Elaha Gurgani

Building communities for investors, founders, and operators across the ANZ startup ecosystem
Marketing & Community Associate

What was your journey to joining your current company?

Even though I grew up fascinated with businesses, I didn’t fully realise the potential in the startup space until I did the Startmate student Fellowship during my final year at university. 

Through the fellowship, I stumbled upon like-minded, driven and kind peers who were going to do ambitious things in life. My ambition was to be in VC and made it into my 5-year goal. But I first wanted to gain operator experience and had the hunger to understand the pains of building a startup from scratch and work closely with founders. 

Shortly after I  graduated, I was approached by a tech startup called Relevance AI to potentially join the team and I thought I would be a good fit for their operations. I then went to become their employee #19 to work with the founders to help cross-functional teams as their BizOps Analyst.  

In the same year, I had moved to Sydney, and I started hosting tech meetups and book clubs to meet people in tech. I enjoyed this so much that I decided I wanted to do community building as a full-time role. Before this, I had joined an early community called Earlywork and was able to see it grow from a few hundred members to thousands. I started as an early member and became a community advisor, then became their first full-time hire! 

During my time there, I worked with the founders to organise 12 events and helped expand the community reach to Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane & Perth and led their first international expansion to Singapore! 

I had a blast working there but due to their business pivot, I had to transition into a new role which gave me the opportunity to join VC fast tracking my 5-year goal! I had built a relationship with the Operating Principal, and with the perfect timing, this was the time in which EVP was recruiting for a Marketing & Community Associate role.  

What about it makes it your dream company?

Working at EVP, I feel like I'm surrounded by coworkers who are not only very smart and good at what they do, but also very kind and empathetic. In my role, I get to meet interesting founders and investors and tell their stories through content. I’m also exposed to and learn a lot about how software companies work, which adds to my business acumen. I really enjoy making connections with people and coming up with the strategy, so this role has been perfect for me! 

What stands out the most about the culture? 

People are kind, care about you as a human (and not just another employee), and want you to grow as a person. I remember in my first month of starting, when I had a personal tragedy happen, and I had to fly to Melbourne to be with my loved ones, my workplace encouraged me to take time off to be with my family and to look after my well-being.

I also found that compared to working at an early stage startup, where you may not have enough budget or resources to invest, it is easier to find time to learn and develop working here, especially when you're early in your career. I get to have 1:1 time with the partners and can ask them any questions I have about business models and relationship building.

Being a small team of 15 people has its perks of high learning opportunities, and exposure to mentorship from team members who are experienced at what they do. 

How would you describe your role to a 5 year old?

Community building is like making a big circle of friends! It means getting to know the people who live near you and doing things together to make your neighbourhood a better place. You might have dinner with each other, or help your neighbours with something they need. When we work together to make our community better, we all get to grow and have fun together! 

What does your day-to-day look like? 

My focus is on two things: marketing and building our community. In marketing, I create content for our social media, website, and newsletter. On the community side, I help organise private events for our portfolio founders or work on organising public events for the ecosystem. 

In the mornings, I work on creative projects in marketing, like coming up with ideas for what content we should post next week. After lunch, I work on planning events or building our resource hub for our portfolio founders. In the evening, I do admin work like following up emails from partnerships to see if we can collaborate on any upcoming events. 

What does career progression/ promotion look like for you?

The role of community building is new, which has pros and cons. The bad news is there is no set path for the role, but the good news is this allows for more flexibility in shaping the role to fit individual ambitions.

A general trajectory for me might look like:

  • Senior Associate
  • Community Manager
  • Head of Platform/Community
  • Operating Principal
  • Operating Partner or Partner

For someone considering joining your company, what are a few things they can expect?

  1. Make sure to communicate and sell your ideas well, as everyone's input or idea is valuable in this culture, no matter your position. It’s part of our merit-led value! 
  2. Keep a curious mind and be interested in exploring business models. 
  3. Be open to meeting interesting people in the tech space! 

If you want to get involved in a community role, my advice is to take initiative, to organise an event or activity that brings people together. You could host a meetup or dinner, or even document your learnings online through social media or blogs. This will help you meet the right people that will bring you luck and opportunities!

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