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Female Founders: Sophie Won of Reha App On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

If something just isn’t working don’t be afraid to re-adjust and recalibrate. Reha started as a dating app and it just wasn’t working in that capacity, so we had to pivot.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sophie Won of Reha App.

Sophie Won is a Korean-American, world-renowned Vedic astrologer of high profile entrepreneurs, TV personalities and the founder, Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Astrologer of Reha App, a global Vedic astrology app for self discovery and relationships.

Coming off Won’s appearance on Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking Season 2 as Aparna Shewakramani’s Vedic Astrologer (reaching over 20 million viewers), Reha App will be launching globally in September on IOS and Android and will be the first Vedic astrology app connecting with a modern and globally minded audience.

Won’s path to the launch of Reha App began with a successful raise of angel capital and building a truly global team of 10, consisting of Indian talent, US based experts, and an engineering team with members based in Europe.

In addition to Reha App, Sophie is the co-founder of a spiritually based web3 NFT community called The Destiny Magi filled with fellow entrepreneurs, artists, and crypto enthusiasts.

Sophie’s mission is to bring to the forefront spiritual practices and philosophies of all kinds, not limited to just Vedic astrology. She’s focused on leveraging technology as a vehicle to bring esoteric practices worldwide in a modern, mindful way.

In her spare time, you’ll find Sophie globe trotting in search of learning and experiencing other cultures, traditions, and healing practices.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My journey with Reha App started with my passion for Vedic astrology. I started studying astrology in my spare time while I was working my corporate 9–5 job in New York City to help me really understand and honestly accept my what one could call existential crisis at the time. I think we all go through one of those where you’re asking yourself what is my purpose? Or perhaps you keep dating people with the same birthday.. something that I’ve personally experienced myself. These questions really led me down the rabbit hole of studying astrology and wanting to know more about myself and those around me. I became super intrigued by Vedic astrology because of the compatibility aspect. Over 90% of Indian marriages incorporate Vedic astrology into matchmaking and I really wanted to learn this aspect of astrology because I believe our relationships are the most important vehicles that drive growth in our life. Reha really crystallized when I met my co-founder Rohit Pothukuchi who is an Indian American entrepreneur in the tech space who loved the idea of creating a modern, simple Vedic astrology app. From there, the rest was history.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When I moved part time to India, I decided that in order to fully understand Indian culture and get immersed as to how Vedic astrology is used, I needed to move to the birthplace of Vedic astrology which is India. As someone that grew up in a predominantly white suburb Katy, Texas, it was an interesting experience. I decided that I needed to learn how-to drive-in India and specifically drive manual. This led to my driving instructor Ravi, who doesn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Hindi or Telugu (the native language) navigating the crazy traffic and roads in Hyderabad while Ravi held on for dear life yelling directions at me to get back to the car return successfully. Another story worth sharing is, last year I became very good friends with Aparna Shewakramani, the breakout star of Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking. Meeting her was really kismet because it was through a very random series of events and led me to actually be on Indian Matchmaking Season 2 as an astrologer.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started working on creating and building the Reha app, I thought it would take only 6 months to build and launch. Originally the app was based around the idea of being a Vedic astrology matchmaking app for the Indian Market. I very quickly learned that the market wasn’t yet ready for this once I moved to India and spoke to target customers — I realized this concept needed to be scrapped, requiring me to literally scrap the entire product and start over. The lesson learned here — however long you think something might take, it will be longer than that.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

This is really tough! My mentor and first investor, David Chan, encouraged me and really gave me the courage to quit my very comfortable job to build Reha. Without his support, I probably would not have made the plunge I fully needed in becoming an entrepreneur. He gave me the idea to create an astrology app that was different from what all the others in the market, this inspired Reha App. He also introduced me to so many wonderful people that would help me on my journey with creating my company, such as my best friend, confidante, and fellow astrologer, numerologist Kaitlyn Kaerhart. She was the first person that pushed me publicly to own my identity not just as an entrepreneur but as an astrologer. There was a big wellness event called WITMA in NYC and she was the person that got me into the event as an astrologer. This event was the first time ever I had publicly recognized myself as an astrologer. If it were not for the success of this event, I don’t think I would have had the courage to create an entire app that is helping people learn more about who they are.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

Starting a company is not for the faint of heart, it involves a lot of risk (putting yourself out there, putting an idea out there) and requiring that you ask for what you want. Taking risks, asking boldly for what you want, and putting yourself out there is very much associated with masculine archetypes. This is something that I have not seen encouraged or embraced by society for women and these are important notions when it comes to creating a company. My success came in funding came from asking for what I want and not ever letting anyone put me in a mold, I once read that “women only ask for what they think they deserve”, but when it comes being an entrepreneur you need to know exactly what you want and not be afraid to ask for it or be rejected. That rejection is part of the process, it isn’t personal.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

As an individual it is all about focusing on yourself, we constantly benchmark ourselves against unicorns and companies that have reached stratospheres that less than .0001 percent can reach. We are constantly seeing and hearing that If your journey doesn’t look like that it’s wrong. My biggest piece of advice is to focus on you as an individual, what you are doing and what you can control. That means ignoring society and what society is telling you, focus your time on your direct obstacles and your ideas.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Starting a company is not for everyone (gender aside) but I think the world needs more companies and creations that come from all different kinds of people from diverse backgrounds. Because the current dominating companies are all started by men, there’s a severe imbalance as to what society actually defines as success and what leading values and principles are shaping our world. This isn’t just limited to women. Women starting and leading companies is a way to set real examples of how success doesn’t have to be attributed only and directly to hyper-masculine principles. The way we ultimately define success needs to change and this change needs to come from balancing principles of both masculine and feminine archetypes. This starts with women and minority founders creating leading companies.

I find that so many women underestimate their power, potential and ability to create, nurture and grow outside the bounds of whatever society is dictating. Creating and the process of creating is inherent and biologically ingrained in what women are so powerfully gifted with and more women should recognize this power. With that, the journey and process are so incredibly rewarding.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

The idea of “moving fast and breaking things’’ is a horrible start-up myth. It’s fine for some but ultimately, your journey is your journey. No community or other entrepreneur should dictate your journey. I’ve also found that benchmarking success against how much money you raise is not a true measurement of success. True success is very personal and subjective and is based on WHY you are starting your company and what you are looking to achieve. Lastly, a lot of times with “start-up” culture we are told that you must be so busy that you hate your life, and that you need to slave over your work to be successful. I believe it should be fun and that you don’t have to work like a mad scientist to enjoy the journey and create something special.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

Anyone can start a business, it is more about WHY you want to start a company and what exactly fulfills you. What that path looks like for you might be tailored to your personality. When I wanted to start Reha, I started it because I love to create and wanted to bet on myself and bring something in my head to the real world. However, some people prefer stability and comfort, and for those people a typical 9–5 might make more sense for them.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

It takes way longer than you think — Patience is your friend (I thought Reha would be live in six months)

All of the things you mess up are never as bad as they seem at the moment — Use these mistakes as a learning experience and realize they are part of the journey.

People are everything — they are a key part of the process and aligning yourself with the right people out of the gate is key to success.

Don’t compare your journey to others — Your journey is yours and you just need to dive in and be ready for some twists and turns.

If something just isn’t working don’t be afraid to re-adjust and recalibrate. Reha started as a dating app and it just wasn’t working in that capacity, so we had to pivot.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

One of the most rewarding things in this journey are the messages about feeling seen and understood I receive from users when using Reha. They message me about their compatibility reports, their insights and explaining the excitement of learning why certain people are in their lives. I had a mom and her sister reach out recently about how they spent an entire afternoon looking through their compatibility reports with their children and the mind-blowing insights they discovered from using the platform. Reha is all about creating a positive place in the digital space that makes you feel seen, heard, and understood.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The movement would be to encourage people to own who they are in having peace and acceptance for their most authentic self and their relationships. That was the goal of Reha and the idea behind the formation. Prior to founding the company, I was going through an existential crisis, asking myself “what was I doing here?” and “why have I crossed paths with certain people?” We’re constantly bombarded in society with social media, traditional media, and more to define who you should be and what you should do, and it is really hard to pinpoint that existential answer when there’s pressure everywhere to be, do, work, date, marry a certain way. Knowing and accepting yourself and having full confidence in who you are is the first step needed to accomplish anything in this world. Helping people find out, accept, and confidently own who they are and why they are the way they are through Reha is the mission.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Masayoshi Son, the VC behind Softbank would be a very interesting person to sit with. The reason why I’d like to meet him is because he has a very similar background to my late-grandfather (born in Korea, but lived most of his life in Japan). I didn’t know too much about my Grandfather’s business as a Korean man in Japan, but know that historically that has been one that has faced a lot of discrimination. As I started Reha, I found that I wanted to connect more with my ancestors and learn about their paths. His background is so similar to my late-grandfather and to hear his story and learn about his experience would be very interesting.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

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Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.