Amita Shukla spoke this past January at Women in Bio – Capital Region on “Mastering the Entrepreneurial Mind: Leading Change that Changes the World”.
Amita Shukla is a thought leader, innovator, and entrepreneur focused on creating transformative innovations for human health, well-being and potential. She is the founder and CEO of Vitamita and the author of Enduring Edge: Transforming How We Think, Create and Change. Previously, she was an investor at New Enterprise Associates, one of the world’s largest venture capital firms, where she invested in cutting-edge healthcare innovations for close to nine years. Since 2010, she has served as a Governor’s appointee to the board of Maryland’s Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO). Amita holds a BA in biochemistry from Harvard, an MBA from Stanford, and 10 patents.
BioHive: Thanks for joining us on the BioHive! Tell us a little bit about your journey – how did you get to where you are today?
Amita Shukla: I have had a passion for science for as long as I can remember. In high school I did a science fair project on the healing powers of an ancient herb from India for treating gum disease. I was fascinated by how we could apply the tools of modern science to validate healing wisdom that has been around for centuries. This passion for finding simple yet effective innovations to improve human health led me into biotechnology. I studied biochemistry in college and then decided to get an MBA to understand the art and science of creating the companies that take research from the bench to the bedside.
After graduation, I joined a venture capital firm where I had the opportunity to work and interact with the world’s leading scientists, physicians, and entrepreneurs to find and invest in the most promising healthcare innovations. It was a phenomenal ecosystem for learning how to transform novel ideas into enduring impact. I was struck, though, by how we as a society tend to invest billions of dollars into targeted, cutting edge treatments that sometimes have marginal impact on outcomes, while neglecting the healing power of simple, preventative practices that hold the potential to significantly improve overall well-being. These insights, combined with cutting edge discoveries emerging in neuroscience, inspired me to start Vitamita.
BH: What are your aspirations with your current entrepreneurial venture?
AS: I started Vitamita with the intention of applying the scientific, evidence-based methods of venture capital due diligence to help transform healthcare from sickcare to wellcare. Specifically, I decided to focus on the mind and the role that mindset plays in not just health and well-being but also in living life at our highest potential. “Vita” means “life” in Latin and “amita” “without limits” in Sanskrit; Vitamita stands for “Life Without Limits.”
Recent research in neuroscience, such as on neuroplasticity, suggests that the mind is more malleable than we thought. In addition, phenomena such as the placebo and nocebo effects, which can be an expensive nuisance for drug developers and the source of clinical trial failure, hint at the power of mindset to both heal (placebo) and harm (nocebo) us. In addition, technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) are providing scientific evidence for the transformative power of ancient practices such as meditation and mindfulness for not just improving health and well-being but also for harnessing the power of creativity, innovation, purpose, and meaning.
In 2014, I distilled my findings on the mind into a simple, practical framework—a thought tool, so to speak—that anyone can apply to transform how they think, create and change. I published it as a book, Enduring Edge, and have been sharing it through talks and workshops with diverse audiences from inner city high school students to healthcare leaders. It has also been a required textbook for a Johns Hopkins graduate course on “Leading Change in Biotechnology” for the last four years. I am currently working on the sequel to the book, to be published this year.
BH: What advice do you have for young women entrepreneurs?
AS: The more I have studied the mind, the more I have come to believe that how we think is at the heart of everything. One of the most powerful insights for young women entrepreneurs—and really all of us—is to recognize the power of training the mind to harness its strengths and conquer its weaknesses.
For instance, I’ve consistently observed that, whether its innovators and entrepreneurs or leaders and change agents, the difference between those who fail and those who succeed is that those who succeed fail more. Said another way, those who ultimately succeed have trained their mind to see failure not as something to be ashamed of or fear but as something to learn from and befriend. They keep going where others give up. They see each “failure” as a learning experience that guides them to fail faster, better, and forward until they “fail” their way to success.
We each hold more power than we realize to transform our dreams into reality. At Vitamita, we envision a world where every human being is empowered to realize their highest potential. What inspires me, day in and day out, is stories of impact from audiences and readers on how shifting our mind, thought by thought, can transform our lives, communities, and the world.
Thanks again for joining us, Amita! Please leave your questions and thoughts for Amita in comments.
Author: Liora Knizhnik