Winning TechCrunch’s Startup Showdown

Nanxi liu techcrunchTechCrunch, AOL, and 4A teamed up to host Startup Showdown in the Beverly Hilton Hotel’s auditorium. There were 15 ad-tech startups selected from around the country. I was impressed by the caliber of the startups and had a great time meeting their CEOs. I think Enplug was one of the youngest companies there so I didn’t expect to win.

The format was a pitch and then Q&A from the four judges. Then, the top three startups were selected to do one more pitch against each other. The three finalists along with us were Brander and Paedae. Both have compelling products. The audience then voted for their favorite and Enplug came in the lead :)

Here were some of the fellow companies that I enjoyed learning about:

  • Stipple: Founded in 2010. Raised $14.4 million. Stipple’s image-based marketing technology stack detects, recognizes, and identifies the content inside images at scale and enables Advertisers and Publishers to apply interactive curated content, accurate native advertising solutions, and connects organically to commerce.
  • TripleLift: Founded in 2012. Raised $4 million. TripleLift’s templating technology uses high-throughput, low-latency to serve ads and relies on computer vision technologies to ensure each brand’s advertising content looks great on each different publisher’s look and feel.
  • Paedae. Founded in 2012. Raised $12 million. Paedae allows publishers to give game players physical and virtual rewards for reaching certain milestones, and for brands to present their ads as part of the rewards.
  • Blippar. Founded in 2010. Raised from Qualcomm Ventures. Blippar’s technology is bringing “lightning-fast image recognition and augmented reality to mobile advertising.”

I’m looking forward to seeing the successes of these fellow startups!

How to find co-founders for your startup

Whether you’re trying to find a co-founder for a startup, company, or organization, here’s my experience with this art. To start, the most effective way to find co-founders is if you’ve already established yourself as someone who is a top talent and proven yourself as a great partner in past activities.

GETTING THE CO-FOUNDER YOU WANT
To increase your likelihood of getting a great hustler co-founder, I’ve felt these traits make a positive difference:

  • Make your decision to work with them or not quickly: If you take too long to decide whether you want to work with someone or not, that person will leave for another opportunity. For the dozen or so companies I’ve co-founded, most were with co-founders that I decided to work with within 24 hours of meeting them.
  • Chase: The co-founders that I worked with were regularly approached by others to start companies before I met them. I just happened to chase a little harder to convince them I’m a good partner.
  • Sell, sell, sell: Getting a superstar to work with you is just like a sales process. You pitch, you convince, you come back later if they say no the first/second/third time, and then you close the deal.

PLACES TO FIND THEM
Here are some non-traditional places that I or my co-founders have found co-founders:

1. Word of Mouth
I heard about my co-founder for Enplug, David Zhu, through a colleague when I was at Goldman Sachs. One day at the office, my colleague was talking about this insanely smart MIT-dropout turned professional poker player. This guy sounded like someone I wanted to meet. A few months later, when I was looking for partners to start my next company with, I asked my former colleague to connect me with David. David and I talked on Skype for an hour and he flew up from LA to SF a week or so after. I met with David in person for an hour and told him, “I’ll take a U-Haul and move myself to LA. See you next week.”

2. Craigslist
My co-founders Zach and Alex found each other on Craigslist. They were both UCLA students who had built successful tech products and companies while in school. Zach had a room open in his apartment and was particularly interested in having a fellow techie engineer live with him. Alex saw the Craigslist post and before you know it, they were living together and building apps together.

3. Airplane
My co-founders Zach and David met while sitting next to each other on a Southwest flight. Zach accidentally tripped on David’s bag as Zach was boarding his flight. As a result, he apologized and decided to sit next to David. The conversation basically went like this (if shortened in a few sentences):

David: Hi, I’ve built security software and am starting another company. I also made millions of dollars before I was 18 playing online poker professionally.
Zach: Nice. I built 2 Top 10 Downloaded Education Apps in the Mac App Store last year while I was in college.
David: Let’s work together.
Zach: Sounds good. I’ll drop-out of UCLA today and join you.

A week later, we all moved into one apartment to work together.

4. School
Except for a few companies, I found most of my co-founders in schools I attended. For example, for one of the products I was building in college, I reached out to a guy named Ryan who I hadn’t talked to since freshman year. He was known as the ultimate computer science nerd (that’s a compliment) living on our dorm room floor. I sent him a Facebook message that was basically, “Hey, I haven’t talked to you in a few years, but I remember that you were super smart. I’m building something and I want you to built it with me. Want to meet up for coffee?” We met up the next day and started building the product.

5. At the bar
After a random hack sesh with my old high school friends, Marcus and Alex, we went to a bar to relax. While drinking a Blue Moon, I noticed an attractive, tall guy standing on the other side of the room. I pointed him out to Alex, who them told me that Mr. Tall Guy was a biochemical genius that already had quite a number of successes under his belt as a twenty-something year old. It so happened that Alex worked in the same lab as Mr. Tall Guy. Alex jokingly said, “I’m totally going to tell him you have the hots for him.” Since I have no shame, “I said, go for it.” Mr. Tall Guy comes over and we start talking. The next day, we meet up and started a biotech company together that would eventually win Intel’s Top Social Innovation Award.

BOTTOM LINE
I found co-founders by just always keeping an eye out and being pretty aggressive with selling them. I’ve never found co-founders on a co-founder dating site or co-founder networking event. I feel like the top talents don’t need to go to those places to find great partners. If they’re so good, they’re being poached left and right by people or they’re already working on something cool. You just need to convince them that what you’re doing is cooler.

What was I doing at Intel?

Can’t tell anyone yet! But I hope to share with you soon :)

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Group photo! The crazy thing is I met three of the seven people in Boston last year. I’m thrilled to be surrounded here with some incredible entrepreneurs and innovators.

I'm wearing the suite that the engineers where when they are in the facility that makes the Intel chips. The rooms are apparently the cleanest in the world!

I’m wearing the suite that the engineers where when they are in the facility that makes the Intel chips. The rooms are apparently the cleanest in the world!

We’re in the Wall Street Journal!

Our team is so excited to be featured in the Wall Street Journal! It was interesting to see how articles are published in the WSJ. We interviewed with the journalist a few weeks ago and had a followup call this weekend. The photographer came to our house yesterday to take photos (and enjoyed a nice BBQ dinner with us!). We’re looking forward to making a team trip to the newsstand to buy every issue of Wednesday, July 31st’s Wall Street Journal! http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324170004578638002403132048.html

I’ve read some of the comments of people saying that it’s a horrible idea etc…, but we’ve been living together for over a year now and I think it’s one of the best decisions we could have possibly made as a small and growing company. If you come by our house, it’s not like a frat party with footballs being thrown around and a keg in the corner. The house is very quiet throughout the day with people working hard at their desks. People are professional with each other and treat each other with respect. We’re a company building a great product, but we think of ourselves as a family first.

Enplug Wall Street Journal

Kairos 50 Award and Dance Party on the NYSE

It’s an honor to have Nanoly Bioscience be named in Kairo’s Top 50 companies started in college.

As part of the Kairos 50, we all got to present our companies on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange! Attendees included the Prince of Jordan, the CEO of AutoDesk, founder of Vonage, CEO of Forbes, and CEO of Johnson & Johnson. I feel so lucky to be able to connect with these people!

My friend Julia from Spain and I have dinner at our hotel

My friend Julia from Spain and I have dinner at our hotel

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My friends from UC Berkeley and I take a photo together on Day 1

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Officially part of the first rave on the NYSE. Live performance by European DJ, Madeon

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Ringing the NYSE opening bell

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With a fellow attendee, who dressed glamorously in orange, having a drink on the NYSE.

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Presenting my company on the NYSE floor

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The personalized trophy they gave to the Kairos 50 companies

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Named in “130 Young Entrepreneurs to Watch”

Woke up this morning with an email saying “Congratulations” from a friend. I had no idea what he was talking about so it was a nice surprise to learn about this list Under30CEO.com put out! This was really exciting! I don’t know if I really deserve this yet, but I’ll take it :)

Under30CEO

Interviewed on CBS Radio News LA’s “Business Rockstars” show

Hosted by Ken Rutkowski (the CEO of METal International), KFWB 980′s “Business Rockstars” is a show that shares stories from successful entrepreneurs. Check out a recording of the interview we had on September 10th here: http://businessrockstars.com/br/2012/09/business-rockstars-ep61-mon-910/

The first 10 minutes is Ken’s introduction about the show and a little background about me. The next 20 minutes are my interview :)

Confirmed onto the Board of Directors for the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce

I am excited to serve on the board of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce!

The purpose of the West L.A. Chamber of Commerce is to promote the commercial, civic, cultural, educational, and industrial interests of the West Los Angeles area so that its businesses, neighborhoods, and citizens shall prosper.