Mentor interview with Viveka Kalidasan

We launched our Global Mentorship Programme on the 3rd of August; the Mentorship Programme is a virtual acceleration that helps early-stage oncology startups to achieve their goals and become accessible to patients as soon as possible. The mentors are at the core of the programme and without them, we couldn’t have put together such a compelling set of activities, workshops, and events.

We would like to introduce our first workshop mentor, Viveka Kalidasan who is a postdoctoral research fellow at the National University of Singapore. Viveka is an innovator and technopreneur herself, she is the perfect fit for the startups. Her unique, giving, joyful personality grabs your attention immediately even through the online video calls.


Blog_Viveka Kalidasan

Introduction: Please tell us three things about yourself (professional and/or personal)

– As an innovator and technopreneur, I develop wireless sensing (WISE) medical implants for futuristic, patient-centric healthcare.

– As a sociopreneur, through my Avantgarde-Initiatives (https://www.avantgarde-initiatives.com/), I provide a sustainable platform for people from all walks of lives to nurture their talent through life-skill based education.

– I’m a fitness and travel freak, a coffee addict, an intense reader, and a light political observer.

What’s your motto in life?

Empower others and thereby empower self.

Tell us about your current role

My day job sees me working as a Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore. I’m the innovator of wireless sensing (WISE) medical implants for patient-centric healthcare.
When I’m not looking into the product and business development of WISE, I’ll be organising events, workshops, and mentorship programmes through my Avantgarde-Initiatives, providing a launchpad for talents that are looking for a guide.

Why did you start to work with startups?

To be an entrepreneur was/ is my singular dream. If not an entrepreneur today, I’ll be an entrepreneur tomorrow. if not an entrepreneur now, I’ll be an entrepreneur again.
As an innovator, I believe, 1. there is only one way to touch lives- by addressing their needs through your innovations; 2. there is only one way to make your research useful- by productising it.

You have an impressive academic background and you’ve been in this space for some time now. How did you find it to transition to a commercial mindset from the academics?

While as a researcher, I’m thrilled to have high impact factor publications, I find them mundane and feeding the appetite of just the academic community. I believe in my invention being converted into an innovation that is tangible so that people can use, feel and be empowered.
In my lifetime, I would like to churn inventions into innovations, by productizing technologies and creating value, so as to empower the lives of millions globally.
The transition was rather smooth or in other words, I made sure, I make use of every available possibility to spin off my innovation. The right people, resources, and opportunities presented themselves to me, as I sought.

Most mentors work on a pro bono basis, so it’s mainly the startups that are benefiting from the programme. How is it from a mentor’s point of view? Is mentoring a rewarding experience?

In my personal life, I have had the best upbringing, where my parents treated my sister and me as children and not daughters. We were raised in an empowering environment. Throughout my life, as I have seen falls, I have also met people who helped me stand grounded on my feet again.
Out there, there are talents, who might lack this guidance and support system. As I had mentioned earlier, to touch their lives, is my motto in life.  And therefore, to empower others is a way to empower self. This is the fabric of my mindset any day.

What’s your motivation in mentoring oncology startups?

Cancer is arrogant and aggressive. It unites humans in its brutal way of conquering people of all ages, races, and gender. The fight against cancer needs the same unity. What more can a person who is interested in productising technologies to the benefit of humanity ask for? This is my chance to both, nurture talents that need guidance and through their products, empower the lives of cancer patients,

Part of being an entrepreneur is about learning to fail. How did you learn to embrace failure?

Failures are mirrors. They have always shown me my true self. Failures made me realise my immense potential. Through my failures, I derive my strength to fight back and stand tall.

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how is it valuable for entrepreneurs?

Be honest and straightforward to stakeholders and do not be emotionally driven when it comes to decision making. This helps in making better decisions and makes life simple.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for early-stage startups at the moment?

Finding the right technology and the right team.

You are an entrepreneur yourself, what would be the advice you give to your younger self when you started your journey as a founder?

DO NOT be submissive. Draw the fine line between being polite and submissive

Off the top of your head, what’s the one book every entrepreneur should read?

I very strongly believe entrepreneurship is an experiential education and journey.

cLAB Ventures - August 9, 2020