And it talks about how to figure out whether a stranger you meet can be your startup co-founder. Check it out here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2014/09/02/how-to-know-if-a-perfect-stranger-is-your-dream-cofounder
The Kairos Society Latin America Summit was held in Medellin, Colombia. It was my first time in South America and I couldn’t have found a better group to explore the beautiful country with. It was awesome to have fellow young entrepreneurs who are also some of my best friends there in Medellin with me. In the 5 days that we were there, I learned some interesting things:
- Medellin is truly beautiful. It’s said that the three best places to visit in South America are 1) Rio, 2) Santiago, and 3) Medellin. I can’t speak for the first two, but I can say that Medellin is a great city to spend time in. The city is situated in the valley so you have mountains all around you.
- Learn to speak Spanish. Most of the people that interacted with that are native Colombians did not speak English. Plan on learning Spanish before getting to Medellin.
- American Express is accepted everywhere. In fact, of all the places I’ve tried using Amex in, more places in Colombia accepted the credit card than took my card in the US. Even the little hole-in-the-wall cafe that we went to in Medellin took credit cards.
- Taxis are very cheap. The 40-minute cab ride from the airport into Medellin cost me $35. Getting to most places around Medellin only cost between $3-$10.
- Colombian bacon is a little taste of heaven. Called chicharron, Colombian bacon is a must-have while you’re in the country. I could have this for every single meal if I didn’t think I would die from a clogged artery from eating too much of it.
- Nightlife 7 days of the week. We were there from Saturday through Wednesday. Each night, there were plenty of activities, even on the days we consider to be off-days. We went to a hip bar/lounge/club on Monday night. Tuesday night, we went salsa dancing.
- Prostitution. We had prostitutes approach our group while we were going out in the city. We learned that prostitution is widespread in Colombia. According to the law, prostitution and brothels are legal in designated “tolerance zones.”
I’m very thankful to be included in LA Business Journal’s 20 in their 20s for 2014. My answers were summarized in the article, so I’ve included the uncensored version in this blog post :)
What led you to start your own company? A combination of rebellion, curiosity, and boredom led me to do startups. I started building things throughout my time in college. My friend introduced me to my now co-founder, David. I met David for about an hour to just chat and share ideas. I make decisions really quickly so afterwards, I did what I thought was the most logical next step: pack a U-Haul with all my stuff and move to Los Angeles to start Enplug with David.
Where did you get the startup money? My co-founders and I first funded everything from guilt-free and interest-free funds called our bank account and personal savings. After we built a prototype display running Enplug software and got customers to sign up, we went to entrepreneurs that we admired and asked them to give us money. They gave us $2.5 million.
What was the biggest challenge? Determining whether to build our internal applications for our teammates on iOS or android. We have very passionate developers on both sides so it ended with a compromise. We made everything web-based.
What was the most important lesson you learned? Work with people smarter than myself. In past companies that I’ve started, I worried when things broke because I knew I would have to fix it. With Enplug, I don’t worry when things break because there’s 34 other people there to fix it.
How many hours a day do you put in? 24 hours. I dream in Enplug. On days when I don’t dream about Enplug, I work about 17 hours. I’m single and don’t have kids so I think this is acceptable for now. My co-founders are in the same position so it’s easy to get really into work.
Does your youth lead to awkward situations, such as when you supervise older workers? The Enplug teammates that I work with who are older than me are always smarter and more experienced than me so I don’t need to supervise them.
Will you start another company? Absolutely. My co-founding team at Enplug work so well that we’ve already made a pact to work on our next companies together. We’re thinking wireless energy transferring, unless pCell does it first, or an alternative high school focused on entrepreneurship.
Could you ever work for someone else? I work for my teammates, clients, and investors every day. I love getting them results.
What do you do to relax? Work….out, but mostly just work. I play the piano and enjoy composing music. Netflix is also really good-I’m a big fan of Archer and Family Guy. A lot of us ride motorcycles so we’ll go racing down PCH.
TechCrunch, 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!
Whether you’re trying to find a co-founder for a startup or organization, the process is more of a science than an 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 THAT YOU WANT
To increase your likelihood of getting a great hustler co-founder, I’ve felt these actions make a positive difference:
- Quickly make your decision to work with them or not: If you take too long to decide whether you want to work with someone or not, that person will leave for another opportunity. For all the companies that 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. To convince them that I’m a good partner, I had to chase them down for multiple coffee sessions.
- 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.”
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.
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.
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 hacking session 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.
I found co-founders by always keeping an eye out. When I found someone I liked, I would aggressively sell them on working together. 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.
Can’t tell anyone yet! But I hope to share with you soon :)
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.
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!
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 :)
Thanks Haas for featuring an article about Nanoly’s prize at the Intel Global Challenge!
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 :)
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.
Can’t believe our barely three-months old startup, Enplug, is already written about in Forbes!
My biotech startup, Nanoly Bioscience, is a Top 10 finalist for NASA’s $110K Award for businesses creating new technology that will benefit space. It’s been more than exciting that a project I started with my friend last year has been recognized by NASA!
It has been an incredible journey with the Nanoly team. I don’t think any of us realized, when we first started theorizing our technology solution, that it could be so transformative-let alone something that NASA might use. Hopefully, this demonstrates how important it is to always Think Big!
A collaboration between NASA and The Space Frontier, The NASA New Space Frontier Competition recognizes entrepreneurs developing supporting, problem-solving, and game-changing technologies for the space industry.
It’s been an honor to be featured as one of the Dell’s Social Innovation Challenge winners!