Entrepreneurs gather at Startup Bootcamp
By Kenny Sui-Fung Yim
Ten presenters from the world of startup entrepreneurship presented their stories of success and failure at the Startup Bootcamp on Sept. 14 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Two of the speakers were Asian women: Julia Hu of Lark and Grace Hsia of Warmilu.
Hu, an MIT dropout, developed her product after being annoyed by her boyfriend’s alarm clock. As a “technical” person, she worked with a team to devise a “silent alarm clock” you could wear on your wrist. After getting her big idea, she set up offices in China for production. She knew she made it big when Apple decided to distribute her solution. The partnership with Apple has been valuable to the fledgling Lark Company, which continues to expand in areas of health, diet and wellness.
Hu looked for mentors, making a beeline for high-profile women like Arianna Huffington at parties. Another mentor is a sleep expert who worked with National Basketball Association players. She was willing to approach strangers and ask seemingly silly questions like, “How does this material feel on your wrist?”
While most presenters shuffled to the stage, Hsia emerged with a million-watt smile and waved enthusiastically. Based in Michigan, having studied materials science, she developed her products — a non-electric heating device for blankets and heat packs — manufactured and distributed through her company, Warmilu. Aimed at babies and the elderly, the heating device works by cracking a medallion and releasing heat. The heating device is thermally regulated to prevent overheating. Hsia will expand to developing countries, which are better connected to global channels than one might imagine, she said.
Hsia opened up about discrimination she experienced. She was approached after an event by an individual who pointed out she was young, a woman and an ethnic minority. Taken aback, Hsia said, “Thank you.”
She encouraged audience members not to react to naysayers, because they are everywhere. Hsia may not look like the typical entrepreneur, but is breaking down assumptions.
Other speakers included Michael Grinich who founded Bootcamp and is now working on a new project revolutionizing e-mail, called Inbox; Ryan Bubinski, cofounder and CTO of Codecademy; Dulcie Madden cofounder and CEO at Rest Devices, in Cambridge; Rebecca Hough, cofounder of Plugless; Iqram Magdon-Ismail of Venmo; Greg Ginsburg of Actual Food; and Evan Spiegal of SnapChat.
This post is also available in: Chinese