Reflecting On My Career and Launching a Startup

Damn, it’s been over 3 months since I’ve written in here.  In 2010, I literally wrote something (almost) every single day for over a year, just cuz.  Priorities change I guess.  I suppose I could still say I write everyday, but now it’s Javascript, HTML, CSS, and other foreign languages that I am gradually gaining fluency in.

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“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

Late into college, I emerged from a 20-25%-life crisis, slowly realizing that I wanted to form a company that would change the world. After (maybe fortunately) doing terribly at interviews for several full-time positions/internships that were directly related to my Electrical Engineering degree, I took a chance and interviewed at a mobile app consultancy because I wanted to learn about entrepreneurship and programming.  The interview was by far the worst I felt I’ve ever had, because not only was I terrible at interviewing, but I had hardly any experience or degree to back me.  If it was a list of groceries, I literally almost didn’t bring anything to the table:

Future boss: “Do you know PHP?”
Me: “No”
Future boss: “Have you worked with Drupal or WordPress or anything?”
Me: “Well.. I have a WordPress blog..”
Future boss: “Have you done any Android or iPhone development”
Me: “No.”
+30 more questions with a similar pattern

Lo and behold, they took a chance on me as an intern. I’d like to think that after 2 years, I made a difference there, because they made a world of a difference in my life. As incredibly fucking naive and inexperienced as I was when I walked in, and as much invaluable experience as I gained (and would continue to gain) during my time there, I always knew in the back of my mind that nothing would ever prepare me for running a company other than actually starting one of my own.

So, in July, I quit. It was one of the hardest big boy decisions I’ve had to make, because I loved my job and my team, and by no means was I reaching any sort of plateau. But I knew that by definition I was not pursuing my dream of running my own company, and I knew in my heart that I had to make the leap. There are only so many business books you can read, conversations you can have, napkin sketches you can draw, half-assed false starts you can launch – eventually you need to call bullshit on yourself.

While in Asia, I decided to commit to an idea I had been throwing around in my head. After I got back in January, I started “working” on my idea.  Even then, I was still bullshitting myself. I started sketching, reading books, making mockups, going through coding tutorials, and basically wasting time. In early February, I showed Kat and my designer at my last job my mockups of the idea I had been designing, and both of them were so incredibly confused by the user experience I had put together that they got slightly angry. I had wasted weeks of precious time designing something that I couldn’t quickly build, and worse, that made people angry/confused to use.

In all honesty, I wasted time because I was still afraid. If you don’t have a frequent window into my inner thoughts, you should know that I have many doubts. I delayed working on coding my actual idea because I didn’t think I could do it.  I am still rife with doubts on the daily.

What drives me through my own sometimes-unhealthy discouragement is commitment to a promise I made to myself last May, that by Memorial Day, 20 days from now, I will have 500 people using my idea. A weird, volatile mix of determination and doubt courses through my veins, because I am determined to hit this goal despite how many doubts I have on a daily basis, how much experience I lack, etc. Over the years I have started placing the utmost importance on following through on my word, because knowing and striving to reinforce the fact that I can do anything I’m truly committed to is my sword and shield against my own doubts, challenges, rejection, potential ridicule, failure.

Since January, not a day has gone by where I’m not thinking or working on my idea. I do miss the 9-5; when you go home you can usually just chill the fuck out and forget about your job until the next day. I’ve actually started meditating/yoga/dancing every morning and evening to train my mind think of nothing, to be present, to relax. I wouldn’t say it’s working all that well yet, as it’s still hard to stop my work from pervading my thoughts when I don’t want it to, but hopefully over time I will get better.

In late February, I tricked myself into starting by staying “lean”, giving myself two weeks to build the simplest iteration of my idea that I thought I could reasonably achieve in that timeframe, and more importantly, that my friends could use. To my own fucking surprise, I met all my basic requirements in two days (although I still spent the full 2 weeks refining it before I actually launched). Crazy what you can do when you suspend your doubt and get resourceful.

In April, I received my first official rejection from an investor, or rather an accelerator. My theory is that I got a rash from the weeks of stress in preparing my application for their program. I was bummed, but whatever – fall down 7, get up 8.

A few hours ago I wrapped up my iPhone app and submitted it to the app store for approval, and I couldn’t help but repeatedly think that it wasn’t good enough. I still think my design isn’t clean enough, my app isn’t fast enough, it’s not built with the elegance of a hundred Google engineers, my prowess hasn’t been vetted by a hot name-brand tech startup that rhymes with “witter” or “oogle” or “acebook”, blah blah blah.

But again, despite all that, I would rather risk ridicule and rejection than to not meet the goal I’ve had for almost a year. There’s a saying that “if you’re not embarrassed by your launch, you didn’t launch soon enough.”  There are months of improvements I could make to my idea, decades of experience that I could gain under someone else’s wing, but there’s no better time than now.

As unprepared and clueless as I sometimes feel, looking back, I am prepared as I ever could be. From the resilience my parents taught me as I watched our family restaurant burn down because a neighboring store attempted insurance fraud,  to my dad’s 12 hour day-shifts and my mom’s 12 hour night-shifts, to spending 5 years of late nights in parking lots and leading ACA, to consecutive weeks of leaving my work during sunrise and leading projects, to designing 100 inventions and a book and 1.5 years of rejection, and all the little moments of preparation in between, I am ready.

I’ll probably never have all the technical experience I need, but my heart and soul have never been more hungry.

 

(Sorry if I’m vague about what I’m actually working on. I’m not trying to be secretive, I’m just preparing for a launch in the next 20 days and it would be redundant to try to explain it twice. With that being said, stay tuned!)

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