In the world of startups, innovation often arises from unexpected sources. Meet Gloria Folaron, the CEO and Founder of Leantime, a visionary who discovered a unique opportunity for change while working as a nurse in the fast-paced environment of the emergency room. Her journey from healthcare to technology and business is a testament to her innate problem-solving skills.

Leantime, under Gloria’s leadership, is redefining the way we approach work by personalizing the work experience. In this “Meet the Founders” post, we delve into Gloria’s inspirational journey, the challenges she’s overcome, and the valuable lessons she’s learned along the way. 

1. What inspired you to start your own company, and how did you identify the unique opportunity in your chosen industry or market?

As a nurse, I discovered I’m a problem solver. When I worked in the ER, I discovered that I was seeing larger problems and inefficiencies that needed support but that I couldn’t address them as a 12-hour floor RN. This led me to realize that technology and business could solve the problems I was witnessing.

In Leantime, I’ve lived this problem from so many different angles that it’s what gives me a full-picture overview of a field that is often tunnel-focused into the assembly line of tickets.

Leantime is the personalization of the work experience. We simplify it so it’s easy to understand and set up, we use science to boost dopamine and intrinsic motivation, we bring in the “why” and purpose of the work, and then we use AI to make the work engaging and relevant to each individual team member.

  • Here’s where I’ve lived the challenges:

    • Going from a nurse to a business and technology person was a language hurdle and a knowledge hurdle that required me to figure it out to get over. I knew how to “do things” but I didn’t know how to put it in a process. Beyond that, I’ve worked with team members who really struggled to understand how to organize their work, to understand the PM tools and honestly, they didn’t understand the tools that the engineers were using.
    • Two years ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD, and looking back, I’ve had it all along. I created my own processes and learned to see how to organize myself because it was the thing that saved me — but what I struggle with, even still, is the ability to executive function to get started, to handle large amounts of information (overload, information paralysis). These things aren’t things that I struggle with and when I’ve logged into other tools, I’ve jumped right back out because the information was overloading and it required extra cognitive load to organize. So we build with cognitive accessibility in mind. But beyond that, dopamine is the hormone that promotes motivation and there are things like seeing progress on a goal that promote natural dopamine boost and these are the things we look at from a scientific point of view — how do we make the work intrinsically motivating? Making it personal?
    • Lastly, people are looking to have a purpose in the work they are doing, and when they are in the assembly line of tickets and aren’t connected with how their work ties into the goals of the organization, how they are contributing to progress, and managers are too overwhelmed to really communicate these things. Work becomes dissatisfying and it gets harder to just “do” something. Employee engagement is dropping and so often, employees are just expected to perform. We’re addressing the full journey of organizing and doing the work.

2. What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered as a startup founder thus far, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenges has actually been building and understanding a full grasp of our market, our market space has some really unique realities in it that are rooted in the fact that we’re dealing with multiple project management styles, a busy space, space “standards” for features, and then many user types.

A team may have multiple member types, may be cross-functional to departments, may have a project manager or not, has a unique buyer, and then has a company overhead. Then each user type within that operates very differently. Enterprises have different needs than our small team users, SMBs have different needs albeit closer to small team users, and then we’re open source which has a unique perspective as well.

We talk to our users daily and do significant user and industry research regularly, and both have been some of the best things we could do, along with this, we tapped into some of the amazing organizations locally at UNCC, RIoT Accelerator Program, and LaunchCLT. We then test, get feedback, track and iterate again. It’s really important to have a good understanding of the industry that you’re going into, without that, you may just end up doing the same thing that all the rest of the products are doing and never addressing the things that prevent your ability to gain market share.

3. What previous experiences influence your role today?

I’ve had some startups we’ve closed and I learn more each time. I’ve self-taught things like brand, SEO, marketing, and even photography to manage business growth, and having been a nurse gives me a different outlook on empathy, people’s motivations, and problems.

4. How do you approach innovation and adaptability within your startup, especially in a rapidly changing business landscape?

This goes back to talking to your users, getting their perspectives on what you’re thinking, understanding how they see it, and finding the balance. We work hard to find the smallest version of things that we can launch and test, getting our product in front of users so we can get feedback before we start improving it. We also then take time in between larger launches to review and reassess our UX and experience journey as we go to make sure we’re aware of the bottlenecks.

5. Do you have any mentors or role models who have inspired you while you have been building your business?

We’ve been fortunate to meet amazing people in this area, and each perspective has added new elements to what we’re doing and to our knowledge. We were in the AWS Impact Accelerator Latino founder cohort, the NC IDEA Micro program, UNCC Charlotte Launch and 2.0, and now we’re in the RIoT accelerator. These experiences have added depth to our thinking.

6. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs and future startup founders based on your own experiences and lessons learned?

Find your why and work backward. Often, we see our goal and just start running, but what we really ought to do is see the goal and start mapping backward. In going backward, we can see that the road to the why, our goal, has many paths. The best one is the one that follows your customer