Tell us about your journey, your “distance traveled” as an entrepreneur. What inspired you to do what you do?
I was born and raised in SF. I came of age during the first dot.com wave. This shaped my vision for what is possible. Both my parents were creative. My dad was a musician and my mom was an artist. Like many artists, my parents generally had two jobs throughout my childhood simply to make ends meet.
I was an undergrad at Stanford when Google went public. It opened my eyes to the world of entrepreneurship. My fellowship with the prestigious Mayfield Fellows Program was transformative. The program is designed to introduce entrepreneurship to engineers. It gave me the tools and framework to envision myself as an entrepreneur.
I worked in technology for 9 years, including stints at some of the best technology companies. I spent 5 years at Apple and 3 years at Google (2 of which were at YouTube). I then wanted to obtain some experience working at a growth stage technology company. I moved to New York to work at Hailo. Hailo unfortunately didn’t survive. As I contemplated next steps, I considered looking for a small start-up. But then I met my co-founder, Naveen Selvadurai. We identified a big problem that we were passionate about solving. So we started KIT in 2015.
When I moved to London – it was hard to settle in. I was always looking for suggestions that would make life and living easier. Conversely, Naveen frequently found himself to be a source of information for friends/family on the newest and latest products. We thought that creating a user-friendly platform for shared knowledge, from trusted sources, could solve the problems of people like ourselves.
Who has been your biggest inspiration and why?
Oprah. She grew up a dirt poor, Black, in rural Mississippi and against all odds became a multi-billionaire, built one of the biggest media empires we know, and has swayed hearts and minds around the world. It’s actually astonishing when you stop and think about it. What an absolute inspiration.
What has surprised you most about being a founder?
I was surprised by how many disparate things I need to effectively handle in a day. I am the Product Manager for my company, so in addition to writing specs, planning sprints, talking to users, and providing feedback on designs, I also engage in recruiting, public speaking, ops, investor relations, and any and every other task necessary for us to be successful. My days really span the gamut of low-level tactical work and high-level strategic thinking.
You’re also the CEO and co-founder of Kit, a company that helps creators share products they love with their followers. What are 3 products you absolutely couldn’t live without and why?
How has your background has shaped your future?
Growing up in a very diverse community has shaped me in countless ways. I was exposed to diversity of opinions, thoughts, people, cultures, languages, backgrounds, ethnicities and races. These were all givens in my childhood. I went to a Japanese language immersion program for elementary school. In middle school, the population was largely Black American and Latinx. In high school, my classmates were predominantly Chinese and Asian American. This foundation served me well as I launched KIT. By leveraging all kinds of people, thoughts, ideas, opinions and backgrounds, we can help and learn from each other. My strongest belief is that diversity helps us to reach our highest potential. This belief informs how I choose my team, prepare for our customers and create our products.
If you could share a piece of your own wisdom with us, what would it be?
Recently I’ve been very appreciative of extremely tactical advice. So here’s some tactical advice that someone shared with me: 1) keep a list of everyone you ever meet that you have a great connection with; write down where and how you met them; 2) write their “superpower,” (some topic in which they’re an expert); and 3) reach out to them from time to time to say hello. You never know when and how your path will cross with theirs in the future.
Early bird or night owl?
Both. I absolutely love mornings and getting up when it’s quiet and taking care of work and tasks; it’s my most productive time of day. But I also love staying up late and vegging out listening to music, reading the news, and watching programs. It means I’m often sleep-deprived :-)
Last song listened to:
Bambi by Jidenna. Great tune.
Superpower of choice:
Teleportation, because I am always late. But to be honest I’d probably still be late; I’d just cut out the travel time.
An app you couldn’t live without:
Apple Music. I’ve been a heavy iTunes user for years, and I listen to Julie Adenuga’s Beats1 Radio show nearly every day. It’s where I discover all my music. Other than that, Twitter. It’s where I get all my news.
If a genie granted you 3 wishes:
World peace. End hunger. Completely renewable energy so we could stop global warming.
A book you couldn’t put down?
Kindred, by Octavia Butler. Check it out in my “Books that have inspired me” kit.
Favorite place to visit:
The beach. Preferably on an island.
Change poison into medicine.