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 🙂

My Latest “Coup de Coeur,” The Radiant Wrap

Koray, creator of The Radiant WrapFirst of all, happy new year one and all! The blog’s been undergoing a bit of an identity crisis since I left recruiting, but I’ve got several things lined up to get it back up and running at full speed covering startups and travel once more (and maybe the occasional recipe every once in a while too?)

Now, without further adieu, I would like to introduce you to Koray Lucas, creator of The Radiant Wrap. I met him at work (yes, he’s a RocketSpacer!) and was wowed by his story!!

Just like most guys in their early twenties, Koray wasn’t very aware of or interested in breast cancer when he went to SFSU, but he didn’t have much of a choice when his mother, Maria, discovered she had breast cancer right before he walked.

They were close and it hit him pretty hard, so he did the only thing he could, he researched. Koray got all the facts on breast cancer and was ready to support his mom however he could, but this is what surprised (and inspired!) him the most:

“As she went through her treatment, she’d come home and tell me about how the hospital went through this whole process to try and make her feel comfortable… fresh-baked cookies, a reading library, couches… it was almost like a spa! But when it came time for treatment, she had to put on one of those horrible hospital robes where your butt hangs out, just like patients at the hospital. And that was when she felt like a patient, when she felt sick.”

As painful as that must have been for Koray to hear, it was also the beginning of an inspiring story. His mom had to go in for treatments one hour every day for 6 weeks, and she soon came up with the very first Radiant Wrap prototype. She busted out her Target sewing kit, made something she could feel good about wearing, and got rave reviews when she wore it to treatment the very next week! Having just received his BA in Business, Koray jumped in and helped his mom develop it into the business it it today.

Over the last 2 years, he has worked tirelessly to bring these wraps to breast cancer patients everywhere, consulting with doctors and nurses to make sure his designer gowns meet all of the requirements, visited enormous cloth warehouses, found clothing manufacturers, and discovered the bureaucratic maze of medical procurement.

4 of the beautiful styles of Radiant Wrap available at http://www.theradiantwrap.com

4 of the beautiful styles of Radiant Wrap available at http://www.theradiantwrap.com

It wasn’t easy. Koray caught a lucky break and sold 50 Radiant Wraps to a hospital in Napa soon after he started, but it took a lot longer to get other hospitals and clinics to come on board since they must complete a tenuous process to receive grants to pay for the designer gowns, and Obamacare’s making everyone in the medical industry nervous about expenses.

“The hardest part, as an entrepreneur, is putting all of the profits I make back into my business. It has been very hard waiting for grant approval so hospitals can get their wraps and I can pay my rent on time and keep growing The Radiant Wrap. It’s being patient and pushing through those ups and downs.”

But Koray’s not giving up. He has already sold over 1,000 wraps to hospitals, cancer treatment clinics, and even small boutiques abroad! His mom is the face of the business, and someday, he wants The Radiant Wrap to give her the chance to retire.

I personally think this is a very worthy cause, and sincerely encourage anyone who wants to help to check out this website http://www.theradiantwrap.com/

Check out Koray and The Radiant Wrap in The San Francisco Chronicle and Entrepreneur.

Startup to Watch: Chompus

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Eva Roa and Soon Khen Owyong about their startup, Chompus. Now, obviously I’m biased since they’re really good friends of mine from AIESEC San Jose, but I truly do think their startup has potential so I hope you’ll take the time to check them out online.

Eva and SK are 2nd and 3rd from the left respectively.

I tried out this cool recording app called iTalk to record our interview but the 20 minute file was too big to transfer so you unfortunately won’t get the chance to hear it.

I started out writing out a transcript but it was taking so long I finally gave up, so instead you’re getting the highlights!

Chompus is an application that connects event planners and students. Eva and SK have somehow discovered how to kill 2 birds with one stone: end student hunger and help event planners reach attendee targets.

Student hunger is a huge problem in the US, much more so than is commonly believed. I remember meeting SK shortly after he moved here from Malaysia. He lived off of $1 Burger King…. now he’s graduated to $1 carrots (kidding!) The point is, student hunger is a very real problem. Tuition is expensive, rent is expensive, and prices in general just keep going up!

The flip side is student organizations on campus. The easiest way to get students to attend events is to offer free food, but in Eva’s own words ” Everyone and their mother is advertising to get people to come to their events.” (Lol, love you Eva <3)

Chompus sends subscribees text message reminders of events offering free food. Badabing, Badaboom! (More eva right there ;D) Students can get food and students orgs can get more attendees!

I don’t want to make this too long so I’ll save the stories for another post — you can look forward to some advice on entrepreneurship as well as some really nice stories about what it was like starting Chompus in the next weeks.


That’s all for now folks. Make sure to “like” Chompus on Facebook =]

PS: Chompus is hiring! Check out their marketing internships.