Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?
After graduating from the University of Texas at San Antonio with an electrical engineering degree, I started working as a defense contractor where I specialized in directed energy weapons. It was a unique opportunity to work with some brilliant scientists, and within 9 months I would earn a distinguished engineering performance award.
It didn’t take long after that for me to start my own software company on the side building mobile apps for other businesses and startups. We eventually started building our own products. One of our most popular apps is a wine app called, unWine, a social wine app that helps people discover their next bottle of wine.
After a few success here and there, I started traveling the world to do public speaking on the topic of entrepreneurship to spread my knowledge and insight.
Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The framework or glue that holds me and business partner together is unique. We came up with it after failing numerous times for various reasons. Here it is:
1. Why are we doing this?
2. Be brutally honest (Are we stimulated? Are we making progress?)
3. Measure progress every day
4. Keep it simple
5. Be bold
6. What’s our best move, and what’s our next move?
7. Know the course, stay the course
Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We are working on a popular wine app called, unWine, that helps you discover your next bottle of wine. It’s live in the app store, and it has been one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on cause we get to test it out with wine!
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
When I was pursuing an engineering degree in college, I would read a book that would have a profound effect on my life, and it was called, “The Greatest Salesman in the World.” This book taught me how to stand out and be a Lion instead of a sheep that goes with the crowd. After reading this book, I would start to observe my engineering department very differently. I realized that all of my peers were chasing the same piece of paper, a degree! Then, we would all take that same piece a paper and go compete with each other for jobs! Then after landing a job, we would chase a new piece of a paper — a paycheck! That’s when I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur to create my own path and start a company.
Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Have a vision
If you don’t know where you are going, it’s equivalent to driving a car in circles on a roundabout and thinking you are making progress. Basically, a hamster in a wheel.
2. Have a strategy
If you have a vision, but don’t know how you are going to get there it’s equivalent to driving a car with a completely dirty opaque windshield.
3. Be able to articulate your vision & strategy to your employees
If you have a vision and strategy, but can’t communicate this to your team for whatever reason, then you’ll run out of money very quickly because employees are your biggest investment.
4. Embody flexible persistence
Be able to have a vision and stick to it despite the naysayers, but be flexible enough to change/adapt/adjust your idea accordingly when your customers or the market is telling you that you need to.
5. Think big, take small steps, test all assumptions
One of the worst rookie mistakes we made was thinking too big and trying to take big steps based off assumptions. The best thing to do is to start small, and to experiment/test every assumptions cause at the end of the day, you really have no idea how the market will respond to your idea.
Bonus: Ideas are plentiful, execution is rare
Every entrepreneur thinks they have “the idea”, and it’s easy to talk about it, but it really comes down to the people who are willing to do the real work required to make it happen.
Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I would love to meet Peter Thiel or Reid Hoffman. They are brilliant individuals and I’d love to sit down and just have an intellectual conversation with them.
— Published on June 27, 2018