Riham is a Fema-Neuro-Preneur – a female clinical neuroscientist turned entrepreneur in a male dominated start-up field. She is the co-founder and CEO of MeVitae, a cognitive recruiting system that makes intelligent and personalised hiring decisions.
Q: What is your background? Why are you doing this?
A: My background is a scientist and engineer- that’s all I have ever known until I came across entrepreneurship. I studied MEng Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London then came to Oxford to study Clinical Neuroscience. My research involved trying to model and understand the human brain (or connectome) using neuroimaging techniques. In other words, my research was trying to determine the structural and functional relationship of the brain. I was doing this because I loved blending neuroscience and technology, and my love tech got me into building a tech start-up.
Q: What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
A: Entrepreneurship is stepping out of your comfort zone. I define it as taking the biggest challenges from around the world and solving it innovatively.
Q: What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
A: I didn’t decide to become an entrepreneur it all happened by accident whilst studying at Oxford. I was going to be an Academic – study for a PhD then Postdoc then Lecturer then Neuroscience Professor. That was the plan and I was determined that nothing would change it because I wouldn’t let it, until I opened up my mouth and came up with an idea. This idea is one that I didn’t know was going to stick with me for life and as I was continuing my journey I fell in love with the start world and journey. Since then I never looked back.
Q: So what would you say are the top skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
A: There is so many I wouldn’t know where to begin but the 3 main ones I believe are crucial are:
1. Sales – it’s a no-brainer really as to run your business you must be able to sell
2. Dedication/Motivation – you should always remain dedicated so that you put 100% into your start-up. Surround yourself with people that motivate you to continue
3. Planning – a wrong step can ruin your business so sticking to a plan allows you to stick assess risk, come up with a strategy and align your budget to it.
Q: What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: I love being able to apply my strengths to different situations and continuously learning as I go along. No career gives that flexibility!
Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
A: I must say Microsoft. Microsoft seems to have it all. Graduates and women want to work there, they are always evolving with time to ensure they have a competitive edge and they are so COOL! You should definitely go to a Microsoft event and you will know exactly what I mean. Microsoft love entrepreneurs and provide so many tools for start-ups, e.g. Microsoft BizSpark
Q: If you could have 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
A: I would love an in-depth analysis of Microsoft’s company strategy from the day it began to its future plans.
Q: What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
A: Having an office at the European Space Agency. Now MeVitae has become the first ever company to use neuroscience and space technology in recruitment – it is an achievement I am very proud of.
Q: What would you say have been some of your mistakes as an entrepreneur?
A: So I made so many mistakes I lost count. My biggest mistake is taking time to release a service. The problem with being a scientist/engineer is that you become very detailed orientated as you are trying to make sure that all your experiments run well, though in entrepreneurship you need to use a lean approach; build quickly, release faster and modify as you go along repeating the cycle. It took me a while to get the hang of that and I’m still trying to grasp this simple concept. It easier said than done.
Q: What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
A: A pro and con is Oxfordshire size. It’s a small city compared to London as everyone knows everyone else but at the same time you are not reaching your full potential. I grew up in London most of my life so I’m used to noise but the first time I came to Oxford it felt like a ghost town – I like it now though. Oxford University is definitely a network worth exploiting as it has a strong name and when talking to people, such as investors they are easily impressed by it. One bad thing is that female entrepreneurs are so rare- there definitely needs to be more!
Q: If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship information or resources in Oxfordshire, where would you send them?
A: LinkedIn. Everyone you ever need to know is there. You can connect with people for information, discuss topics and much more
Q: Any last words of advice?
A: Do not forget who you are!