When it was just the 5 co-founders and two engineers, it was easy to maintain our fierce, productive, and fun culture. But as we grew to 10, 15, then 20, and now 30 full-time teammates, we recognized that we needed to actively think about making our teammates happier. We did activities that we thought people would enjoy like ice skating because that’s what we thought “built team culture.” We were wrong. Building team culture isn’t about scheduling a group activity somewhere nearby for the sake of doing a regular activity. Building culture is all about the little things and random adventures that we get inspired to do together. Here’s an article that I wrote that got published on Inc. Magazine about what we did to truly make our team happier and more productive: inc.com/young-entrepreneur-council/8-affordable-ways-to-make-your-team-happier-and-more-productive.html
EnplugEmails are a series on my blog of actual emails sent to my teammates at Enplug. I’m sharing these because it may give other startup founders ideas.
Before the end of each year, everyone at Enplug nominates and votes for one another for the Enplug Awards. We started this award game the first year that we started the company and it’s been a fun tradition ever since. It’s a reflection of our culture to always keep things entertaining! The awards this year ranged from “Most likely to have 10 kids” to “Most likely to give you a ride home from jail.” Here’s the email I sent out:
Subject line: SoCalTech’s Top 50 Startups and the Enplug Awards
On December 29th, I sent out the winners:
The EnplugEmails series on my blog are real emails that I’ve sent to my teammates at Enplug. I’m sharing some of these emails because I thought they might be useful to other startup founders. Here’s the latest one:
Subject line: The New Unicorns of 2014
The list of all the private companies that reached $1 billion valuations in 2014 was published on VentureBeat today. Thanks, Jessie, for sharing it with me.
There were 17 companies in total this year that reached the milestone. Investors call these companies “Unicorns” because of how rare they are. Thousands of startups are founded each year and only 17 hit a billion this year. And one is a customer!
- $1.1 billion
- Founded 2009
- Actifio is an enterprise technology company with a radically simple copy data virtualization platform.
- $1.1 billion
- Founded 2008
- AppDynamics develops application performance management (APM) solutions that deliver problem resolution for highly distributed applications.
- $1.2 billion
- Founded 2007
- AppNexus provides trading solutions and powers marketplaces for Internet advertising.
- Received $1 billion in funding so…valuation is at least $1 billion
- Founded 2008
- Cloudera is an enterprise software company that provides Apache Hadoop-based software and training to data-driven enterprises.
- $1.56 billion
- Founded 2003
- DocuSign employs cloud-based e-signature technology to allow users to sign and send documents online.
- $1+ billion
- Founded 1996
- Good Technology is a pioneer and world leader in secure mobility solutions for businesses.
- $1.63 billion
- Founded 1997
- Intarcia Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company developing therapies for diseases that require long-term chronic treatment.
- $1.3 billion
- Founded 2004
- Jasper powers the Internet of Things across more than 1,500 enterprises, millions of devices, over 100 mobile operators and 6 continents.
- $1+ billion
- Founded 2006
- Kabam is a mobile gaming company developing free-to-play core games available on mobile devices, the web, and other platforms.
- $1.5 billion
- Founded 2007
- Lending Club is the nation’s leading online credit marketplace, using technology to lower the cost of the traditional banking system.
- $1.38 bllion
- Founded 2007
- Protecting individuals and enterprises, Lookout predicts and stops mobile attacks before they do harm.
- $1+ billion
- Founded 2012
- You know what it is.
- $1.39 billion
- Founded 2007
- New Relic is a SaaS-based software analytics platform offering app performance management and mobile monitoring solutions.
- $2.5 billion
- Founded 2006
- $1.12 billion
- Founded 2013. Fastest growing SaaS company in history.
- Yes, it’s the same Slack tool we use every day to chat with each other.
- $1+ billion
- Founded 2007
- Sunrun is a provider of residential solar electricity and solar power service.
- $5 billion
- Founded 2010
- One of Enplug’s big customers…so I’m sure you know this one.
When I was in high school, I learned about The Tech Awards, which recognizes 5 companies each year that have built technology that benefits society. The award is sponsored and hosted by Microsoft, Nokia, Intel, Applied Materials, and The Swanson Foundation (Robert Swanson, founder of Genentech). Winners have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, and Ted Turner. I thought, maybe one day I’ll build something impactful enough to be recognized by The Tech Awards. 8 years later, it happened. When I got to the 1,200 gala that would announce the winners, I was already thrilled to be one of the nominees. There were five categories and we were in the running for the Young Innovator Award. We met our judges, which included scientists from Genentech, and talked to the sponsors of our award, the inspiring and beautiful Erica Swanson and Judy Swanson of The Swanson Foundation. When it was announced that we were a winner, it was the cherry on top.
In college, I co-founded Nanoly Bioscience with Balaji Sridhar, Mark Tibbitt, and Peter Matheu. We developed polymers that enable vaccines to survive without refrigeration. Rural places with no electricity or infrastructure do not receive vaccines and these are the regions that are most vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases. Our goal is to get vaccines to anywhere in the world.
The Ambrosetti Forum, is an annual international economic conference held at the beautiful Villa d’Este in Lake Como, Italy. It is also the best forum/conference/event that I have ever been to. The intimate three-day event brings together leaders from around the world to candidly discuss topics ranging from the world economic outlook to new scientific developments to improving governance in Europe.
This year, I was honored to be a speaker on stage along with Senator John McCain, Former Prime Minister of Italy Enrico Letta, Chairman of Goldman Sachs International Peter Sutherland, Former President of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet, and the CEO of the New York Times Mark Thompson. The Former Prime Minister of Finland Esko Aho interviewed me on stage on the topic of “New Technologies and New Business Models.” Prime Minister Aho was absolutely delightful. Even in the course of our 45-minute on-stage discussion, I learned a lot about leadership from him (at 36, he was the youngest elected Prime Minister of Finland). I discussed how Enplug was able to win customers away from our multi-billion dollar competitor companies by using a better business model and more sustainable technology.
I knew I would be the youngest speaker at this event so I thought, “Why not have fun with this conservative crowd.” I wore a bright pink dress. Before I went on stage, people thought that I was the girlfriend or trophy wife of someone (I’m used to it!). But the benefit of wearing a bright pink dress is that after my talk, people can easily find me in the crowd if they wanted to talk with me. It worked.
It was my first time in Italy so of course, I had to have some fun as well. Thankfully, my best friend and investor, Sabrina Kay, came with me. As a regular visitor of Europe, Sabrina knew all the best things to do in Italy. It was an incredible week of learning and discovery.
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.
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
Can’t tell anyone yet! But I hope to share with you soon :)
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!
Our team was so thrilled when we saw that we were featured on the front of the Fast Company‘s website. Fast is one of my favorite magazines so it was truly an honor to be written about on their site. Thank you to Lisa Nicole Bell and Fast Tech Co-Editor Chris Dannen for the great article! Check it out here: www.fastcompany.com/3005041/startup-slumber-party-how-living-your-cofounders-can-save-your-company
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.
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 :)