First week at Idealab! For those of you who don’t know, Idealab has been my dream internship ever since I became interested in startup culture, and after two interviews while traveling Europe (and accidentally locking myself out of my hostel room during one of them), I managed to secure it. A little context: Idealab is a Startup Incubator in Pasadena, meaning they take the very beginnings of business ideas and test them (using lean methodology) to see if they would survive as companies.
Out of over 100 applications, our supervisors chose a team of 7 (only 6 actually work here now, the 7th one couldn’t get a visa). We have Amol, a USC student from India who is incredibly clever in terms of questioning things instead of just accepting ‘that’s just the way they are’ ; Harrison, also from USC but originally from Hong Kong who is already working on his own business called Study Bloc; Dana, a phenomenal graphic and UX designer who is also an engineer from Stanford; Adam, a CS major from Vanderbilt; and Andrew, a finance guru from Columbia.
Our skills complement each other nicely, and I’ve really been enjoying working with them so far. We’ve just started a project called [name redacted until project complete] where we are trying to get a subscription service for gadgets off the ground. Basically every month for a small fee you’ll get a box with some cool gadgets inside. We’re just starting off with building a website to see if anyone is interested, and we’ll see how it goes from there. I’m taking point on the project (essentially becoming the product manager), so I hope it works out!
Last Friday was my adventure in entrepreneurship. First I attended a lecture by the brilliant Bill Gross, creator of Idealab, an incubator in Pasadena. 4 hours later, I had the luck to speak with the President of Idealab, Marcia Goodstein. The first time I saw Bill Gross was at the Innovation Summit in October, where I unfortunately missed the beginning of his speech (which luckily made up the bulk of his presentation at CMC). He talked about the 10 most important parts of successful startups:
- Pursue your passion
- The more disruptive the better
- Don’t spend ahead of success/traction
- Timing matters
- Execution really matters
- Survive until the market’s ready
- Recognize your strengths
- Teamwork Matters
- Listen and Iterate – Turn on ideas
- Harness your user’s passion
Other important points he made:
- Give out lots of equity to encourage people to join the start-up team.
- The only way you can win against big companies is by outmaneuvering them with your small size. Keep your ear to the ground, listen to your customers, and adapt quickly.
- Find the things that don’t work.
And finally, all truths pass through three phases, so sometimes you just need to push through:
- Violently opposed
- Self evident
After his presentation, we were allowed to ask questions. Some of the most interesting were:
Q: What are the positions necessary in a start-up?
- Entrepreneurial – Dream
- Producer – Get things done
- Administrative – Coordinate/Infrastructure
- Integrator – Bring different people and parts together
Q: How important is company culture?
A: Success breeds culture, culture does not breed success.
Q: What’s important in a company?
A: Mutual trust, respect, openness, and transparency. Transparency is extra effort in that you need to train your coworkers to know what to do with the information they learn about the company.
Q: Is working in start-up environments like Silicon Valley or Silicon Beach important?
A: It’s helpful to see people going through the same hardships, and share resources.
It was wonderful to hear advice from such an experienced individual in the start-up field, and I hope I get the chance to put his words to good use. My next blog post will be about my talk with Marcia Goodstein, I hope you look forward to it!
On October 10, 2013, Christie Kweon and I represented Scripps College at Innovation Summit Pasadena, a Technology and Business conference in Pasadena. Our day started out with some really awful dead stop traffic from Claremont to Pasadena, meaning we unfortunately missed some of Bill Gross’s (of Idealab) opening speech, but the last part I did hear was absolutely fascinating. There seemed to be a theme at the summit of failure not being the end, but rather if you keep going you will become stronger. Go hard, and keep trying seemed to be what most of the speakers agreed on.
There were a variety of speakers ranging from design to science fields, but each had something to say about the growing tech industry and how innovation is thriving. The community was eager to learn, and the presenters were engaging, so although the event was around 8 hours, it seemed to blur by. There was a lunch in the middle where I met the Social Media intern for Mindshare (whose events I hope to be attending in the future), as well as many other cool entrepreneurs in the tech field. I’m glad I attended, for I learned some invaluable lessons about technology and business, as well as meet some very inspirational figures.