Note. This is my insight assignment for Prof. Achler’s “Building Innovation, Teams and Cultures” class at Kellogg.
“April is tenacious. In my opinion, ChattingCat should have died several times by now, after she lost her co-founder, when she got into an MBA, etc., but she is persistent and ChattingCat is still alive! I think that’s very important quality of an entrepreneur.”
The one quality my mentor, serial entrepreneur and one of the most respected VCs in Korea, picked for me, in front of the newly joined co-founder asking what’s April’s strength, was not what I ever expected.
But he is right. Without tenacity, I wouldn’t be able to run my startup this far. Because startups are very difficult, doing business in a foreign country is tough, and being a first-time CEO is extremely challenging. There were a lot of ups and downs over the year and when I was low, a rude email from an angry customer made me tempted to shut down the business and say goodbye.
Nevertheless, I don’t want to be anything else but an entrepreneur, because I know I’m the happiest when I see appreciative customers. I feel lucky when I’m working with a team who are so capable and are with energy and strong willpower.
My first company, Sp****, was an encyclopedia of what not to do. Here is what had happened:
- Two MBA classmates started a company with his brother and the friend’s wife (me)
- Two bothers didn’t talk to each other
- A wife and a husband didn’t come to work when there were personal issues, mostly fighting
- Meetings were too informal and often cancelled without clear reasons
- Spent too much money and time on lawyers, incorporation, and ancillary stuff
- A business idea came from an analysis of hot trends and technology, not from passion or team strength.
- We were too optimistic and failed to evaluate our own skill-set
- Pivoted without convincing reason and clear communication
Above all, the main reason we stopped the business (at least to my understanding) was our CEO lost his passion in the initial business idea. This meant “the end” for other co-founders, especially to me, a small equity holder.
So, when I pursued a new business idea, “passion” came the first. ChattingCat, a platform connects non-native English speakers to native English speakers for their written English help was built from my own pain point, feeling limited and frustrated when writing in English as a non-native English speaker. I wanted to express sophisticated feelings well in English as well as in my native language.
Making the long story short, ChattingCat was the perfect business idea, at least to me, as it syncs with my passion, skills, strengths, and even personality. Because of that, it was easier to find customers who find the service is helpful and create a community. And because my passion and tenacity spoke for me, I could convince my co-founder to join the team first day we met.