What’s the inspiration behind SWIPEBY?
Four years ago, I was studying for a semester in Shanghai and I fell in love with the easy and low cost of food delivery. Things were way cheaper and way faster in Shanghai than anywhere else I’d been, and everyone was taking advantage of that. It opened my eyes to how super convenient food delivery can activate millions of users.
So, I came back to the U.S. for my final semester and set out to build a peer-to-peer delivery app for a closed ecosystem, like my university campus. I quickly realized that the campus ecosystem is not the fastest moving one when it comes to innovation. As a result, I tweaked the app by offering a new way of food ordering for everyone. I created a “Tinder for food” like app for take-out orders. The app learned and suggested meals based on users right and left swipes. I launched an MVP of that idea in January 2018.
At the same time, click-and-collect from players like Walmart, Target and Chick-Fil-A caught my attention and it was a logical iteration of the platform to offer curbside-pick-up. SWIPEBY was born and launched the next summer, in 2019.
What was it like founding a company during your last semester of college?
It has been an ongoing question to me as to whether I join a company after graduation, or start my own business. It was clear to me that I needed to make a decision at some point in my studies. I definitely could have started a bit earlier, but ultimately, I set out on my own. This actually inspired some friends of mine to do the same and start their own business.
How did your experience co-founding SEON help you with SWIPEBY?
Co-founding SEON was a big learning experience. SEON was the brainchild of another co-founder that I actually interned with before we started the business, with three other co-founders.
With that set-up, I was thrown into an established network of experienced investors, developers, and even manufactures and engineers in China. I quickly learned the basics of angel fundraising and development. Further, working with a rather larger founding team taught me how to navigate team dynamics and see what works and what doesn’t in leadership.
Lastly, I learned a lot about contracting and the legal dynamics of deal making. I avoided a lot of potential mistakes at SWIPEBY with these insights.
How do you handle risk and competition?
I think competition is key to keeping you sharp and on your toes. I am generally very open with competitors and embrace them. In terms of risk and taking risk, I think it's just part of the job.
I am very much aware that I need to make decisions with sometimes a high level of uncertainty and risk, but it's nothing that scares me. I see it as an exciting part of the job as a founder at an early stage company.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
Staying focused and prioritizing resources.
When you are launching a business, it is critical to stay laser focused on the core value proposition and not get distracted by all the opportunities, ideas, advice, etc. In addition, trying to change the world and building the next big thing with a shoestring budget and very limited resources is a constant challenge which causes constant questions of prioritization. I actually think it never goes away. One always has more ideas and a higher ambition than there are resources available.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
I am luckily able to take most things calmly, without bringing in emotion. It takes a lot to stress me out and lose my emotional balance.
What has been the biggest change you’ve seen in SWIPEBY since launching in the US? Any surprising challenges or similarities?
Keeping up with the user reaction and learning fast to adapt to the customer's needs. It was really more a SWIPEBY journey with constant evolutionary changes, rather than the one big change.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd via Republic?
Primarily, we were very excited by the idea of building a community of people that have a stake in the business. I think it's a great and democratic way to fundraise, while having people easily participate in a company's success.
It also fits our core goal to democratize off-premises and get away from the very expensive revenue shares of delivery and cash absorbing monthly subscriptions of other services.
What’s your team culture like?
Equal, trusting and open. We have no major rules, guidelines or policies- besides have fun, be good humans, and get the job done (FAST).
What’s your kryptonite?
Endless Facebook scroll videos. Currently, it's the show Criminal Minds.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
When I am on a call at home I wear house slippers. I like to walk around the room kicking the slippers in front of me. It's a weird habit, but helps me think.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
I get very excited by seeing and experiencing new things. Whenever I can, I like to see and explore new places. That might mean hopping on a plane to see a new country or city, or trying the latest brewery and restaurant in my area.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
Never doubt your big thoughts and ideas- even when others believe they are unachievable or not worth it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
There are just no shortcuts. Don't shy away from the work that needs to get done. Try to work smart, not just hard.
Do you have a(ny) mentor(s)? If so, what have they taught you?
My parents are probably my closest mentors. I am very fortunate in that they have always supported me in everything I do. They are also experts in entrepreneurship, business and tech.
They have primarily taught me to believe in myself and be confident. They also taught me that while I am very privileged and they were able to open doors, nothing is given to you. There are no shortcuts; hard work pays off!