Diya Varadaraj: Founding Partner, Superbolt

At Grayson, Diya has become an invaluable extension to our small, yet mighty team. Her leadership and expertise is the glue that holds her team together in a typically male-dominated industry. We think she is *superbadass.*


"My team and I primarily work with direct to consumer start-ups, and act as an extension of their internal team—focusing on driving their growth through digital marketing channels. I’m extremely lucky in the fact that I get to work with brands that are making a difference, and stand for what they believe in—sustainable brands that have massive potential ahead of them."

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced? Has navigating through it helped prepare you for future challenges?

I do believe that everything in life happens for a reason, and that we learn from all the challenges that we face. The biggest obstacle I faced was being deaf in one ear. I quickly learned to always sit on a particular side of the table, and angle my body in a certain way while talking to someone, so that I wouldn’t miss any part of a conversation. When I was younger, this was something that I kept to myself, and tried very hard to conceal. More recently, I’ve been more open about this, and my team no longer thinks that it’s my crazy OCD that commands that I always sit on the left of everyone else. I've definitely learnt that being more open about what I perceive as weakness is the best way to go.

What do you think people in your field can do to band together?

The wider advertising industry is made up of only 6% black Americans, which is completely non-representative of the population of the United States. I think all of the agencies out there, Superbolt included, need to reevaluate their hiring, training, and promotion processes, to make sure that we are able to make true diversity a fabric of who we are.

What do you see on the other side?

I see an industry that is more fair, and that is more open to helping others even if it means getting nothing in return.

What techniques or advice do you have for managing the pressure?

Working on Sunday afternoons has really helped me prepare for the week, and not be overwhelmed and stressed on Monday mornings. I schedule emails to be sent out first thing on Monday, and prep for all of my meetings in advance. Because I do work for a few hours on the weekend, being able to disconnect during the others is really important for me to be able to come back fresh for another week of work.

Where was your business at the beginning of this/where is it now/and where do you see your business at the end of the year?

Before COVID hit, we were growing pretty rapidly month over month. The first couple of weeks of March were difficult for the company, as all of our clients who were offline/retail business were shut. We lost 35% of our revenue overnight, and had to temporarily furlough some of our employees, which was some of the most difficult decisions that we’ve had to make. However over the past few weeks we have built up to where we were before, and are seeing continued demand for our services. I think going through this journey with the team has brought the entire company closer, and our belief in the business stronger than before.

How would you say your industry is evolving at the moment?

The start-up industry used to prioritize aggressive spending and capturing market share over sustainably building a company with quality products and a solid consumer base. However, more recently it has been shifting to prioritize the qualities of the latter.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

The importance of transparency in managing a team through a crisis. During the first weeks of COVID, we shared detailed context on every decision we made with the team. On a weekly basis, we were updating them on our revenue numbers, cost numbers, the % by which the leadership team and others had lowered their salaries, and I think this really built the trust of the team in the company.

What inspires your work?

My family. A lot of them are entrepreneurs, and they have always pushed me to create something for myself—something that I’ll always love doing.

Do you have advice for someone looking to enter into your field?

The great thing about digital marketing is that it's ever evolving. It’s not an industry where you are required to have years of experience in order to have a successful career path. As long as you are curious and eager to learn, and put in the work—it’s a great field for you!

Silver lining/ what are you thankful for?

I am extremely thankful for the team around me. While navigating the start-up landscape of COVID, I was able to heavily rely on the team around me, and I think we come out of this stronger than when we went in.

“My superpowers are multi-tasking and making quick decisions.” —Diya Varadaraj

Related stories

Meet Nicole Gibbons: Founder & CEO of Clare
This Wharton MBA Wants Her Product in your Top Drawer