“Stay Humble, Keep Learning” The 5 Lessons I Learned Being a 20-Something Founder
I had the pleasure of interviewing Yuni Sameshima, co-founder of Chicory.
Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?
My co-founder and I started Chicory when we were seniors at Colgate University. We both like to cook but realized that often times we would look at recipes but never get to actually cooking them. One of the problems, we found, was that we never had the ingredients we needed for recipes we wanted to cook. We thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could get the ingredients to any recipe on the internet delivered with a few clicks. That’s how we started Chicory. We connect existing recipe sites with online grocery retailers (like Peapod, AmazonFresh, etc) to make recipes shoppable!
Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Many companies have a two-sided marketplace. For us, because we work with publishers, retailers, brands and consumers, we have almost a 4 sided marketplace on our hands. Initially this was a very difficult hurdle to overcome. How do you get one side to agree to work with you without the others.
But now that we have reached a critical mass on all 4 sides, we’re starting to really momentum in partnerships, revenues and user activity.
Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Many people cite it as a book that is life-changing but it truly is. While written rather empirically, the book opens up your mind to become more empathetic and understanding of others. As humans we tend to think that our actions are deliberate and have intention behind them. But what the book teaches you is that most of the time we live reflexively. And knowing that about myself as well as about others has helped in dealing with people whether at Chicory or outside of it.
Understanding how people think helps every single day. All in all it helps you become more patient and rational because you can get to the truth of how people are feeling.
Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
a. Separate your ego from your position –My co-founder and I have been working on Chicory together for almost 6 years now and before that we were good friends for 3 years. We see each other every single day and not a day goes by without us talking.
Disagreements don’t escalate until your ego is involved. Strive for the truth and figure out what is best for the company. And don’t ever just defend your position because you are afraid of being wrong or looking stupid. It’s not about you, it’s about the company.
b. Stay humble, keep learning — As a Twentysomething founder you need to understand that you don’t know a lot of things. In starting this company, we’ve had to learn everything from how front-end and back-end engineering works through to standard US accounting practices.
c. Know where to spend your time — Startups go through various phases during its life-cycle. Figure out where your time is best spent given where your company is.
This year has really been a year of growth. We’re hiring rapidly and the organization is changing. Even looking back at the past 6 months, I can see how my role in the business is changing and where my time is best spent. It feels weird not to be on every sales call and client meeting. But my role is changing and I can help the business more by working on higher level items compared to taking on a bigger book of clients.
d. Have a hold on your company financials — too often founders don’t have an understanding of their company’s revenue model and forecasting. It’s easy to hire a bookkeeper or CFO to take care of it for you but it’s critically important to have a handle on it yourself. Cash flow is the lifeblood of a business. Not knowing it will lead to your company’s demise.
e. Sales cures all– Startups and the venture capital world are often romanticized and, in the early stage, we at Chicory were caught up in the bubble. We raised millions in financing chasing “users”. Users are great until you are confronted with the reality that businesses need to make money. We’ve come a long way since then and building out an efficient sales force has been one of the greatest investments we’ve made.
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. :-)
Lunch with Roger Federer. He is amazing.
— Published on June 27, 2018