Continuing with our feature series on the members of TiE Boston, we had the privilege of speaking with TiE Boston President and Senior Vice President, Bank of America, Anu Chitrapu.
As TiE President, you have dedicated your time to growing and nurturing the organization, what role has TiE played in your life?
My first job was at a company called Pilot Software in Boston. Then during the internet boom, I moved to a company founded by TiE charter member and serial entrepreneur Shikhar Ghosh (currently a faculty member of Harvard Business School). While I was working for him, he encouraged me to apply to business school and get an MBA. I had not considered this option until he motivated me and I followed his advice and ended up attending MIT Sloan.
I have been involved with TiE Boston for over two decades, and have been a Charter member since 2006. I first came to TiE Boston as a volunteer to help the team organize and deliver a two-day TiECON event. In 2005, charter member Eva Ghosh and I created the first version of the TiE Women’s Initiative called TiEWin. We had a core group of supporters with a mission to support women entrepreneurs. The first event, the TiE Business Initiative Kickoff, was very well-attended, with the then CEO of Pepsi, Indra Nooyi, as the keynote speaker. I was named President in 2020.
Who motivated you to get started in social entrepreneurship?
My mother! When I was a child she took me along when she served at Cheshire Home, while my siblings went off to school. Watching my mother sparked my interest in social service — the entrepreneurship aspect came later. I am not an entrepreneur myself, however, my father was an entrepreneur and my husband, Rama Ramakrishnan, is an entrepreneur through and through. Through TiE Boston, I met many people who were involved in social entrepreneurship when it first emerged, such as charter members Desh Deshpande, Raj Sharma, Subu Kota, Venkat Srinivasan and Samir Desai.
The spark for my own social entrepreneurial venture was the 2015 floods that devastated my hometown Chennai. I worked on flood relief operations with Habitat for Humanity for three weeks and during this challenging time, was shocked to see beautiful, handwoven fabric thrown on the streets and clogging up rivers. My two sisters and I decided to do something about it and Nyrvaana was born. Our goal is to prevent fabric from going into landfill and in the process, also provide employment to women who might not otherwise have the opportunity for employment.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishments during your tenure as President?
From the outset, my goal was to increase the presence of women in TiE Boston — on our Board, in the programs we run, the startups we fund and in our membership base. I am proud to say that I was able to deliver on this goal on all fronts. As I close this chapter serving as TiE President, I am incredibly pleased that more than half the Board is women.
We were able to secure the “Pathways to Scale” grant from Mass Tech to support our award-winning ScaleUp program. The grant turbocharged what was already a robust program and we are very grateful to Lt. Governor Polito and her team for helping us foster entrepreneurship.
We also introduced 2 new pitch competitions, one for women founders and one for university students. The very first year our University winner went on to win first place at the global level!
With the help of a great team, and with stringent safety precautions in place, we were able to deliver a successful TiECON East in 2021 in the midst of the global pandemic.
2022 marks the 25th anniversary of TiE Boston. Our 25th anniversary gala was well attended by members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and has set us up for the next 25 years of fostering entrepreneurship.We were able to bring our founders together, showcase their contributions and also build the brand of TiE Boston.
Now that your term as TiE Boston President is coming to a close, what’s next for you?
There are many opportunities I am exploring and one that I have committed to is being on the advisory board of the Museum of Science. I am passionate about their mission of “creating a lifelong love of science”, and am hoping to be able to help deliver on it.
During the pandemic I created a book called, “You Can Be”, aimed at little girls, with a goal to show them role models in professions where women are underrepresented. I was able to get it into the hands of 1000 girls in India, and now I need to focus on making it available to many more.
Finally, I want to grow my social enterprise, Nyrvaana. Through the pandemic we were able to support a group of women in my hometown of Chennai. The need for sustainable products is immediate and Nyrvaana is my contribution towards a more sustainable world.