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The startup ecosystem with Shahar Graf

Updated: Jun 9

In collaboration with Amsterdam Capital House, we've made a new series of inspiring Green Portraits. We started with ACH co-founder Simone Schoutens, and were wrapping the series up with her partner in crime ACH's other co-founder Shahar Graf.

Amsterdam Capital House is THE annual event surrounding Financial, Human & Social Capital, organized by Capital House. Together, these two power babes are on a mission to create a closer ecosystem, actively supporting the growth of founders & entrepreneurs shaping our future. Read all about Shahar's journey as an entrepreneur in the interview below!




Why did you start the Capital House Agency?

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We launched the Capital House agency last year, with the goal of creating a space where we can continue supporting the startup ecosystem.

Going beyond our annual Amsterdam Capital House event & working with purpose-driven businesses to create more impact. We're now launching founder-focused programs around Human Capital, Peak Performance and Conscious Leadership - bringing purpose into the equation. As well as working with larger organizations who are looking to connect with entrepreneurs and build a community around them.

Our aim is for Capital House to be your home for growth, within the startup ecosystem. Helping develop companies and communities on a mission to leave a positive footprint in the world.

What does sustainability mean to you?

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I believe we need to focus on being conscious, rather than sustainable. Sustainability usually feels like a comparison of 'this over that', but where does it end? What is truly sustainable?

I think our part in this is to become more conscious. Whether it's how we are living or what we are creating - this is the time to be aware of our relationship with each other and with the planet. What are we creating & why?

More and more companies are rising to the challenge, launching business models that provide value for both customers and the planet. As this continues to grow, we create more awareness in the market & this leads to more change as a result.

If each of us intentionally choose where to "spend" our attention and resources, the scales will eventually tip and give the power back to the systems and businesses who are here to serve us.

What did you have to overcome?

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There are always challenges to overcome, especially when you're constantly trying to develop and outgrow yourself. For me, one continuous learning has been speaking up & putting myself in the spotlight.

Though I have always been organizing and creating, it was easier to blend in and let others take the stage (sometimes literally). In recent years, it became clear to me that we can also embrace our ego.

Putting myself out there is not about getting recognition; it's a way for others to know what you have to offer & what you're looking to build. Sharing your thoughts or what you're working on is actually a simple way of letting people in, finding like minded people and giving the opportunity for them to join your journey (or join forces).

When it comes to ideas, the more you talk about them, the easier it is to actualize them. So why not speak up? You never know who will hear you and potentially unlock something in that process!

I'm still working on this of course ;)

What is your mindset when it comes to growing your business? What drives you?

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I've always been driven by the desire to bring people together around shared missions & ideas. This is at the core of everything I do, and I appreciate it even more now that it's a bit more difficult for us to come together.

Not only is it inspiring when incredible people connect, but I also truly believe that the only way to make a difference is by working together, rather than trying to do it on our own. This is also why our annual Amsterdam Capital House event is always co-created together with the ecosystem, with our Co-Creators.

Next to that, I love innovation and new ideas. The opportunities are endless, and with the right mindset you can create whatever you put your focus on. I consider myself a 'multipotentialite' (coined in a great TED talk), where I enjoy trying different things, exploring new paths, learning new skills, etc. So bringing this all together is a clear explanation for how I landed in the startup space.

The freedom to create & work with great, purpose-driven people is definitely something that drives me.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs who want to build a sustainable business?

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For the entrepreneurs who are out there trying to grow their purpose-driven startups, I suggest finding a way to bring both profit and mission together. If you can find the sweet spot between your personal mission & a market fit, you're off to a great start!

When it comes to kick-starting the business and getting it up & running, the most crucial part will be finding the right people to bring on board. Especially during this first phase, you'll need all hands on deck. This means hiring a wide array of skill sets, with the core mindset of adaptability - as a startup, your business will always be changing or growing, and the team involved should be up for this challenge.

As you build your team, surround yourselves with hard workers who believe in your mission and share your vision for the company. Let them in on your journey, give them a sense of belonging and keep creating that container for everyone to work together and make the vision a reality. If you can maintain a purpose-driven culture, where everyone feels they are contributing (and are excited to do so), you will really jump ahead.

Always emphasize that you're building this company together, while also making a difference.

Tell us about your green vision?

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On the macro level, it's time for less consumption and more creation. Each of us has something to offer, and I hope that we can recognize that in ourselves. If we can shift our priorities from convenience to purpose, the world around us will become greener and more of a win-win for everyone.

Instead of seeing competition around us, let's try to see the ecosystem we're in - the original meaning of an ecosystem. Where we all work together, symbiotically, to create a thriving community supporting each other.

It starts with each individual, and will eventually trickle out to the larger scale (communities, business, etc.) to reflect that!




Follow ACH on their instagram Amsterdam Capital House and explore the world of Human, Social & Financial Capital.


This interview was made in collaboration with Amsterdam Capital House.


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