Sascha Eder

Evaluate and re-evaluate your habits and processes. It’s all too easy to get stuck in routines that aren’t actually best practices anymore.

Sascha Eder is the COO and Co-Founder of NewtonX, an AI-powered knowledge access platform. He was formerly a consultant with Boston Consulting Group; a consultant with McKinsey & Company, and a Financial product analyst at P&G.

Where did the idea for NewtonX come from?

The idea for NewtonX formed quite organically. I was working at McKinsey&Company (as was my co-founder, Germain Chastel) and I identified a systemic pain point in my work. As a management consultant, I regularly needed access to expert knowledge from C-suite executives, niche subject-matter experts, and global influencers. The companies that purported to give this access, though, were too slow, too expensive, and/or of poor quality. I saw a need for expertise access beyond specialized recruiters or expert networks; a need for global data and insights at scale under tight time constraints.

In 2017, I founded NewtonX with CEO Germain Chastel, who was my colleague at McKinsey. We quickly realized that there was a missed opportunity to leverage AI and automation in order to enable scale and speed, which is when we reached out to our third Co-Founder and CTO Anuja Ketan, who is an incredibly accomplished technologist. Together, we’ve built an expert discovery engine that leverages robotic process automation and a proprietary knowledge graph to connect clients with the data and insights they need — be that through large-scale surveys, one-on-one consultations, or in-person engagements.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day is very action-packed. Because we are an early-stage startup, I am still quite involved in day-to-day client interactions and management of the team. As such, I typically get to the office around 8:15am EST, and spend the first hour of the day checking in with all of the managers on the Operations team. We are a client-driven company, meaning that after these check-ins, much of my day is taken up with client management and internal project execution.

Productivity-wise, because I’m so motivated to keep the company’s fast-growth trajectory going, I don’t tend to have problems with staying focused. I think the most important thing to remember as a founder is that to be successful you need to delegate and manage your time — ultimately, you can’t do everything and need to trust the people you hired.

How do you bring ideas to life?

In the context of my company, I bring ideas to life through parsing client intent and then rapidly deploying the NewtonX technology in order to deliver. Because my team is the one operating our technology, I also have a strong feedback loop between the Operations team and the Tech and Product teams. This ensures that the product is always aligned with the Ops team’s needs.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m really excited about the integration of automation and AI into enterprise workflows. NewtonX is part of this trend, and it’s so interesting to see how we are continually discovering new use cases for AI and automation. I’m interested to see how this alters the workforce as a whole, and how the rhetoric around this trend evolves in response to changes in the workforce.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

It may seem counterintuitive, but what makes me most productive is taking the time to not work. It’s so important to unplug, exercise, spend time with friends and family, and focus on areas of life that aren’t work-related. Most days of the week, I meet up with my girlfriend for lunch — we get away from work, try new foods, and take the time to just be together without being yoked to our phones and computers.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Well, I’m still under 30 so don’t have the gift of hindsight for the majority of my experiences. However, I do wish I could give my pre-founder self-advice for how to successfully run a company. I would tell this self that the key to staying happy as an early-stage founder is building up workplace resilience, and learning to compartmentalize to the extent that you can leave work at the office when you’re spending time with family and friends. Founders are the recipients of a lot of stress and resentment, and it’s important to learn how to not internalize this.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

New York City is the best place on earth to launch a business.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Evaluate and re-evaluate your habits and processes. It’s all too easy to get stuck in routines that aren’t actually best practices anymore.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

A strategy that we’ve employed that I see as highly unusual is deploying our own technology internally for non-client-facing use cases. For instance, we use our platform both for sales and for recruiting — which not only saves on software costs but also helps us refine our knowledge graph and search engine.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

This is not a failure per se, but I took it very personally the first time an employee from my team moved on to a new position. Our workforce is pretty young so some turnover is natural, but it’s hard not to take that to heart. I’ve since learned to see turnover as a learning opportunity: what could my co-founders and I have done better to keep every single employee long-term?

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

So much of the millennial workforce has side gigs in addition to full-time jobs — in fact, our business is built on giving consulting opportunities to people who typically have salaried positions. I think millennials would jump at a productivity/scheduling/savings and taxes tracker that integrates side gigs with a 9-5 work schedule. Currently, most tools like this are geared toward one or the other: either freelancers or traditional employees. This is not an accurate reflection of the workforce anymore, though.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Bagels and Lox from Russ and Daughters for the team last Friday! We wanted to celebrate Women’s Day by doing something special for the whole team, and what better way to celebrate than with a delicious breakfast? In general, I’m a huge proponent of small appreciation gestures in the workplace. For instance, recently we surprised everyone with succulents and stress balls for their desks, and we regularly do team bonding lunches or breakfasts.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I love G-suite, I use Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, email and calendar for everything. At NewtonX, we all have transparent calendars, which I think contributes to creating an overall culture of transparency and functional communication. We also use Slides for internal presentations as well as for sales decks and designing visual assets.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Enterprise business leaders can sometimes get disconnected from larger country-wide trends. This book (written by a Harvard Law graduate) examines wrongful death row convictions, and details how race and poverty factor into the American criminal justice system. It’s a moving and impactful book that I’d recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the United States and its history (I’m German, which is partially why I found it so eye-opening).

What is your favorite quote?

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Gandhi

Key Learnings:

• The key to workplace productivity is taking the time to NOT work
• In order to stay happy and driven as a founder, you must be able to delegate and trust your team
• AI and automation will continue to alter the workforce and create new competitive opportunities for businesses