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HBS Entrepreneur Building Tech-Led Solution for Soft Skills

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Pallavi Chadha (MBA ’24) interviews Jashin Lin (MBA ’23) about her startup Growbie, which offers international students the ability to network and build leadership skills effectively.

Pallavi Chadha, Community Editor

Jashin Lin, Contributor 

Tell us about your background and your company. I am the founder and CEO of Growbie, a personal development platform that democratizes career access for immigrants in America by building power skills. Our mission is to unleash human potential. Our first phase focus is teaching international students how to network through courses, coaching and community.

Courses We are a content platform like MasterClass with a focus on Power Skills. Our first foray is networking. We have researched and designed a comprehensive networking framework to master networking. We successfully completed our first Networking Bootcamp in September with tremendous learning outcomes: 100% of the cohort agree they became better networkers; 91% of the cohort strongly agree that they have the courage to reach out.

Coaching We are a coaching marketplace that enables personalized suggestions to improve networking skills. We do that by matching world class leaders from Fortune 500 companies and students who are eager to break in particular industries and career paths. Over the summer, we conducted over 25 one-on-one sessions indicating a high net promotor score and willingness to pay.

Community This is the “secret sauce” that makes Growbie special. G Club is the first ever social network in the US for driven international students to connect, network, and learn from each other. We develop extensive network programs, skill development workshops, and a community of like-minded peers who want to be better.

First Growbie Networking Bootcamp

Prior to HBS, I was at ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok to help with its internalization effort to inspire creativity and bring joy. I was the number three employee on the Global Business Development, Distribution team. I collaborated with senior executives to globalize ByteDance from China to over 40 countries and drive user growth and app engagement. Before ByteDance, I was a management consultant for three years advising Fortune 500 clients to drive profitability through various cost reduction programs.

What unique challenge is your company looking to solve? It takes 298 job applications for international students, compared to 23 for American students, to land a job in the US. However, 73 percent of international students want to work in the US post graduation, and only 20 percent of them are able to stay.

What’s the problem? 80 percent of the jobs in the US are filled through networking, yet we have no idea what to do since networking is such a foreign concept to us international students. The reason is due to differences in education systems. Most education systems in the world are academics-driven, or more specifically, test-driven. For example, in China, you take the college entrance exam Gao Kao which you can only take once on a specific date. Your test score determines where you go for college, and what you will be studying. As a result, we are trained to focus on only academics.

Based on our extensive customer interviews and survey, the number one reason that people do not reach out, the first step in networking, is fear. I know how it feels firsthand, because I am an international student myself. I fear misunderstanding due to language barrier, I fear awkwardness due to cultural differences, and I fear the contribution from imposter syndrome. What was the inspiration behind your idea?

Uplifting the immigrant community, particularly the international students community, has been a personal priority and passion project for me since 2015. I have mentored international students and young professionals in building soft skills (now rebranded to “power skills”), such as leadership, networking, and communication via one-on-one mentorship, large group workshops and online webinar, blog posts, and a podcast. To date, I have reached and inspired over 10,000 students and young professionals.

Describe your target customer. International students starting their careers in America.

How did HBS help you during the ideation stage? I had the idea of Growbie coming into HBS, however, the actual business model started to solidify during my time as a Rock Summer Fellow (RSF). I was glad that I had the entire summer dedicated to the venture to run various pilots and iterate our strategies. The founder circle was really helpful because we learned from an expert (our mentor) and a team of founders (HBS peers)—this is definitely one of my favorite parts of RSF!

How did HBS help you in finding the right resources? I am continuing my venture in EC year, and here are a few tips that I’d like to share: Engage with the Rock Center. Take advantage of the expert in residence (EiR) and programming and build relationships with the staff. A lot of the opportunities start with reading their newsletter! Do the same thing with iLab. Their new mentor program, pairing one student with one mentor, is super helpful! iLab is for all Harvard, and hence they might have a broader selection of EiRs and programming. Build relationships with your professors! I love marketing, and in any start-ups, marketing is the most important component in my view. I would recommend keeping in touch with your professors about your ventures, ask them for ideas and intros, and perhaps even ask them to be your advisor! Tell us about the start-up community at HBS.

There is a healthy amount (I think 15-20 percent of the class) of entrepreneurs that want to build things, and that is super cool! I think across E Club, Rock Summer Fellow, Startup Ops class, and Entrepreneurship Marketing class, you will meet like-minded peers who are taking this adventurous path.

What is your biggest advice to students looking to start-up at HBS? This is the best time to start your business and try out anything! The b-school is a risk-free environment to experiment with zero downside. Our degree is our biggest safety net, so just do it! In my opinion, the biggest value of HBS is its brand power that anyone in the world is happy to speak to us. This endorsement is a catalyst to our success, it opens any door.

Jashin Lin (MBA ’23) is determined to democratize access to career success for immigrants in America. She’s the founder of Growbie, ex early TikTok employee, and a member of HBS Class of 2023. Pallavi Chadha (MBA ’24) comes to HBS having spent the past few years understanding the Indian startup ecosystem as a consumer VC investor. What she enjoyed most about that life was getting to know people and truly listening and understanding the stories behind their journeys.

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