LA Business Journal: 20 in their 20s

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 :)

LABJ 20 in their 20s 2014

 

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.

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!

2013 in Review

I definitely think I’m getting old(er) when time flies by so quickly and suddenly, I’m in my mid-twenties (23 now!!). 2013 is going to be one of those years I look back on and say, “that was certainly a year to remember.” The best parts of 2013 were the new friendships I made and the stronger connections I built with old friends. Life is made beautiful by sharing it with people you care about. In addition, here were some of my other highlights:

1. Enplug: My tech startup in LA grew to 30 full time people a year after starting the company. We moved from working and living out of a house to leasing an entire floor of an office building. Our social billboards, AURA, expanded from LA to 30 more cities. Our team had an exciting time doing photoshoots and interviews with Fox News, Wall Street Journal, Inc., Fast Co., LA Business Journal.

2. Nanoly Bioscience: My biotech company in Boulder, Colorado, also added additional teammates on board who in a few short months, generated some awesome results. In September, we won a grant from the Colorado Technology Association.

3. Europe for the first time: I was invited to speak at Monaco’s first major tech conference and had the pleasure of having dinner at the Prime Minister’s house and meeting Prince Albert. I spent a few days in Monaco and then went to Nice, France for another few days.

4. Europe for the 2nd and 3rd time: In June, I was selected as 1 of 100 entrepreneurs/innovators to be part of British Airways’ UnGrounded 11-hour flight event from San Francisco to London. On the flight, teams of 4-6 entrepreneurs competed against each other to come up with ideas to get more young people involved with technology and science. Our team, InIt, was 1 of 3 winners. When we landed in London, we got to attend the G8 Innovation Summit where our team’s proposal was presented to the United Nations. At the summit, we got to meet Prime Minister David Cameron and Sir. Richard Branson. In October, I was a speaker at the Milken Institute London Summit. It was my first time being involved with the Milken Institute and I have to say that it was one of the best experiences that I was fortunate enough to have in 2013. Michael Milken has done an excellent job in establishing Milken Institute as a premier think tank. Following London, I was invited by the CEO of Relativity Media, who is someone I really look up to, to travel with his team to Geneva, Switzerland, and then Cannes, France. It was my first time in both cities!

5. Japan for the first time: From Tokyo to Osaka, I am so thankful for being able to explore Japan for a week. One of the most interesting things was getting to see sumo wrestling practice at a temple.

6. Singapore for the first time: I had the honor of being a speaker at the World Entrepreneurship Forum in Singapore. It was fantastic meeting entrepreneurs from around the world and getting to see some of my entrepreneur friends from the US there too. Singapore is such a stunning city: I visited their Botanical Gardens, went to the top of Marina Bay Hotel to hang out by the huge infinity pool, explored/stayed at 4 different hotels, visited old family friends, and went to Universal Studios.

7.  Viva Las Vegas: I went to Las Vegas in what felt like every other month. Whether it was for industry forums or CES, it was great to see a thriving new tech city. I went on the very fun Zappos HQ tour and of course, (legally) gambled for the first time. One of the cool experiences in Las Vegas is also trying lots of different hotels. I’ve stayed at Circus Circus, Stratosphere, Mandarin Oriental, Rio, Wynn, Palms, and Cosmopolitan.

8. Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation: Being on the Youth Advisory Board for the Born This Way Foundation allowed me the opportunity to work with at-risk youth. One of my favorite activities we organizing donations for the LA Youth Network, which gives housing and support to homeless youth.

9. UNICEF’s Chinese Children’s Initiative: As a Board Member for UNICEF CCI, we organized our first annual fundraiser, which raised over $60,000 in a single night! We are using the funds to build safe housing for children.

10. Infobitt: I’m proud to be an advisory of Infobitt, a crowd-sourced news site founded by Larry Sanger (co-founder of Wikipedia). The site had a very successful beta launch and I know 2014 will bring continued growth to the innovative internet company.

11. Reading: I enjoyed a number of entertaining and thoughtful books in 2013. I hope to continue going through my long reading list in 2014.

  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: Read it!
  • Blink: I was hoping it would be better.
  • Bossypants: I really wanted this book to be funny, but I fell short.
  • 50 Shades of Grey: It makes for a fun, light reading.
  • Lean In: I highly recommend this book to all women.
  • The Fault in Our Stars: I don’t usually read fiction, but I heard so many good reviews of it that I gave it a shot. It was beautiful and heartbreaking, especially for those who had someone close fight cancer.
  • How to Sweet-Talk a Shark: Written by former Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, this was so surprisingly funny and informative. Two thumbs up.

12. Music: My friend Ben and I finally reunited again and produced our 2nd song together. This time, it was a fun classical music + electronic music mix: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCSEspQhmN0

Winner at CES’s LaunchFest Startup Pitch Competition

Enplug won the Consumer Electronics Show’s LaunchFest Startup Pitch Competition! Thank you Angel Launch for hosting this fun event. We competed against 8 other great startups ranging from a kickstarter for films to a carsharing company. I really enjoyed meeting the founders of these companies, who came from all parts of the US.

AngelLaunch Logo

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

Speaking at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

I had such a fun time speaking on this panel. My recommendations (not that I am qualified to give any advice) to anyone that wants to start their own company:

1. Team is everything. You can make a great company with a bad idea and a great team, but you can’t make a great company with a good idea and a bad team.

2. Make sacrifices. You need to be willing to make less money, sleep less, and have less free time.

3. You must love and be proud of what you’re building.

It was very nice to visit Berkeley again and see old friends!

Selected into The Young Entrepreneurs Council

I’m excited to be a part of The YEC!

“The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.”

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 :)

We’re Named Top 10 in NASA’s Competition for New Technology for Space!

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.

Enplug: My New Startup!

I’m excited to be part of the founding team for Enplug: Intelligent Marketing. You can check us out at www.Enplug.com.

Check out our office and team picture: enplug.wordpress.com

Follow us on Twitter: @Enplug

Follow us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Enplug/178517495514037

Dell Social Innovation Challenge: The Awards Presentation

Nanoly won 3rd place overall out of 1,800 teams and we won the Audience Choice Award! Thank you Dell, The University of Texas, and Silverback Enterprise Group for hosting this incredible global event!

The Award Show Venue in Austin, Texas! It’s gorgeous!

Me pitching Nanoly!

3rd place overall!

We won the Audience Choice Award, where people in the audience and online voted for their favorite project. Thanks everyone!

Standing next to the Nanoly billboard at the award show. This was such a cool poster! Wish I could take it home with me. Maybe I can convince Dell to send it to us…

Our team!

Dell Social Innovation Challenge Finalist!

Nanoly is 1 of 5 finalists selected out of over 1,500 submissions for the Dell Social Innovation Challenge. I couldn’t be more excited!

Dell’s Social Innovation Challenge aligns precisely with Nanoly’s social mission. Our team is motivated by our goal to bring vaccines to places in the world that traditionally do not receive proper immunization access. This competition is an incredible opportunity for Nanoly to demonstrate our global impact!

The finalist competition is in Austin, Texas from June 8-13. My teammate Peter and I will be traveling to Austin to present to a panel of judges. We’ll keep you updated!

Haas Alumni Leadership Award

As a recent graduate of the Haas School of Business, it was an absolute honor to receive the Haas Alumni Leadership Award. The Haas community has made such an impact in my decision to pursue entrepreneurship. I am truly thankful to the Haas Alumni Network San Francisco chapter for this scholarship award, especially Mr. Aaron Mendelson, who is the president of the chapter. The award reception was hosted at the incredibly beautiful Autodesk Gallery venue in San Francisco. Doug Leone, head of Sequoia Capital, was the keynote speaker. He shared a very insightful talk on entrepreneurship and venture capital. It was a great way to conclude my studies at Haas!

Speaking about the incredibly positive impact of the Haas community at the Haas Alumni Leadership Award reception

With Doug Leone, head of Sequoia Capital, who was the keynote speaker at the award reception. He is probably the smartest and coolest venture capitalist I’ve ever met.

The award reception was hosted at the beautiful Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco.

Haas Alumni Leadership Award Presentation

Cornell Venture Challenge: 3rd Place!

Peter Matheu, a research scientist in our Nanoly Biotech startup and a Cornell alum, and I spent this past week in Ithaca, New York, competing in Cornell’s Venture Challenge. The competition selected 5 finalist teams out of 70 entries. We were very excited to be in the top 5!

The competition was part of Entrepreneurship@Cornell’s 2-day celebration conference. Cornell alums, other college students, community members, and many others attended the event-packed conference. In addition to the competition, our Nanoly team also attended the judge’s feedback session, a networking reception, and award banquet. The final outcome of the competition:

1st place: Tadpoles

2nd place: Socratives

3rd place: Nanoly

We are so thrilled! We thank Cornell Venture Challenge’s organizing team and Cornell for this fantastic experience! Congratulations to Tadpoles and Socratives-your technologies are incredibly creative!

Be the first to test out my new project, Fonite.com!

Ryan and I launched the alpha testing for Fonite.com! I’m letting you all be the first to try it out!

Use the following invite code to get access to the site: 81655

What’s Fonite?
Fonite is an advanced caller-ID system for your smartphone. When someone calls you, the incoming call screen will show that person’s latest update (newest Tweet, Facebook status, most recent email exchange you had with them, and user-generated updates on that person). So, when you pick up the call, you won’t forget to wish them a happy birthday or ask how their recent midterm went!

What’s in the alpha?
The only feature that we’ve enabled for the alpha testing is writing updates/reviews on phone numbers. You can vote up or down updates on each phone number.

What do you do as an alpha tester?
Feel free to navigate around! You can write updates on what’s going on in your life in your Profile. Or, search for a friend’s number and write an update about them! You can also vote up or down updates people have written. Not sure what to write? Check out my Fonite profile by searching for my phone number: 720-261-5933.

Please share your feedback with us! Click on the “Feedback” button. Let us know what you think, what we should add to the mobile app, how you would use Fonite, anything!