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Startup founders, get comfortable being uncomfortable — Raluca Crisan, Etiq

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Uncertainty is a natural part of founding a startup. Questions about market demand, economic stability, and whether you’ve put together the right team can keep you up at night. While it can be a source of stress, uncertainty can also be an important driver of innovation and creativity, as it forces founders to think outside the box and come up with new solutions to problems. Navigating uncertainty is an ongoing process and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. But a healthy approach to uncertainty encourages experimentation, fosters resilience, and leads to new opportunities.

It’s this lesson that Etiq co-founder and CTO Raluca Crisan was only too happy to share when I spoke with her recently as part of our Techstars conversations, and it’s something she hopes will inspire other startup founders. Founded in 2019, London-based Etiq builds tools to help companies validate their data and test their machine learning pipelines. After getting her start as a data scientist and spending some time in the corporate world, Raluca began to feel constrained by that environment. It was time for a change. But with change came a few surprises.

“I thought I kind of knew how founding a startup was going to play out,” Raluca says, “but that’s not really what happened.”

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Making the leap to the startup world

“Prior to Etiq, I was working for consultancies and doing projects for different corporations—some mid-sized, some really large,” Raluca says. The drawbacks she encountered in her corporate career helped nudge her towards something different. For instance, she found “it’s actually quite hard to get something that works well into production. Someone would make a small coding error and we’d waste weeks trying to find out what happened.”

Making the leap to co-founding a startup and serving as CTO was a learning curve. The new business moved much faster, and Raluca had to wear a number of new hats.

“I started off with a specific area: data science,” she says. “So I had to pick up the other tools in the toolbox because I just didn’t necessarily have the experience with them. You start a company and you think you have all the answers. But I think if you’re comfortable with just searching for things and being kind of uncomfortable all the time, then that’s really all it is.”

One area where Raluca had no doubts was Etiq’s tech. The startup’s solution ensures everyone on a team—from business stakeholders to data engineers—has the capacity to confirm their algorithms are performing as expected and reduce any inadvertent bias that may develop.

“People use our tool because before they release their project in the wild, they need to test that what they’re doing is going to work,” Raluca says. “We started off with issues of fairness and bias and then made our tool more comprehensive to tackle issues including drifts, performance, data issues, and a lot more.”

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Making the most of your relationships

In times of stress and uncertainty, it’s important to remember that no one needs to go through the process of starting a company all by themselves. Seeking out advice from experienced founders, mentors, or industry experts can help you gain valuable perspective on how to manage uncertainty in your startup.

“Being surrounded by founders has made a big difference for me,” Crisan says about the Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub. “We’ve had a lot of advisors come from the community. The level of trust that exists in these relationships is incredibly important. If you’re honest with them and bring them your challenges, you get a lot out of it.”

At the end of the day, the way to deal with uncertainty may just be zeroing in on what’s the biggest priority in the moment, Crisan says.

“Cutting out the fluff and just getting to the point of what we need to focus on has been so important for us.”

Watch the entire interview series with Raluca over on the Microsoft for Startups YouTube Channel.

To get started with Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub, sign up here.

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