Mentor Interview with Lilit Hovhannisyan

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.

Last week we had our second session on resource management with Lilit Hovhannisyan who is an investment manager at Granatus Ventures. Lilit is a well-established finance and investment professional; she did not only give an informative presentation but challenged our teams with different tasks to deepen their knowledge in financial modeling and budgeting.

We discussed her career as a finance professional, her motivation to become a mentor, and more.

Lilit_blog post photo

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

I am greedy when it comes to learning and improving yourself

I am generous when it comes to sharing knowledge and helping others

I am freaky when it comes to healthy lifestyle and traveling

Tell us about your current role

As an Investment Manager of the Fund, I am engaged in sourcing and evaluating the startups, monitoring and assisting (when necessary) the operations of portfolio companies, overseeing the Fund’s operations in general. As a representative of the first venture capital fund in Armenia, I am also participating in different events, including mentorship sessions, panel discussions, giving lectures, conducting trainings.

As a business consultant I am engaged in a number of economic development projects, undertaking number of research studies, implementing value chain analyses, conducting valuations for the private business and public sector, also helping businesses in fundraising.

When and why did you start to work with start-ups?

I started working with startups three years ago. The world of tech startups is a very dynamic and challenging one, where the results of hard work and risky decisions are seen very quickly, something which can’t be said for the mature businesses. Being a risk taker myself and embracing the breeze of innovativeness that always surrounds you, it is highly motivating to work in such an environment, where there are unlimited areas to explore, learn, help and have impact.

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

For me mentorship is an investment in the future of our industry. Knowledge sharing has always been rewarding for me. It is a mutual exchange and not just one-sided activity. It gives you an opportunity to think about others and helps to engrain what you know. Contributing as a mentor and having an impact is something every human being should pursue in my opinion.

Why do you think supporting life science innovators is important? What is your motivation in turning towards oncology and supporting start-ups in the oncology sphere?

Investing in life sciences is important to gain new insights and to address societal challenges related to health and the environment. In other words, life sciences provide us with new and advanced answers to the old question of what life is.

Cancer touches us all, one way or another. But, despite the shocking statistics, there is reason for optimism. And treatment is not just about drugs. Improving cancer treatment is emphatically not just about developing and testing better cancer drugs. Undoubtedly, drug discovery is a vital part of what we all do. Cancer also needs to be diagnosed, and treatment needs to be monitored – so there are huge efforts underway to improve and speed up cancer diagnosis and to find ways to monitor the success – or failure – of the treatments. Continued research into the disease and development of new screening techniques, treatment options and medications will continue to improve the survival of our loved ones.

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

Failure is an inevitable part of life. Sometimes we learn from our mistakes, and sometimes we just don’t know what went wrong. First, I learnt to accept it. By admitting it, you literally set yourself free of the weight of it.

I do see it as an opportunity for growth, where I focus on what I do well at the same time accepting my limitations. I do not see it as a measure of my future or self-worth. While some things are out of our control, I do define failures as temporary. If we look at it properly and don’t allow it to define us, failure can be a great source of motivation and inspiration.

Eventually, it allows us to take more risks. Once we come to terms with having failed and survived, we can take greater risks. And yes, we need to change our mindset from “failure is bad” to “failure can be good and here is how to make it a tool for us now and in future”.

What’s the most important and valuable lesson you’ve learned as a finance and investment professional that all start-ups should know?

Be true to yourself and pursue what you really believe in. Be flexible to pivot.

You have long-standing, substantial experience in investment and management consulting, what do you think is the biggest challenge for early-stage start-ups at the moment and how do you see their future in business the arena?

Addressing real globally significant problems with a clear value proposition, finding a well-equipped team with complementary competences.

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

Failure and success stories of peers, seniors, the greats and YOUR OWN.

cLAB Ventures - August 27, 2020