October 20, 2022
Asian Founder hosted its first IRL event for NY Tech Week last Wednesday! 🥳
With hundreds of registrations, we were able to host ~50 Asian founders and creators (including 3 whom we've previously featured!) at a rooftop lounge in Manhattan for people to create meaningful and genuine connections.
Being a founder or creator is a journey that comes with a unique set of experiences and struggles, so one of our newest goals is to help curate this community with future events. If you’re interested in partnering with us for future events, please send an email to email@example.com. Thank you to Spruce Systems, Apollo ID, Moonshot Commons, Seek AI, and Listen Ventures for sponsoring this event!
📅 Gen Z Founder Updates
We talk a lot about growth in this newsletter, but how does change actually manifest in a startup? How are Gen Z founders raising money, pivoting their businesses, and gathering exposure?
Look no further than a quick “Where are they now?” for our previously featured founders. Learn what they’ve been up to since their interviews below:
Andrew Tan has rebranded Ladder to Nova: Climbing the Nova? Alexander Wu raised $23M in a Series A for Utopia Labs: A Paradigm Shift Nadya Okamoto created a viral TikTok campaign representing disabled menstruators: Periods Are For Everyone Allan Maman’s app Bloom is #35 in Finance on the App Store: Topping the Charts Ami Yoshimura launched Verci: A Campus for the Curious, the Misfits, the Self-starters Nikita Gupta was named a top founder to watch by Entrepreneur: A Founder of the Future Arun Kirubarajan closed a $15M seed round for Magna: The Seeds are Sowed Kenan Saleh rebranded Halo to Lyft Media: A Big Lyft Eric Zhu ran a private beta with 20 funds and is raising a $1M seed: Raise with Aviato
✨ Shimmer’s Pivot
In June, we covered Shimmer with Jon Wang, who has since left the team and is now working at a venture studio and behavioral care startup. At the time, they had just begun undergoing a pivot and were trying to determine what to do next. Pivoting (i.e. changing the product or service a startup offers) is a tough decision. It often comes with sunk costs and requires the founders to solve a problem they didn’t intend on solving. However, it can be the best option when the current product is not gaining traction or a better opportunity arises. The majority of startups pivot (~55%). For example, Slack started out as a video game company. While the game flopped, the company’s unique internal tool for communication blew up. They kept onboarding new teams onto the tool, and through user feedback, knew they were onto something big. Another example – Instagram started as a location-based photo check-in app, but when the founders saw a gap in the market for a photo-based social media platform, they pivoted to focus on their app’s social functions (likes and comments). For today’s issue, we interviewed Shimmer CEO Christal Wang on the company’s new product and selection process:
✨ What did Shimmer pivot from and to? Shimmer pivoted from offering online support groups to 1:1 ADHD coaching.
👥 Why did support groups not work? It came down to growth—namely, user acquisition. This was paired with other issues like operational intensiveness of the model. It didn't allow us to justify the high price we were acquiring new users at. There was also no referral engine because of the stigma around mental health. We found that people who attended support groups didn’t go out of their way to tell their friends to join as well. ↳ At what point did you decide to pivot? Before pivoting, we tried changing the target market, such as API groups, founder groups, anxiety groups. We tried changing the curriculum and structure. We tried 70-80% of what we could, and after talking with mentors and investors, felt like it was time to make the pivot. Honestly, we were pretty burnt out at that point.
💭 What does the actual process of pivoting look like? We interviewed anyone who we could get our hands on, our investors, portfolio companies, founders who had done a pivot before.
TLDR: There is no one formula. Everyone kind of takes their own path. This was our process: 1) We interviewed a handful of different target communities we are a part of and care a lot about. 2) We created a broad list of problems for each community. 3) We picked the top 10 problems to conduct deep dives into with customer interviews. 4) From there, we narrowed it down to problems where people shared similar opinions and feelings towards, but didn’t have a good solution. 5) We came up with solutions for those problems, and tested them through prototyping.
👋 Why did you guys and Jon decide to part ways? We had different ideas of what direction we wanted to take the startup in, and where we had energy around. Jon was interested in healthcare at a higher level of acuity, while Vik and I remain excited about building a consumer-facing product. It was a difficult process emotionally, of course, but we're lucky we're still friends and can lean on him as a trusted advisor. 💫 Best advice? If you're going to be an entrepreneur, do something you're passionate about. I think there's too many entrepreneurs who are just looking for business opportunities. I saw a lot of people pivot from something that they really cared about to B2B SaaS, or another dev tool thing. Work on a problem that's really worth solving for you. This will allow you to persevere through the obstacles along the startup journey knowing that what you’re working on is worth it at the end of the day.
tl;dr 1) Pivoting is something you’ll likely do as a founder, so be open to change. 2) Cofounders can have different long-term goals, and might need to part ways. And that’s okay. 3) Work on something you truly care about. Don’t do it for the money.
Check out Shimmer here: www.shimmer.care
✌️ That’s it until next time!
Thanks for reading this issue of Asian Founder! If you have any feedback or would like to see anyone featured, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re not already subscribed, here’s your chance below!