophy, and it's really around this idea of taking these four themes in your life what are you good at, what are you passionate about, what can you do to add value to the world? Make money, like add value to your own life. And then the last one is around like and like have a high impact, like make a positive net, good for the world, and then finding that intersection of those four things. That's your ikigai, which I think really literally translates to purpose, like your purpose, and I find that smarty.

Denzil Eden:

For me today, which might not always be the case, fits under that ikigai, because it's something that I'm really passionate about, which is like AI, future of technology, future of productivity. It's something that I'm good at. I am like a coder, it's something that I'm capable of doing, and then I also have some of these business skillsets, so I believe that I have the skillset needed to make this a reality. It's something that, at least for now, I'm making money at, I can like survive and like sustain my livelihood, and it's something that I think will change the world for a net good. I love helping people figure out how to plan their best day every day, how to have this life that is fulfilling and is optimizing their time and their energy, and that's what I think Smartie can do for people, and I'm excited to be part of building that future.

Dr. William Attaway:

You exemplify such a growth mindset in everything that you've said in your journey so far. I'm curious how do you level up, how do you stay on top of your game and develop the skills that your team is gonna need you to have as a leader a year from now and five years from now?

Denzil Eden:

That's such a great question and I think it's a journey every day to learn and to grow, and it takes a lot of energy, intentional time and activity to to grow. And it takes a lot of energy, intentional time and activity to continuously grow. But I actually think I didn't always have this growth mindset.

Denzil Eden:

It's something that I've really embraced as of recently and as through this founder's journey, has really taught me how important the growth mindset is, how easy it is to stagnate and how important it is to be intentional around learning every day, and I think sometimes that is like one of the biggest and only wins I have on a day as a startup founder is my learnings, and so you have to learn to like, really love what you learn and appreciate, like the impact it has on you, because learning is such an abstract add.

Denzil Eden:

It's addition to your life. It's such an abstract addition to your life Because you can't measure it, but over time you see it, you see. Addition to your life. It's such an abstract addition to your life because you can't measure it, but over time you see it. You see how you've grown over the past year, over the past month, and it's really clear to me that the founder's journey has made me grow a lot personally and professionally, and I think that growth mindset is a big part of it. I think one thing that I try to do to actively help my growth mindset is to read part of it. I think one thing that I try to do to like actively help my growth mindset is to read and write, and I actually got some really great advice around this where if you are overthinking you should write, if you're under thinking you should read. And if you're doing both, if you're like if you're not sure, then you should do both, and I think that's like a really big part of that, like growth mindset and to continuously learn.

Dr. William Attaway:

That's really good. I love the intentionality of that. You know, I think the best leaders that I meet are people who don't just think they're going to one day wake up and, oh, I'm the leader I need to be today. You know, you realize it's a process and you value consistency and you make sure it's a part of your daily journey. So well done. I love that.

Denzil Eden:

Oh, thank you. I mean this is like very recent learnings for me as well, but I really do believe in that consistency and that growth mindset. It's funny because I'm not sure if that's more of the zeitgeist today, but I feel like when I was a kid I definitely was under this impression that you are either a superstar or you're not, and I didn't think people were working to get there. And now it is so clear to me that anyone who is a superstar, it takes a lot of hard work. It doesn't come out of nowhere.

Dr. William Attaway:

That overnight success takes decades to achieve.

Denzil Eden:

Yes, and it's so funny because I see that with startups as well too that a lot of startups are declared overnight successes, but now that I'm on this side of things, I can see wait, they were alive 10 years ago and no one was talking about them. It feels like an overnight success when you hit that next level.

Dr. William Attaway:

You know, I think some people who are listening, who are entrepreneurs, would look at you and say, wow, I mean, Denzil's journey is just up and to the right. She's never struggled, she's never dealt with what I deal with. If they were to say that to you in person, what would you say?

Denzil Eden:

I would say exactly what we're talking about right now, that it has been a journey. It still feels like there's a large, long, hard journey ahead of me and I think the only thing that has like gotten me to this point is that taking one step in front of the other to just keep moving forward, because even with fundraising, it took me two and a half years to get my first check for Smarty From like when I first pitched, to getting that first like cash into the business where I could quit and then like start working on it full time. And I think you know it's easy to like think like oh no, you just raised right away. But I had been working on this company for a long time and I hope I'll continue to work on it for a longer time.

Dr. William Attaway:

You know there's people who are listening, who are still in the early stages of that and they wonder should I even do this, should I even start a business, should I even start on this entrepreneurial journey? Do you have any advice for them?

Denzil Eden:

Yes, do it, go for it. If you have an idea, there's no reason not to get started. And actually, if I could do it over again, I would start in a completely different way. I'm not sure I would like go after venture capital and like try to raise money. I would start trying to validate the idea today, and for that you don't need anything except a little bit of time. And so I was actually talking to a founder about this today who has an idea, who also was asking me that exact question. It was like I think I'm going to give up. I don't want to like get started. And my advice to them was really like okay, you have this idea. It was a software idea.

Denzil Eden:

I was like, okay, so if I was going to get started today, what I would do is I would build like three landing pages for the idea and each one would have like a different message about the idea, and I would have the same waitlist on all three landing pages and I would try to start driving some traffic to it, either with an ad or like posting in like Reddit communities. There's so many ways that you could try driving traffic to these different websites and this will tell you which messaging resonates the most. It'll tell you which users are interested and what are they interested in, and you'll get this wait list of, hopefully, 50 people, maybe 100 people, maybe less than that. But even if you get only five people, you got five people that are interested in something that you want to build. Go talk to them, ask them about their day. Don't tell them about your idea, just ask them. How did they find out about this? Why were they interested? What is their day like? Why do they need the solution that you're going to provide, potentially provide and try to find patterns with them.

Denzil Eden:

Ideally, if you talk to 50 people, like 10 people have the same pattern, same problem. You can pinpoint exactly why they need a potential solution. You still don't code a solution. You still don't build a solution. You create a mock-up in like Google Slides or Figma of like a potential solution.

Denzil Eden:

You take it back to those five 10 users and ask them like how does this work? Does it make sense? And you just keep going back and forth, just like talking to them, iterating on your like mock-ups, talking to them iterating on the mock-ups, and then eventually you'll know exactly who you're solving a problem for, what the problem is what does the solution look like? How does it work? And ideally, by that point you have like 100, 200 users that are all telling you the same thing. You take that to an investor and you say look at all this validation. I have a customer, I have someone who's willing to pay for a solution, and if you don't even want to go to an investor, try to get these users to pay you. Tell them to invest in you and to invest in the solution. That's also a quick way to get capital and that's how you know they love the idea, because if they're willing to pay you to build the solution, they clearly really need it.

Dr. William Attaway:

So good, so practical. I love that practical. I love that you know you are a continual learner and I know that you are constantly taking in ideas and inputs. Like we've talked about already, is there a book or a podcast that you would recommend? That has made a big difference in your journey.

Denzil Eden:

Definitely Zero to One is one of like my favorite startup books. I'm actually thinking about rereading it this week. I'm kind of on like I'm not on a spring break, but I'm thinking about like going on a reading spring break and that's a book that I've been thinking about reading a lot recently. And then I've heard really great things about Crossing the Chasm, so that's also on my like current book list right now. These are very much like entrepreneurship, founder journey focus, but that's just like where I'm at in my own journey. So those are like two books that are really top of mind. And another one that I've heard really great things about I have not read is Thinking Fast and Slow, and it's very much around like how does your brain work? And around this idea of like learning.

Dr. William Attaway:

You know, I have not read any of those three and they just made my list, thank you.

Denzil Eden:

Happy to help. I really think for founders, Zero to One is a really good practical book.

Dr. William Attaway:

Outstanding. I'll check it out.

Denzil Eden:

Amazing.

Dr. William Attaway:

So often people walk away from a conversation like this, an episode like this one with one big idea. If you were going to define what you want them to walk away with, what the one big idea is, what would you want? Going to define what you want them to walk away with, what the one big idea is, what would you want that to be?

Denzil Eden:

Don't be afraid to follow your idea or your dreams, or to take that risk. There are so many things in your life that provide a foundation to fall back on, so it's always worth it to have that high risk, high reward possibility and even if it doesn't work out, the learnings will be more than worth it.

Dr. William Attaway:

I know our listeners are going to want to stay connected with you and continue to learn from you. What is the best way for them to do that?

Denzil Eden:

Please find me on LinkedIn, it's Denzil Eden. And then please try out Smarty, where the website's www. smarty. ai, and you can try out the product and give me feedback. I'd love to give you a personalized onboarding as well. Come reach out.

Dr. William Attaway:

I love it. I'm going to go check this out. This sounds fascinating. I'm such a productivity nerd. I'm all the time looking for ways to do it better, so I appreciate the invite.

Denzil Eden:

Definitely, please try it out, give me feedback.

Dr. William Attaway:

Absolutely. That's how we get better right.

Denzil Eden:

Exactly. Oh, excuse me, that's another learning. Don't shy away from feedback.

Dr. William Attaway:

Yes, feedback is a gift.

Denzil Eden:

Feedback is a gift. It kind of hurts when you get it sometimes, but it is so worth it.

Dr. William Attaway:

You know, framing it that way, framing it as a gift, is truly a way, I think, to develop a mindset that not only receives it but wants it, and there's a difference.

Denzil Eden:

I agree, there is a difference.

Dr. William Attaway:

Denzil, thank you. You've been so generous today with your time and with your insights from your journey. I can't wait to see what's next for you.

Denzil Eden:

Thank you so much for having me.

Dr. William Attaway:

I had a lot of fun. This was great. Thanks for joining me for this episode today. As we wrap up, I'd love for you to do two things. First, subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss an episode, and if you find value here, I'd love it if you would rate it and review it. That really does make a difference in helping other people to discover this podcast. Second, if you don't have a copy of my newest book, catalytic Leadership, I'd love to put a copy in your hands. If you go to catalyticleadershipbookcom, you can get a copy for free. Just pay the shipping so I can get it to you and we'll get one right out.

Dr. William Attaway:

My goal is to put this into the hands of as many leaders as possible. This book captures principles that I've learned in 20 plus years of coaching leaders in the entrepreneurial space, in business, government, nonprofits, education and the local church. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn to keep up with what I'm currently learning and thinking about. And if you're ready to take a next step with a coach to help you intentionally grow and thrive as a leader, I'd be honored to help you. Just go to catalyticleadershipnet to book a call with me. Stay tuned for our next episode next week. Until then, as always, leaders choose to be catalytic.

Intro/Outro:

Thanks for listening to Catalytic Leadership with Dr William Attaway. Be sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts so you don't miss the next episode. Want more? Go to catalyticleadershipnet.

From Coding Prodigy to Tech Entrepreneur
Unlocking Productivity: AI's Role in Redefining Our Lives
Denzil Eden's Journey as a Solo Technical Female Founder
Growth Mindset: Continuous Learning and Personal Development
Starting Your Journey with Confidence and Practical Steps