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Think at the global scale: Phase One Ventures CEO Mahesh Muralidhar talks next steps for young Kiwi entrepreneurs

25  October 2022

Mahesh Muralidhar has held multiple executive roles in some of Australia’s iconic start-ups. He was the first-ever Head of People at Canva, helping the company scale to over 200 employees, and also worked at Simply Wall St as their Chief Operating Officer. He is now the founder and CEO of Phase One Ventures, an early-stage venture firm.

Muralidhar is now on a mission to make young Kiwis who are interested in entrepreneurship and innovation be more audacious. As part of this, he is a mentor for CIE’s mentor sessions and a volunteer adviser at Start-up Studio programme run by the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). Muralidhar leads regular sessions advising students on how to progress their ventures.

Thinking bigger is important

“Something that I talk about a lot is that New Zealand has a very strong entrepreneurial streak and mindset. I mean the economy is full of SME’s.

“I know the potential that Kiwis have. I am a reflection of that — my success is a reflection of that. I also know what New Zealand lacks, which is access to ambition, to audacity.

“We are comfortable with a ‘New Zealand-first’ mindset. As in ‘we will conquer New Zealand first, and then here, and then here, and then finally the globe.

“There needs to be far more individuals and businesses that are ‘global-first.’ We need to think bigger, think ‘we will conquer globally’, right from the start.

“The reason why I ended up working with CIE is that CIE is one of a few places where it’s Ground Zero for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. University students are open, ambitious. They have access to audacity — they think about the global scale.”

So how can young people think big?

“For young people I really encourage two things: engagement and intention.

“Engage with anyone and everyone. Think about who you can easily access and talk to them. It’s really important for young people to know what’s possible and engage at performance which is on a different level to what they might already know.

“The second thing is to be intentional about what you want. Be purposeful, consider what is important to you and what your first principles are, and approach tasks with intention.”

What questions should young people interested in entrepreneurship ask?

“I want the students I work with to ask me: how big can I go? Who do I speak to achieve my ambitions? How do I dream bigger? Can I talk to you about how I want to change the world?

“It’s also important to be brave and have an honest conversation, too. How hard is it going to be? What do I actually have to do? What are the next five steps? What is step 1? Just come to the conversation with purpose.”

What is one piece of advice you could give a young person, looking to start their entrepreneur or innovation career?

“Young people can achieve anything they want. Truly. The world needs to keep getting better at solving numerous amounts of problems — so the world is desperate for you to be successful. Think big and make an impact.”

Start-up Studio, where Mahesh mentors, is a community of student innovators and start-ups using CIE’s Unleash Space as their place of work. In addition to a buzzing, free co-working space, members receive mentoring, professional development, networking opportunities, and more. You can find Mahesh, or mentors like him, by signing up to Start-up Studio.

University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education
University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education

25  October 2022

Mahesh Muralidhar has held multiple executive roles in some of Australia’s iconic start-ups. He was the first-ever Head of People at Canva, helping the company scale to over 200 employees, and also worked at Simply Wall St as their Chief Operating Officer. He is now the founder and CEO of Phase One Ventures, an early-stage venture firm.

Muralidhar is now on a mission to make young Kiwis who are interested in entrepreneurship and innovation be more audacious. As part of this, he is a mentor for CIE’s mentor sessions and a volunteer adviser at Start-up Studio programme run by the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). Muralidhar leads regular sessions advising students on how to progress their ventures.

Thinking bigger is important

“Something that I talk about a lot is that New Zealand has a very strong entrepreneurial streak and mindset. I mean the economy is full of SME’s.

“I know the potential that Kiwis have. I am a reflection of that — my success is a reflection of that. I also know what New Zealand lacks, which is access to ambition, to audacity.

“We are comfortable with a ‘New Zealand-first’ mindset. As in ‘we will conquer New Zealand first, and then here, and then here, and then finally the globe.

“There needs to be far more individuals and businesses that are ‘global-first.’ We need to think bigger, think ‘we will conquer globally’, right from the start.

“The reason why I ended up working with CIE is that CIE is one of a few places where it’s Ground Zero for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. University students are open, ambitious. They have access to audacity — they think about the global scale.”

So how can young people think big?

“For young people I really encourage two things: engagement and intention.

“Engage with anyone and everyone. Think about who you can easily access and talk to them. It’s really important for young people to know what’s possible and engage at performance which is on a different level to what they might already know.

“The second thing is to be intentional about what you want. Be purposeful, consider what is important to you and what your first principles are, and approach tasks with intention.”

What questions should young people interested in entrepreneurship ask?

“I want the students I work with to ask me: how big can I go? Who do I speak to achieve my ambitions? How do I dream bigger? Can I talk to you about how I want to change the world?

“It’s also important to be brave and have an honest conversation, too. How hard is it going to be? What do I actually have to do? What are the next five steps? What is step 1? Just come to the conversation with purpose.”

What is one piece of advice you could give a young person, looking to start their entrepreneur or innovation career?

“Young people can achieve anything they want. Truly. The world needs to keep getting better at solving numerous amounts of problems — so the world is desperate for you to be successful. Think big and make an impact.”

Start-up Studio, where Mahesh mentors, is a community of student innovators and start-ups using CIE’s Unleash Space as their place of work. In addition to a buzzing, free co-working space, members receive mentoring, professional development, networking opportunities, and more. You can find Mahesh, or mentors like him, by signing up to Start-up Studio.


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