Everyone’s Rushing To Be An Entrepreneur (aka Why I Don’t Have A Startup)

I think deep down I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but it wasn’t until I read Mukund Mohan‘s post today that I was inspired to just get it out there. Definitely read Mukund’s post too, by the way — Great read!

Friends have been asking me for a few years now what my startup is going to be (a dozen or so — is that even considered a lot or am I just kidding myself?) Either way, it’s very kind of them to insinuate I should start my own startup. I’m reading into this the assumption that they think I would be a successful founder. So here are the reasons I haven’t had a go at it yet:

1.) I don’t have the right idea yet. It’s not only about finding a pain point or completely new idea. It’s also about having the instinct for product development, the connections, and the passion to devote several stressful years of your life to making this dream a reality. One great piece of advice I recently heard is that entrepreneurs should always be asking themselves “Am I the right person to be doing this at this time?” Until I find the intersection where something I’m truly passionate about, my strengths and the correct timing meet, it just doesn’t make sense for me to take the plunge.

2.) It takes A LOT of blood, sweat and tears. I’ve been working with entrepreneurs pretty closely the last 3 years, and I’ve seen what it can do to some very intelligent, even-keeled, all-around wonderful people. The stresses of entrepreneurship are often compared to manic depression. One day, it looks like you’re on the right path and things are lining up like it was meant to be, the next, you’re losing traction, faith in yourself, and feel depressed that you spent years of your life on a baby that will ultimately fail.

3.) I’m not sure I have what it takes. It takes a very special and talented person to be successful at founding startups. Why else would there be such a high failure rate? You need to listen to advisors, but also have enough conviction to know when to follow your gut. You need to be stubborn and not give up, but be flexible enough to pivot if your original idea just isn’t resonating with your target market. You need to be very good at sales, marketing and product development (or develop those skills quickly!) since you’ll be wearing all of these hats and more in the beginning. And that’s just scratching the surface.

3 b.) Women lack self-confidence. According to loads of articles on why there are so few female entrepreneurs (a real explosion of those articles in the last 1-2years!), this may also be simply because I am a woman. We are socialized and probably have natural tendencies not to put ourselves out there or just run with it as much as men do. While I’m aware of this and compensate as best I can, it still feels like something that’s holding me back. Either way, if I ever do find an idea I feel strongly enough about to go for it and found a startup, I’ll be very grateful for all the encouragement friends and family gave me along the way!

What I’m really trying to get at here is that entrepreneurship is hip and cool right now, but the media glorify the fulfilling, glamorous aspects of the job to the detriment of a comprehensive understanding of all its realities. While I love the feeling of having a big impact I can see (never mind the celebrity if you strike it Uber famous), I have little illusions about just how hard it’s going to be: years of 70-80 hour weeks, sleepless nights, and despair when it looks like things aren’t going to work, hopefully followed by periods of elation when things look up again… Rinse, wash and repeat.

At a panel at RocketSpace just a few weeks ago the founder of Eventbrite said that if she’d known ahead of time just how difficult and stressful starting her own company would be, she might not have gone through with it. It’s not to say I haven’t learned a lot from everyone I’ve worked with and the hundreds of startup events I’ve attended. I’ve been fortunate to get that much advice before even starting. For better or worse, I know just what I’d be getting myself into.

How to Get In Touch With the Startups @ RocketSpace

It must be that time of year! We’ve been getting lots of out-of-towners who really want to meet entrepreneurs who work at RocketSpace but are only in town “today and tomorrow” the last few weeks.

Truthfully, I haven’t been very helpful (well, people aren’t going to keep working at RocketSpace if they keep on being solicited, now are they?), but now I’m going to have a great little resource to point these networking hopefuls to! Behold:

Sophie’s Guide: How to Meet Folks @ RocketSpace, and fast!

Step One
Check out happenings at RocketSpace this week. RSVP, pencil them into your calendar, and GO!

Step Two
Do some quick perusing of the companies at RocketSpace on our blog. The Community News section includes recaps of our companies in the news as well as startup writeups. The Startup Spotlight tag gathers interviews of entrepreneurs already on the campus. And if you’re interested in finding out about some of the big corporates who take part in RocketX, our Corporate Innovation Program, head to Corporate Innovation for industry news and dossiers on their work with RocketX. Open up a couple of tabs and jot down however many names you like.

Step Three
Now that you have identified 20, 40, 100 companies that work at RocketSpace, look their founders and team up on Twitter. This part is important – you can follow the company Twitter accounts (and probably should, for good measure), but if the founders and teams do have their own accounts, follow them too and give them a little social media love. Retweet an interesting thought or link, find something thoughtful to reply to a recent tweet of theirs… this gives you a way to engage that isn’t cheesy and will open up a conversation so you can sneak in, oh so naturally, that you happen to be in town and will be at Wine Wednesday at RocketSpace tomorrow! Well, it’s 20 ft from their desks so… why, yes! They will come meet you for a glass of wine this Wednesday.

Step Four
Repeat to your little heart’s content.

Step Five
Share your tips and tricks in the comments section below!

A New Lunch On a Discount Every Day With Go Dish

Imagine my surprise when I bumped into a cheerful girl handing out not sunglasses like that guy the day before, but colorful foodie cards on the street corner I used to cross on my daily pilgrimage to the San Francisco Soup Company. Yes, “used to cross”, because I read and that card and embarked on some pretty darn tasty lunch adventures! But back to the point, this enthusiastic marketing gal struck up a conversation with me and asked for my business card so I could interview her bosses about Go Dish. I loved that she was so invested in this startup and that this was a blend of 2 of my favorite things: tech and food, so of course I had to go for it.

Before I start waxing poetic on my latest lunch discoveries, let’s at least give you a quick intro to Go Dish. Co-founders Jaydon Robinson and Ryan Jones worked together in the hospitality industry doing some magical numerical tricks to help ski resorts, airlines and hotels maximize their revenue with variable pricing. While skiing is amazing, let’s face it, these 2 gentlemen have a passion for food they just couldn’t deny and had a gut feeling their numerical exploits could help small business owners in today’s competitive restaurant industry. Plus, they just knew it would be brilliant since lunch was pretty much all they and their coworkers would talk about all morning!

So what is variable pricing anyway and how does it make foodies and lunch goers all over the Financial District happy? Variable pricing is simply the practice of lowering or increasing pricing based on a variable, in this case, pick-up time. Jaydon and Ryan interviewed dozens of restaurant owners and realized that one of their biggest challenges was what I like to call “rush hour traffic.” Most patrons come in during the same 1-2 hour span for lunch or 2-3 hour span for dinner, and the restaurant churns along at a sleepy lull outside of peak times, but expenses like lease and electricity don’t go down when there are just a few customers, so the fix is to bring more in and space them out. Go Dish helps with both. By offering a varying discount on dishes depending on when a patron comes in, Go Dish spaces patrons out so wait times are shorter (regulars don’t get discouraged by the crowd) and lunch goers enjoy a nice little discount. Go Dish also serves as a sort of Yelp, offering a rotating menu of lunch options from dozens of restaurants. I’ve actually been using it to discover new places to eat (I love Yelp, but it doesn’t give me a discount to the new spots it helps me discover.)

And now for a couple of great entrepreneurship lessons Jaydon and Ryan generously shared with me:

  1. There is absolutely no reason to build everything out ASAP. Their minimum viable product was just a prototype of what the app looked like. None of the buttons worked but they showed it to people and asked them what the value was for them, gauged how willing they were to engage with it. Be creative in testing what people do and don’t like. There’s no point in throwing resources into something before you know it’ll work.
  2. It’s been beaten to death, but you need to be able to hook people with a stellar 1-2 line explanation (aka your elevator pitch.) Restaurant owners are accosted by so many reps from daily deals sites Jaydon and Ryan had to figure out how to cut through the noise and differentiate themselves. The trick was to show them the value right away. Don’t lead in with a long story or flowery example, just get to the heart of the matter and show them how you’ll make their lives better.
  3. Not all advice is created equal. The best piece of advice anyone gave them was that a lot of people are going to tell you how to do things, but you have to figure out what makes sense for you and your business model. Stay open-minded, take it all in, and then assess which will help you reach your goals.

Last but not least, the part everyone’s been waiting for, the food! In true food porn form, here are just a few of the delectable dishes I’ve been chowing down on thanks to Go dish.

Prawn Pad Thai from Vanda Siam

Prawn Pad Thai from Vanda Siam


Burrata & Tomato (not shown) Salad from Taverna Aventine

Burrata & Tomato (not shown) Salad from Taverna Aventine

Enjoy more pictures of those daily deals on their Twitter handle.

Read up on other startup interviews and trends here 🙂

Stitch Fix #2 – Vote On What I’ll Buy?

So this is purely a social experiment, but I was wondering what everyone would vote for if I gave them the chance to. So here’s everything that came in to my Stitch Fix – cute little fashion startup – and prices.

What do you think I should get?

Exhibit A, beet purple cardigan (super soft) - $38

Exhibit A, beet purple cardigan (super soft) – $38

Exhibit B, Kensie Jeans, soft & stretchy, kind of loose on top - $88

Exhibit B, Kensie Jeans, soft & stretchy, kind of loose on top – $88

Exhibit C, loose stripey top - $58

Exhibit C, loose stripey top – $58

Exhibit D, sterling silver bracelet from Bella Boutique - $42

Exhibit D, sterling silver bracelet from Bella Boutique – $42

And last but not least, exhibit E, maxi floral dress  - $78

And last but not least, exhibit E, maxi floral dress – $78

Phelps seems especially fond of the chrysanthemum fabric.

Phelps seems especially fond of the chrysanthemum fabric.

Curious about Stitch Fix? Check out photos from my 1st Stich Fix box and a quick startup intro here!

BloomThat, Because Startups Don’t ALL Have to be Tech!

It’s not the techiest thing, but it’s definitely a very San Francisco kind of startup. BloomThat offers a curated selection of ~6 bouquets composed of beautiful locally sourced flowers (check the pictures!) that come wrapped in eco-friendly burlap donated by Weaver’s Coffee each day and, get this, are personally delivered by a bicycle courier within 90 minutes of when you order. It’s perfect for that last minute birthday present!

BloomThatThis story isn’t about the timeliness though, but rather the real efforts of this adorable little startup. I got my boyfriend a gag gift on Bond for his birthday, but they don’t deliver the same day so I really have no clue when it will arrive, so at 3:30 pm I was trying to figure out what I could do to make his birthday more special, and decided to send my metro San Francisco boyfriend flowers.

The selection was gorgeous, but what really blew me away was the service! My delivery window was 5:00 – 6:00 pm, so I was a little surprised when I didn’t get a surprised Google chat message from my love, but rather a phone call around 6:00 explaining that my bicycle delivery guy had slipped in the rain and gotten in an accident. Thankfully, my courier was fine and another one was on his way to deliver the flowers. The customer service was so great though! They updated the address so the flowers would come to us at dinner that night and texted me updates so I would know when it got there!

Needless to say, I’m glad my delivery guy was OK and Matt loved his flowers!

Matt with his flowers

My 1st Foray Into Clothing Subscriptions: StitchFix

Dear Kate,

First of all, thank you very much for the cute note. When I signed up for StichFix, I had no idea that…

1.) I would be eyeing my doormat for a month


2.) I would freak out as soon as I saw the box!


3.) And that everything about this startup would be so adorable.


Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I would like to salute you for taking on the task of trying to dress me – my poor mother can concur, I am a nightmare to dress: the clothes have to be comfortable, but I have to feel like I look good (slim, even!), and it has to somehow reflect on my personal style and personality. No easy feat, especially considering 1/2 of the things I wrote in my profile probably aren’t accurate (yes, I do like loose clothing, but I also do the fitted thing too… and I like green, but mostly the jewel tone.) So please understand this doesn’t reflect on you that much, and that I really do appreciate your efforts… I probably should have Pinterested more…

And now, for all the friends who have been waiting for this box with me, here’s the contents!

Did I mention everything comes with an awesome styling guide?

Did I mention everything comes with an awesome styling guide?

Great blue cowl neck top

Great blue cowl neck top

Bow top, which was pretty cute... but waaaay too big. And necklace.

Bow top, which was pretty cute… but waaaay too big. And necklace.

Shimmery white sweater with green pants. Love the shimmer, but the sweater isn't professional enough for work (pretty much all blazers), and felt a little blobby.

Shimmery white sweater with green pants. Love the shimmer, but the sweater isn’t professional enough for work (pretty much all blazers), and felt a little blobby.

And last, but not least, the green pants. Oh, how will I ever forget those high-waisted green pants. Sorry, but just not me.

And last, but not least, the green pants. Oh, how will I ever forget those high-waisted green pants. Sorry, but they’re just not me.

All in all, cute startup and solid effort, but I’m just way too picky!

Want to get a StickFix of your own? If you click on this link, I think we’ll both get a discount 🙂

The Perfect Pitch

The name pretty much says it all. Tonight I attended a *phenomenal!* (yes, it was that great) workshop put on by RocketSpace* and Wharton over at RocketStudios in the San Francisco Financial District. *Disclaimer: I work for RocketSpace and love my job to death.

Although I’ll get to write about it for RocketSpace’s blog tomorrow, I’m slightly depressed that I won’t be able to churn out the lengthy but oh so comprehensive post you’re currently sinking your teeth into since, to put it bluntly, readers tend to be intimidated by long content (especially in blogs, which are traditionally more bite-size media.) I just received way too much wisdom and good advice to selfishly keep to myself tonight, so this is my very grateful and gleefully lenghty account of tonight’s Perfect Pitch Workshop.

RocketSpace CEO Duncan Logan led VC Alex Kr… (darn my terrible memory!) and Chris Redlitz, Founder of Transmedia Capital, first in a panel, then in giving feedback to the entrepreneurs who pitched tonight. Alex and Chris gave A LOT of very useful, insightful advice but I’ll do my best to control my enthusiasm and limit it to the most critical advice.

1.) Keep it simple. Something Chris and Alex came returning to is the need to explain in simple but compelling terms the need your startup addresses, how it goes about doing that, and why you’re so passionate about it. You need to identify a compelling need a significant number of people really want relief from (pretty self-explanatory), demonstrate clearly how exactly it is that your startup fixes this problem (read: your grandmother should be able to understand this, most VCs aren’t engineers or biochemists), and then convince the VC your passion for this issue will carry you through the ups and downs startups must weather on their way to success. Duncan very memorably reminisced about Uber’s stay at RocketSpace – one of the many reasons they’re inspiring is that it took them 10 years to get to where they are today, but they never gave up.

2.) Research, research, research! Not only do you need to understand the ins and outs of your market to convince a VC you know what you’re doing, you also need to research the VC and his or her firm before you go in. Know the startups in their portfolio. Have they invested in a similar startup in the past? Is this an industry they don’t typically invest in? And lastly, research your competition. EVERYONE, has some kind of competition, whether it’s direct or some kind of alternative. Knowing your competition is a learning opportunity – see what they do well and innovate what you can do better.

3.) Sell. Last but not least, you need to be able to sell yourself, and in later stage investments, your startup. In earlier stage investments, it can be tough to really know whether a startup will make it, especially since they often change so much before they officially make it, so it comes down to you as an entrepreneur. Are you committed? Can you listen to advice but also know which 20 – 30% actually makes sense for your startup? Will you persevere? Will you have the perspective necessary to reign your emotions in and pivot when necessary? The team is everything. There’s no way to tell where a startup will go from the initial idea, so you have to have faith in the people building it. Once you’re further along, it becomes a mix of selling yourself and also your knowledge of your industry (back to #2, research!)

I summarized and grouped a decent amount, but these little pearls of wisdom are worth sharing too:

  • A rising tide helps all boats. In a good market, even an OK team has pretty good chances.
  • Focus on partnerships; they’re a very effective way of getting exposure to many customers early on.
  • Getting seed funding isn’t all that hard, getting customers and recruiting your team is the real challenge!
  • You can get funding with no minimum viable product, just an idea!
  • Don’t show up drunk. Surprisingly, this actually happens!

Last but not least, the startups that pitched tonight!

DoormanDoorman – you will never come home to a UPS sticker instead of a package ever again. With doorman, you can choose a 1-hour window during which your package will be delivered. Genius!

ScholateScholate – Scholate puts research communications back in the hands of physicians and researchers (instead of publications.) Consume, create and curate relevant research content, and receive recognition from your peers.


Totspot – expectant mothers and elementary stage moms alike can now discover, shop and sell pre-loved items on Totspot. Extra perk? The social network aspect will keep you coming back for more!

That’s all for now! Cheers to generous people with great advice to share!