Sanya Rajpal, founder of Adagio VR

sanya rajpal photo

Sanya Rajpal is a pioneering entrepreneur and the founder of Adagio VR, a startup revolutionizing the use of virtual reality in mental health, performance enhancement, and behavior modification. An Oxford MBA alumna, she continues to leverage and contribute to the vibrant Oxford entrepreneurial ecosystem. Adagio VR stands as an innovative venture, reflecting Sanya's dedication to integrating advanced technology with impactful social solutions.

What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I've always been drawn to activism, entrepreneurship, and policy-making. For me, business is activism. It's about identifying what the world lacks and providing sustainable solutions. My journey into entrepreneurship stemmed from my desire for immediate, sustainable impact. Business, to me, is a platform for change, fulfilling demands while also making a positive difference.

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
adagio logo turquoise

Entrepreneurship, in my view, is about solving problems efficiently and inclusively. It's particularly powerful for those from underrepresented backgrounds, as they possess a unique skill set honed by facing diverse challenges. Entrepreneurship is about turning these challenges into opportunities for innovation.

How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
One of the moments of realization came during a pitch event at Oxford. The interest generated by our VR headset and the engaging discussions with visitors solidified my belief in the idea. When individuals began relating the concept to their own industries, it was clear the market saw value in our proposition.

What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Tenacity is crucial - the ability to persist despite challenges. Belief in oneself and one's vision is vital, especially for those who don't fit the traditional entrepreneurial mold. Lastly, letting go of ego is important; a great idea must resonate with others to be successful.

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
The freedom and audacity that come with entrepreneurship are exhilarating. Being a founder opens doors and allows for pitching ideas on an equal footing, regardless of age or experience. This audacity to innovate and create value is what I cherish most about being an entrepreneur.

What individual, company, or organization inspires you most? Why?
I'm deeply inspired by my Buddhist practice and mentors in this field. They emphasize the importance of inner change to create societal value. Additionally, other female founders inspire me greatly, as they navigate challenges with resilience and innovation.

If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
In a brief encounter with another female founder, my focus would be on the crucial yet often overlooked aspects of entrepreneurship - building teams, hiring the right people, and facilitating effective teamwork. I believe these elements are vital for any successful venture, and gaining insights on these topics from experienced founders would be incredibly valuable for Adagio VR's growth and development.

What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
For me the most successful moments have been when we as a company can execute on a vision that no one thought possible. When a funder who once questioned why we were so overly inclusive in our work, now actively funds some of our impact projects and wants to increase their support based on our success; and high-performing leaders who start of skeptical of the "same old mental health stuff, find our program transformational for their own lives and businesses; or being able to build partnerships with multiple NHs and public sector organisations despite being told we were effective but "too out there". This makes me feel proud. Our radical approach to innovation isn't just a cool idea - it's actually working. Delivering both commercial value and user health outcomes - and that makes me feel proud.

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures, or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
A significant lesson has been trusting my instincts, especially regarding people and partnerships. As a woman entrepreneur, it's easy to discount instincts for logic, but I've learned that if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

How have you funded your ideas?
Adagio VR is bootstrapped, funded through my previous business exit and revenues. Bootstrapping a virtual reality company has been challenging but rewarding, as it requires creative problem-solving and strategic decision-making.

Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
Yes, we won a competition called Hack For Peace, sponsored by Microsoft, Sigma Software, and the Ukrainian government. This competition, focusing on mental health solutions for refugees and aid workers, helped us build our use case and gain recognition.

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire?
The university ecosystem in Oxfordshire is phenomenal. It offers access to top advisors, talent, and supportive entrepreneurship programs. This nurturing environment is ideal for entrepreneurs looking to grow and network.

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
I would recommend the Startup Huddle in the Westgate library. It's a great place for entrepreneurs to work, engage, and access events. The environment is conducive to growth and learning.

Any last words of advice?
Entrepreneurship is always worth trying. Even if it doesn't lead to immediate success, the skills and experiences gained are invaluable. Remember to be patient with yourself and to trust the process. Every challenge faced is a step towards growth.

As a female entrepreneur : 

Have you faced any challenges as a woman entrepreneur? If so, how have you overcome them?
Yes, as a woman entrepreneur, I've encountered biases and skepticism. Overcoming these challenges has involved building a strong network of supportive peers and mentors. It's crucial to surround oneself with allies who believe in your vision and provide guidance.

What resources would you recommend for other women?
Networking groups specifically for women entrepreneurs are invaluable. Organizations like Oxford Women in Business and The Oxford Foundry offer great support. Also, attending events and engaging in mentorship programs can provide critical insights and connections.

How do you think institutions such as the University of Oxford could better support women entrepreneurs?
Institutions could focus more on creating platforms where women's voices are heard and their ideas are taken seriously. Providing more tailored mentorship and funding opportunities specifically for women entrepreneurs would also be beneficial.

Do you have any advice for other women who want to be entrepreneurs?
My advice would be to trust in your abilities and not to shy away from pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams. Build a supportive network, seek mentorship, and don't be afraid to take risks. Remember, your unique perspective as a woman is your strength.