Founder Profile: Yu-kai Chou, founder/CEO of Rewardme4 min read

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Yu-kai Chou, tech startup founder

Yu-kai Chou, founder/CEO of Rewardme

Name:
Yu-kai Chou

Location:
Mountain View, CA

Education:

  • BA, International Economics from UCLA

Prior Experience:

  • Co-founder of Viralogy Inc., Social Media Rank + Social Recommendation Engine for eCommerce Stores.
  • Co-Founder of FD Career, a website that helps companies recruit talents more efficiently through gaming.
  • Partner/Consultant at The Veridical Group, a Consulting Firm that builds strong foundations for small to mid-sized businesses to assist in their profitability and expansion
  • Founder of FD Network, a networking service aimed to connect people of different expertise so they can build a team, find employer/employees, get professional advice, or any other purposes.

Current Startup:
RewardMe, a Social CRM for the franchise restaurant industry.

Mission:
To bring the ample capabilities of e-commerce, like Amazon, to the offline world. 65% percent of offline businesses are failing even though 95% of sales still happen offline. RewardMe sees this as an opportunity to bring the power of the cloud into the stores via mobile technology. Therefore the goal is to make sure that the brick and mortar stores can be competitive in an innovative environment.

Milestones:

  • Raised about $1.1 million in funding so far.
  • Present in chain stores that recently closed a $1 million contract with a large national chain.
  • Reached about 70,000 users so far.
  • 110,000 check-ins so far.
Current Focus:
  • Raising a $5 million series A round.

Lessons Learned:
“Learn to focus on the essential because you have limited resources and time. In a lot of startups you have a lot of ideas and a large idea funnel but its not a good sign when too much comes out of the idea funnel. You really have to tone it in to 1-3 things that you want to be the best at. I know startups that want to capture all these different features but the reality is that for every single feature that you want to build there is probably 5 other companies out there that has more people that are just focused on that one thing. So if you want to be able to compete you have to only focus on a very limited amount of things and excel at those. Another thing is the targeted market. Many founders think that every one should use their products but its really important to have a niche market or a beachhead. You can only design a product for a certain segment and you also have a limited advertising budget which can only go into so many places.”

Staying Motivated:
“I think at the beginning you stay motivated because you are super passionate about your idea. If you are not passionate and just doing it to become wealthy or successful then when you experience a down period you will feel like you are working twice as hard as everyone else in terms of what you get paid compared to people in corporate jobs. Also, co-founders and co-workers keep you motivated. You are not only responsible for yourself but also for them and vice-versa. Down the road obligations to investor and costumers will keep you motivated because you promised that their lives will be much better with your product and it thus creates a pressure to not just spill the press and stop working. So staying motivated is two-sided in that there is an internal part, your passion, and an external part, the people you are surrounded by and have made promises to.”

Biggest Mentor:
“I don’t really have one specific mentor but I think what makes a great mentor is someone who actually takes the time to understand the details of what you are doing. Most mentors give you 30 min. to tell them what you are going through and then give you some general advice. You can only do so much in 30 min. and you can only give them the broad strokes of what you are doing and in turn they can only give you broad stroke responses. The best mentors are the ones the think like they were on your shoes. So they will almost try to decide what they themselves should do in the given situation. They will want to get more information and always ask more questions about your business, your co-founder, team and so on to give the best possible advice. I think when an advisor or mentor becomes emotionally committed it results in the best possible outcome you can get.”

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