Jimmy Ku // Ep 35 // Fundraising the Easy Way

Welcome to Episode 35 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Jimmy on this week's episode.

We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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Jimmy is the current COO at MixerBox, a mobile entertainment startup that has had over 300 million downloads spending over 120 billion minutes.  He is an Angel Investor; Advisor to startups like Torre, Price.com, ZenSports, and more; and a Venture Scout for Grishin Robotics and 10X Capital.  Over the last 3 years, he met with thousands of startups and helped founders raise over $330 million in additional funding.

This can be a good framework for the discussion and can be included as a link to anyone who wants more info: Fundraising 101

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Transcript

Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan. 

And my name is Maggie 

And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.

We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23) Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. Today we have Jimmy Ku and he is the current COO at mixer box. A mobile entertainment startup that has had over 300 million downloads spending over 100 and. They’ll get 120 billion minutes. Mixer boxes backed by investors such as Y Combinator, initialized, capital, infinity ventures, and more. He is an angel investor and advisor to startups like Tori price.com, Zen sports and more, and a venture scout for Gricean robotics and Tenex capital. Previously, Jimmy was a general manager of fundraise concierge at atrium, where he helped start startup founders with the process of fundraising. Over the last three years, he met with thousands of startups and helped founders raise over $330 million in additional funding.

Jimmy graduated with honors from UC Berkeley’s Haas school of business with degrees in business administration and economics, and started his career as a management consultant. Jimmy, welcome to the show.

Jimmy: (00:01:23)  Thanks so much for having me.

 

Bryan: (00:01:24) Yeah, we’re so excited to have you on the show today. So let’s hop right into it.Jimmy, what was your upbringing like? 

Jimmy: (00:01:29) Uh, you know, it was quite a change because I think you just mentioned, I went to Berkeley and I grew up in a little city called Cerritos down in LA. And if you’re from Southern California, then you’ve got the Cerritos auto square jingle in your head right now. And I think you were from LA as well, Brian, so you might’ve, you might’ve heard of us. We’re known for the auto square. Um, but the upbringing, I mean, it was very sheltered. At the end of the day, we were in this suburban little city that, you know, it was very different when I went to Berkeley, everything kind of completely changed. Um, and I just kind of, I think wasn’t aware of everything that was really going on because, you know, because of, you know, where, where I was at. Well, there’s a lot of kind of changing, uh, in coming here, went to Berkeley for college, and then I stuck around afterwards and decided, you know, I really liked the Bay area. This is where tech is. This is where the startups are. This is where innovation is and decided to stick around and build up a kind of a career here.

 

Bryan: (00:02:27) Yeah. How’d you become so entrepreneurial. And was this something that your parents kind of taught you growing up or is something that you kind of manifest on your own?

 

Maggie: (00:02:35) Talk a little bit about, you know, the type of house so that you grew up in?

Jimmy: (00:02:39) Yeah, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. And always said, Hey, I’m going to be a businessman, but I didn’t really know what that meant. So as a kid, um, my grandfather was actually very entrepreneurial. He got into real estate. He started purchasing real estate in Taiwan and in the U S and he’s built up his business around that. And so he always encouraged my dad as well. Always encouraged us to do whatever we needed to do. And as a kid, I actually, uh, kind of always said I wanted to do that, but I didn’t really know what that meant, but I always. Found ways to kind of create a little mini businesses. So when I was actually in elementary school, I used to basically sell whatever was the popular fad. So we’re talking about, you know, baseball cards, basketball cards, um, you know, anything, comic books, all kinds of things. So I used to basically be the, the person who would help. Kids get like all of these, like fads and things like that, porgs or whatever else. There’s all kinds of things. I used to have priceless for comic books and things of that sort. And then I remember my grandfather actually taught me I’m all about business. So you talk to me about like profit margins and things like that, marketing and things like that.So I learned a lot from him. Um, but yeah. Did that kind of threw out, uh, elementary school throughout high school? I was selling all kinds of things. I actually, um, you know, some of my friends from high school also know this, um, I always had cash on me just because I wasn’t spending a lot of the, I was very mindful of. Cash efficient. You know, when I was at a young age, I used to keep all my cash, but then I’d use my cash to buy things that then I’d resell. Um, but because I had the cash, a lot of times when people needed to borrow some money, they knew that they can come to me and borrow money, high school loan, shark business. Well, I was charging, you know, like 25 cents off a $2, you know, you know, they borrow $2 and I charge them like 25 cents or whatever it was. Um, so percentage wise it was a loan shark business, but, you know, we’re, we’re talking about very small amounts obviously, but you know, very early on, I was always kind of trying to sell and buy things and build up something or another. And I think, you know, throughout college, of course, I went to Berkeley. He got his degree in economics and business administration learn more about what it is that was out there. And then my first business out of college, or I guess first job out of college was management consulting because I really wanted to learn more about how these companies become large companies, you know, a little loan, shark business as a high schooler. Doesn’t really. Pay much, it doesn’t really do much. You grow something really, really large. Um, and so that’s kind of my foray, I guess initially started out as a management consultant to like consulting work with some incredible people, learn a lot. There just kind of, um, saw a lot of the corporate strategy at these fortune 100 companies, business process improvement type work that we were able to do there also helped me kind of figure out what companies were having trouble with. And then from there, um, that’s really where. I then took the first step into the startup space. So while I was there, um, you know, it was making really good money. And Deloitte has a really great program actually, where, um, first of all, they have a great analyst program. They teach you a lot through that whole process. Uh, but they also have a program where they pay for your business school. So if you get in this business school program, they’ll pay for it, all that good stuff. Now I stupidly decided that even though I got into that and had, you know, basically a six-figure job waiting forme, I decided to throw all of that away and start my own business. So that’s kind of how it all first started. My parents were not very happy. I basically told them, Hey, this job has been paying me really good money, and they’re going to pay me more when I come back for business school. And Oh, by the way, they’re going to pay for my business school and all day, they’re going to pay for a laptop and you know, all of that good stuff that they can pay for.Um, and I’m giving it all up. And, uh, I’m building this company now, and that was not something that was an easy conversation, but that’s kind of what actually got started. Got me in, started in to the tech space. Um, that’s when I, you know, kind of jumped right in and, and really got into that, I never went back and got my MBA, but I I’ve done okay for myself since that point in time. Um, but the reason it started was actually, so I’d gotten into business school. Uh, applied for my MBA. Um, and I started chatting with my friend, uh, about startups and the whole startup space. And he said, you know what? You should mean. You really want to build a company. Just let’s build one, do it. Me and you let’s let’s build a company. Honestly. That’s funny. We don’t have an idea. We have no capital and I’m about to go to, I was going to move to New York for grad school. And he’s like, no, no, no, no. Let’s, let’s come up with an idea. Um, you’ve got a couple more weeks before you have to decide. So let’s give ourselves two weeks and if we come up with a good idea and we get funding for it, then let’s go build this company. I said, okay, let’s do that. And it was like two weeks. Oh, he was just like, Hey, let’s, let’s come back. No idea. We don’t. I mean like, Hey, we want to build up business, but you know, we have nothing yet. So we started pitching ideas. I give him an idea and he said, that’s terrible. He’d given me another idea. That’s terrible. And we kept talking. Uh, and then we hit upon an idea. We both actually really liked. So at the time what was happening was I love planning things. I just like when I go on a trip, I plan out every little detail and I love, I mean, like I do a lot and people who have traveled with me know that I plan out like every minute of the trip and like everything, that food that does the activities, everything. Right. And we don’t always do everything and that’s okay. But at least let’s have the information, right? What should we do? What could we do? Where are things located? I don’t want to waste my time if I’m going somewhere. And that’s, that’s just me personally, not everyone travels that way. Um, but one of my friends was going on a trip to New York. I remember. And he said, Oh, I remember, I think you just went. Can you send me, you know, what it is that you guys did out there and he’s thinking, you know, maybe just an email or whatever. I sent him like a full on itinerary. It was like a week full of like, it was every minute. It was like, you knew exactly where you were like doing or completely planned out all prettied up. It was able a really nice PDF, everything. And he said, how long did this thing take you? I mean, this thing is like insane. It’s just like, everything’s planned out. You talked about the Broadway shows and talk about how long you going to take to commute from where this is to this. And it’s like, everything’s like planned out. And they said, Oh, it took me a really long time because basically what I was doing was Googling a bunch of stuff and then putting it into a, uh, I think it was using a word document. And then I had to create a nice. Pretty format. And I use Google maps and I put the maps in there and every day had a map and mapping out the directions and you know, all that stuff. And he said, this is really cool. Why can’t we just do that online and just do what you did, but you know, for everyone else who just doesn’t have the time, because the information is already out there, like people just want to have access to the information that easy fashion. What if I. Automatically created that itinerary that you did automatically for someone else now that’d be really cool. So that was the first business actually that I started up. Uh, it was a startup with two other founders, Steve chin and, uh, and, and, and James Chan, both Chen’s, they’re not related James and I w w actually were the ones who were talking about this idea. Um, we then brought the idea to see, you see became our first investor, and then we. Actually, uh, convinced him to be our CEO. He had been in person, who’s built up a lot of businesses. He was very well respected. We both were really young at the time. We felt like, Hey, having someone like Steve, which legitimize us and him being the leader of you, like a much better opportunity for all of us. And of course that all kind of, you know, kinda kick-started things. And then, um, Steve and I went out, we got some fundings and, and an angel funds for the company and we started that up. The Steve is a, still an angel investor, still very active. We’re still very close. Of course. Uh, we started the modernist together. You guys know about that, the five, eight, five steak house, all of that. Um, not the, not the Steve chin from YouTube. Um, we know we all know him as well. He’s great. Um, but uh, for the Steve Shanda, uh, they worked on with, um, on this first company gold planet, um, you know, he’s obviously done incredible things and he’s still kind of one of those, um, Yeah. You talked about building a network like with Ahn. Steve is, is that type of person, right? He’s been doing that forever. I mean, I’ve ever, ever since I’ve known him, um, we’ve got this most, most incredible memory ever. Like he actually still remembers my birthday. Like very few people do, to be honest, like, do we interact with so many people, so many things going on? Um, most people Dell, uh, but how Steve and I first met actually was, um, uh, at the time he was running kind of a nightclub. Um, kind of promotion business, and I was throwing a birthday party and I got connected to him as the person who knew everything and throws the great parties and everything. Um, and I said, Oh, I’d like to throw a party for, for my birthday. And then, um, you know, I brought in something like three or 400 people. Oh, okay. This guy can bring some people to be useful for the business. Um, and then, uh, you know, ever since then, he’s just like, he’s, he’s remembered my birthday actually. That’s how. Of course met, uh, many, many years ago. Of course we’ve worked on many different businesses. Now at this point, he’s been an investor in, in multiple of my, um, businesses and really the, the key he’s the person who really started it. So go plan. It was that first business. Uh, we were part of tech crunch 50 back in the day when that was the only startup conference in town. Uh, so at the time there was like, This conference call, like I think it was demo or something you have to pay to go on stage and present. And tech crunch decided, you know what? Founders don’t have money. Why are they paying money to go and present their business? That’s the wrong way to do it. We should be charging the VCs and the attendees and let’s switch up the conferences. Um, and I’m going to give the founders and the startups a free stage to present themselves. Cause at the end of the day, these guys need that, um, that just getting started. And so tech crunch, I think we were a part of 2007 or 2008. It was kind of the first few years of that. Um, some incredible companies have come about from there. Obviously for our year alone, we were in the same class, there was 50 companies were in the same class as Dropbox, as yet as Fitbit as true car. These are all companies that are like household names, billion dollar companies. Now that we’re talking about. And I remember. You know, Steve and I presented our company. So we were in the back

patting ourselves. And of course we’re there with the folks like drew house and from Dropbox and like, you know, all these incredible founders. Um, and, and we’re all in the same boat, right. We’re all nervous about being on stage, our startups just getting started. And so, um, it was a really incredible.  and from tech crunch in, and that whole experience, I met some incredible, uh, investors. Oh, actually, uh, Ashton Kutcher also presented a company on stage that year as well. Oh yeah. With Demi Moore, we had like, uh, I met MC hammer that year. Uh, Sean Parker was one of our judges. Or our companies. So like all of those people that, um, kind of the starting point of a lot of the, the connections within Silicon Valley, it really started because I just went out there. We did this company, uh, and we, we got to meet and interact with a lot of people. There’s a lot of stories about people going up and down Sandhill road, Steve and I went up and down Sandhill road. We pitched every set. I mean, we went like, it was like door to door. You know, we had a lot of conversations, a lot of pitch meetings. Um, and, and I met a lot of these. You know, partners and, you know, whoever else, all these investors, and I’ve just continued to keep that relationship with them ever since that point in time. So, you know, going on 13, 14 years of this were, you know, I’ve been chatting with them or working with them now in a variety of different capacities, um, over the last few years, but that’s how I first started. But that startup of, you know, ended up not really working out. And we’re actually going through talks for an acquisition that ultimately failed. And then, um, Steve and I both decided, look, we’ve just worked on it long enough. We both need to just move on to something else. So I actually got recruited away to work at another travel startup. And so my experiences at gold plan, they actually really helped me because. Everything I learned, learned, done all the experiences.There actually helped me with my next role. So I started out in this company called Rearden commerce at the time. And at the Mo at the time when I joined the company had just raised something like a hundred million dollars from Citibank. So the company was going through a massive growth stage. I was like, Oh, Hey, we’ve got all this capital. They’ve got all these huge opportunities. I got hired on board originally as a senior product manager there within the consumer space. And it was interesting because I remember having conversations with the team there about something that they wanted to build and they had competitors. And I saw my own company as one of the competitors it was looking at. So they wanted to build something that they can do within the travel planning space, which my, my company was right up there. They had screenshots, they had all this. Okay, this is interesting

 

Bryan: (00:15:34 ) though, seeing your own company and you’re better at your job.

 

Jimmy: (00:15:38) It was good and bad, you know, because I knew we were moving on from that, but it was also okay. Kind of like interesting, because I had of course lived in breathed that for several years and had a lot to contribute there. So I, um, you know, that that role was actually really perfect for me. I did, you know, pretty well within the organization. Sorry really moving up the ranks. I became head of product within, I think I was there for two years. I was head of product for all of the travel business, um, and, and really kind of kept growing there. Um, but that certain point, I just kind of felt like, okay, you’re going back to what you were saying. My entrepreneurship kind of roots were saying, look, you should just be doing this. Yeah your own. And it was again, like really finding something that I could be passionate about if I’m really, really excited about it, I’m really passionate about it. Um, then, you know, then it all makes sense and actually happened over hamburgers. Um, you know, I had a conversation with another friend of mine. And at this point in time, um, was ready to leave already. Um, had a conversation with a friend of mine. He said, I’ve got this idea. Um, you know, another mutual friend of ours had said, Hey, the two of you need to talk. Uh, I believe you guys are perfect for each other, for what you guys are interested in, what you guys could be working on. You know, I had no idea what he’s working on. He and I, you know, just been friends, we’ve partied together. We know each other, but. I have no idea what he’s working on. He had no idea what I had to working on. So we went into this like just purely off of the fact that our mutual friend nada basically said, Hey, you need to go talk to each other. And so after real stay Meehan, he and I had a conversation, uh, and he said, here’s what I’m trying to build. And I said, Wow, this is perfect because what you’re talking about, it was within the mobility space, it was within transportation. Uh, and it was actually something that I had been working on at Riordan and deem. It’s something that I actually, I actually had built up a whole thing around this. And then the CEO ended up saying, Hey, we can’t do this right now. And it got kind of. Pushed behind and a lot of the ideas of what he was working on.And what I had been working on were like a perfect match. And the two of us were perfect match actually in terms of building this company together, because my background has always been business. I can do the operations, I can do the business. I can’t. Build software. That’s just not me. And so actin was someone who had built these types of things. He actually, you know, built up pretty complex, uh, AI algorithms. And so, you know, he was the perfect kind of compliment for me in my ability to do the sales, the operations, the marketing, all of the business side of things. Uh, so the two of us started this up. It was a total garage, kind of, I, you know, story where we were literally working out of his one bedroom place in, in, uh, San Francisco. And when, you know, no pay nothing, we were just working. We were both really passionate about this. And the idea was at the time, this was early days of Uber and Lyft, where transportation was just getting, like, the idea of mobility was just coming around. But what we were seeing is you’ve got basically the black car providers and the, you know, the. Taxis of the world where it’s a little bit more expensive and then you’ve got Uber X, uh, where it’s still pretty expensive. And then you’ve got all the way on the other end of the spectrum. You’ve got buses and buses are cheap. That gets you around. They’re great way to get where you need to go a fixed route, but everything in between. There’s actually a big hole. Like people want to basically have the comfort and convenience of the black cars and maybe even the taxis. Um, but they didn’t want to pay that full price, which at the time, if you were talking about just kind of high-level numbers, going from the Marina downtown to the fidei in an Uber, like if you do a, to take an Uber directly from, you know, your home, over to the office, to the office, It’d be like $15, 10 to $15. And if you did that twice a day, I mean like most people just couldn’t really afford to do that every single day. So you’d have to take a bus, you know, or you’d have to figure out another way. And the buses were terrible because they were jam packed. They, you know, they were smelly, um, you know, they were cheap, but you just had to do it because you need to get to work, but not because you actually want it to, so between $10 and like $15 or $2 in like $15 was an opportunity for us. And we felt like if we took the idea. Of having multiple people paying smaller amounts and getting them to where they’re trying to get to, but maybe close, but not exactly where they’re trying to get to. If that idea sounds familiar, it’s like exactly what Uber pool, Lyft line, all of that is now become right. So it was early days that, of course wasn’t there. That was our idea. Um, you know, we launched, we kind of built that and we built that into something that we can have an MVP. There, we went out there and went on the fundraising track and it was actually, you know, one of the more successful fundraisers we’ve gone through. Like I said, I went through it with gold planet. Our fundraise for loop. The company is called loop L O U P. Um, we did that really, really efficiently because of that. By that point in time, we had gotten, you know, a lot of contacts and gotten to meet a lot of investors in me. Like I had gotten to meet a lot of them already. So we started a much more. Uh, kind of refined process where we talked to a lot more people. I was talking to 10 plus people a day and I crammed them all into a short period of time. And, you know, there’s a lot of things that I talked to companies about right now around their fundraiser. It’s like, Hey, there are things you can do to increase your likelihood of success. And that’s where it kind of came from, is my personal experiences from that. We ended up going out there trying to raise a seed round of $500,000. We ended up raising 1.5 million, uh, in about four weeks. Um, it kind of, you know, it went really quickly. And then of course it took a couple more weeks to get some of the, uh, people who said they were going to put in to actually get the money in the bank.Um, but yeah, we finished the process in about four weeks. Uh, we ended up getting some incredible angel investors on board, got some incredible firms to be a part of it as well. We ended up turning down another 3.5 million. Um, so that was just like, and that was a seed round. I mean, it was like an incredibly large seed round at that time. Now it’s like $5 million seed rounds are like. Pretty normal these days. It’s kinda crazy. Um, but yeah, I learned a lot from there. And then, um, from that experience, No, maybe about three years ago decided, you know, all my experiences, having been a founder, myself, going through the fundraising process, having been an angel investor in multiple companies, having already been an advisor to a couple companies, I really liked working with companies. So about three, four years ago, decided to work at an accelerator. So it was focused on frontier technology. That’s buzzwords like. AI ML, AR VR, all kinds of that cool stuff. So, yeah, I, I decided to go to work for an accelerator frontier technology accelerator here in the Bay area. And there was focus on a lot of buzzwords like AR VR, AI ML. A lot of really exciting stuff actually, uh, helped the 40 companies in that accelerator with a lot of their growth strategies. Conversations around partnerships and also of course their fundraising. So really got to have a great opportunity to work with a lot of startups. We’re more in like the seed series a stage, uh, over the course of the year helped them raise over $130 million. I really enjoyed it actually. Um, and, and a lot of the things that I was doing there was also building a community around from tier technology. So I built a I, so I, you know, set up events and, and had conversations. A lot of folks had set up some dinners too, between the, um, accelerator companies and these really successful entrepreneurs. And that’s how I kind of reconnected and learn about what Justin was actually doing. So Justin Kahn of course, had sold Twitch to Amazon for like a billion dollars and very successful, uh, incredible founder. And at the time I’m starting to build up something new. So he was working on something within the legal services space and build a company called atrium. Atrium had just raised $75 million from Andreessen Horwitz, general catalyst and several others. Um, and he saw that with legal services really interesting because it’s very much a trust-based business. Right. So it’s hard for a brand new startup to say, okay, I’ll hand over my legal services to you. Uh, another startup that I don’t really know, and don’t really know how, what the quality of, of it will be. Right. And so one of the things he recognized early on was. If we can build that trust. If we can get to know the startups earlier on, then the likelihood of them signing on board for legal and everything else is kind of amplify. And so his idea was well earlier on and something that every startup needs help with his fundraising. So maybe we can build something around the fundraising process, provide some guidance there. And then from there we can have work of course, convert those startups to actually paying customers on the atria platform. And so that was the original idea. The idea was this would be part of the growth organization and a lead generation. Because if we talk to a lot of people about fundraising, then we can build that trust and rapport with them. And then of course we can then sell them legal services. It wasn’t intended to be something that was actually a profit generating so much as a really a lead generation. Hmm. Now over the course of the year and a half that I was there, we ended up doing a couple of things there. So one absolutely. It was a huge lead-generation for the rest of atrium. Uh, you mentioned, you know, talking to over a thousand companies, I actually counted it. It was like 1300 plus companies actually, um, over the course of one year. So I spoke to a lot of founders and incredible amount of companies had a lot of those meetings. And over the course of the year also worked with some bigger clients where we actually sold them consulting work. And so what I ended up building at atrium was the most profitable business unit at atrium. We actually signed a lot of contracts. We ended up helping our clients raise over 200 million during the course of the year. I built the team, which originally started out as just me. It was really just me and two part-time people. Um, we built that into six full-time people in a, in a. The organization that was actually profitable. It was growing, um, you know, had a lot of very happy clients, um, and, and was working actually around how to help clients with the fundraising process. You know, talking about narrative, talking about how to run an effective process, talking about who the right investors are, uh, for these folks. And so that’s what I was doing before. And of course, uh, you know, you guys mentioned that I’m currently the chief operating officer at mixer box. I think one of the things that I realized, you know, a couple of points in my sort of journey is the kind of thrill of building something you own.mAnd just like you guys have built Ahn and, you know, seeing that role, uh, is something really exciting. And so really excited to be now part of the mixer box team X-Box was actually one of my clients back at atrium. Seeing them continue to grow their revenues and just had a great time working with the team. Um, and, uh, you know, myself and the CEO, John lye had a couple of conversations about, well, what do you think about helping us get to the next level? How do you, what do you think about helping us, you know, 10 X, our revenues, and they were actually the only client I worked with that ended up not raising capital. Because they were growing the revenue so fast that you decided to focus their efforts on something different. So now I’m really focusing on continuing that growth with them.

 

Bryan: (00:27:13) Wow. Wow. It’s gave us so many good nuggets. We’re just trying to get over here. I mean, just to back it up a bit too, I mean, you were the kid selling all the, like.

 

Jimmy: (00:27:27) Yeah, man. Hogs, comic books, baseball cards, you name it.

 

Maggie: (00:27:31) That was the first time that I’ve heard of a loan shark, like candy and you know, it just goodies, but that’s the first time I heard of that.

 

Jimmy: (00:27:39) I didn’t see it that way, but it was funny. I was catching up with another friend of mine who I’ve known since we were kids, basically. And we’ve known each other since seventh grade actually. And he said, you remember when you used to be a loan shark? And I said, it wasn’t a low charge. You know, you charged me like 25 cents for like $2 and I paid you back the next day. Like that’s a loan shark. Yeah. I guess if you do the numbers, it makes sense. Pretty high interest rates for one day of know.

 

Bryan: (00:28:14) Yeah. I mean, hats off to that. I mean, I wasn’t a kid who thought the same way as you. I was a kid, a consumer.

 

Jay: (00:28:22) Yeah. And it was interesting because, um, you know, and they said I kind of hooked them on things. So there were a lot of card games that were also happening right around kind of the high school years. And so I got really hooked on like magic, the gathering and some of these other card games. And what I would do is I’d host Hoosta drafts and, and kind of brands. And of course I’d buy the boosters and then I charged them a markup, but then, you know, we’d have this like little mini tournament, but then once they started playing, I would of course get the boosters and the cards and whatever for everyone who was playing. So it was almost like getting them hooked on the cards and the things that they needed. And then of course, You know, getting them. Cause when I, when I  recognize pretty early on is, um, the comic bookstores have a pretty hefty markup and I started figuring out where the comic stores were actually buying their boxes from. So I’d buy boxes from the manufacturer, um, you know, for like pretty much half the price. And then I just sell it for just a little bit less than the comic book stores. And then I offered convenience because I deliver it directly to school. So they don’t have to, you know, even go to a comic book store to go get it. I said, I’d come to class. And you know, when I see you in class, I just hand you what you’re. Pain for, and, you know, we’ll take care of it. So it became a convenience plus a better pricing thing. And a quarter, a quarter in my market on the, on the one classes and the classes that I was in

 

Bryan: (00:29:40) we also noticed that you’re so off necked in the Bay area. Like, you know, almost everyone that we can think of, you know, that’s a great trait of yours, like where you listen to Jim, uh, you’re out of podcasts and Jeremy’s. And we love her value of giving back. You know, first we’re taking that. We love that as our valuing each and as well, we live by that value. And kind of curious too, as you’re going from your past experience, as you’re working with founders and whatnot, what kind of advice would you do to founders? Trying to find the right advisors at the early stage point of their company?

 

Jimmy: (00:30:12) That’s a great one. There’s a lot of folks who will. Well, a lot of startup founders need, they need, I think they need a lot more advisors than they do. So honestly, you probably don’t need as many of them. Um, now seeking the right ones, a lot of folks will be willing to offer you advice. Not all of them. Great. So, um, I think it’s important to understand where, where your strengths are. Um, what you have to offer where your weaknesses are also. I think it’s just being really, um, mindful of where your own strengths and weaknesses are to understand where you need some more help. So I mentioned earlier that I know that I’m a business economics major who understands. Maybe process improvements and things of that sor uh, corporate strategy, whenever, like I get that, I understand sales any channel operations, but there’s areas that I know that I’m not as good at now. If you understand that there are holes to be filled, then it’s good to find the people that you can work with. That will help you in those areas. So let’s say marketing is a good example. I don’t think I’m very strongly marketing actually. Um, and so if there are folks who really understand search engine optimization, for example, our app store optimization, or, you know, growth marketing or whatever, then it’s good to learn from those people. It’s good to associate and learn from them to work with them. And if you feel like they can be, uh, a huge value add to the company, um, then they could be really good advisors. So it’s always, I think, you know, in terms of the companies that I work with as an advisor, I have to be, bring some value that I know they don’t currently have, or that they could use. And it could be really helpful to the company and vice versa. When I’m building a company, if I’m looking for advisors, it has to be something where it’s like, I don’t have it myself. And I’d love to work with you because I know you have it. You’re known for it. You’re really good at it. Um, and there’s something that you can contribute there that I myself could not have. And so I think that’s really important. Um, a lot of times it’s also important to recognize that, you know, giving away some of these. A founder shares at advisory shares is probably not the smartest thing early on in the company as well. Um, your equity is going to be really important. I think, you know, there’s the saying that a hundred percent of zero is still zero and yes, that’s true. I mean, like when you’re building it up, you don’t know what it’s going to be worth. It could be zero. It could be, you know, Airbnb door dash and all these other great companies that have IPO recently. Um, but it’s important that if you are going to bring someone on. Now, you know, that you can work with them and you know, that they will be contributing something and that you don’t give out, you know, the, the advisory shares kind of Willy nilly into a lot of people because you really want to be mindful about who you’re selecting. So be very selective. Don’t give it away. In some cases, I’ve actually told founders, Hey, you know, what, what you have is, is really. Quite valuable Um, you should tell the advisor, you want them on board, but you should be offering them a chance to invest as opposed to being just an advisor or maybe a combination. Right. You could certainly do that as well. Um, but, but don’t give away too much and, and certainly only give it away if you feel like, um, what they can contribute, what they can add to the value of your company is going to be incredible. Right?

 

Bryan: (00:33:20) Yeah. That is really, really good advice. You know, we. How talk to a good handful of founders throughout Asian lesson networks, remote homeless. I’d almost say like a thousand meetings when be totally that’s a lot of meetings.

 

Maggie: (00:33:36) Yeah. Potential advisors too. And we do, you know, different advisors have different perspectives, so it’s easy to get pulled into different directions.

 

Bryan: (00:33:44) Yeah. Huge mistake that founders make, like you said before, has given away so much equity, but that being said, CLA what is the approximately the right amount of equity that you give away? Because that’s a question that comes up. Over and over and over and that we hear a drought community and we feel like this is perfect time to answer it.

 

Jimmy: (00:34:01) Yeah. Okay. So when you’re talking about advisory shares in an advisor, um, you know, advisory shares, um, there’s not a vote, first of all, there’s not a right number for any of this stuff. It’s all kind of like rough numbers, but in terms of advisory shares, generally what I’ve seen is something like. Half a percent to 2%, like you’re not giving away a lot. You’re also not getting a lot of people. Um, at the end of the day as advisors also very much part time. Right. So, um, you’re not giving away too much there and I wouldn’t give away too much there that’s roughly what I seen at least. Um, and, and of course, depending on where you are and what stage you’re in, um, then it could be different if you’re talking about fundraisers. The high level, uh, number that most people aim for or seek, or kind of see is that for the round of funding, you’re generally giving away about 20% of your company. Now, of course, as you have subsequent rounds, there’s going to be a dilution and other things. And of course, conversion of the people from the last round and pro-rata and all of this other stuff, but that’s high-level numbers is that you’re generally looking at if you’re thinking, okay, um, you know, we’re doing a $10 million note or, you know, we’ll raise $2 million in that. High-level stuff.

 

Bryan: (00:35:16) Wow. That’s really good advice.

 

Maggie: (00:35:17) Yeah. I’m also very curious, you know, I know you’re all about ensuring that people around you succeed as well, and you’re all about celebrating other people’s success. And it also goes back to age and as well, you know, you invite it, you helped in by a lot of people into the network and yeah. Thank you, Jimmy. And we understand that you wanted to see this community thrive and if we can get. You know, very successful people into this community, you know, people will be inspired and be successful as well. And so I’m very curious. How do you continuously ensure that everyone in your network has room to succeed as well?

 

Jimmy: (00:35:50) Yeah, I mean, you know, I think I’ve been very fortunate in meeting some really incredible people, getting a chance to just have. Conversations meet and, and, you know, get to know some of these really incredible people that you said are part of Ahn and are part of my network. Um, you know, I think I do what I can to help, but really there’s not much that I’m really doing. It’s really them right at the end of the day. It’s it’s the individual. Um, so I, I generally like meeting and chatting with folks like yourselves and others who are the go getters, the hustlers, the people who just make things happen. Right. They like something, they see something wrong and they want to do something about it. Um, because I, I get energy off of having conversations with people like that. People are trying to innovate, trying to build something really cool. It’s really great to have a conversation with someone who’s really active. Excited about what they’re building really looking forward to kind of disrupting something, you know, like it’s, it’s a it’s intoxicating. I love having those types of conversations. So I don’t think it’s really me, uh, helping in that sense. I think it’s generally the person themselves kind of really pushing forward to it. Um, but I think what I’ve been able to do is just have really good conversations with them. And this is something, you know, Brian, you said earlier about giving more than you get is that I try at least. To make it so that whoever I’m, you know, networking with having conversations with getting meeting with, um, they don’t feel like I’m taking from them, but I, I feel like I’m some kind of that I’m additive in their whole life and however that I can be. And so I generally find ways to, um, really help the people that I’ve met. Um, you know, one of the things that I did back at atrium. In the early days when we’re kind of building that division up was loose. We were talking to a lot of founders and I would have 30 minute conversations. The founders, a lot of founders, uh, quite frankly, were just too early for anything at atrium, actually, you know, legal services or fundraise concierge or anything, but I’d like to just, you know, Brian help and have a conversation with you. And if I have a good conversation with you down the road, we’ll have more conversations down the road. We’ll, we’ll talk more about this business or other businesses. And I’ve kind of lived by that same mentality. I did the same thing with investors. Um, I was  actually setting up a lot of meetings with investors that I. Hadn’t met with, uh, what I would generally do is I focus on an industry. I focus on a vertical or something. And then when I saw investors on that list that I didn’t know, you know, wanting to get to know better, I would just do cold outreach. I’d reach out to them, or I have a friend reach out to them and I’d say, Hey, I’d love to have a conversation with you. And here’s what I can offer. I’m talking to hundreds of startups a month. I’m helping them with their fundraising process. And I’d love to connect you because at the end of the day, why not get some free deal flow? And so those conversations really led to me meeting some incredible investors as well, sending deal flow over. And then, you know, if I focus on different verticals. So for example, I did a dinner around FinTech and have a room. I think we had about 30 people at that dinner. Um, FinTech investors ourselves, and then a couple of different companies. But if I know what they’re interested in, I can of course send them deal flow. That’s interesting to them. Right. I know you’re interested in deal, uh, deal flow within the FinTech industry. Let me send you like two or three that I’ve met and talked to over the last couple of months. And then if you’re interested, let me connect you. And so if I do things like that, then they see me as someone who’s not just trying to take. It’s like, I, I genuinely want to help. Um, and I think one of the things that really gets me very excited and makes me very happy is being able to make a mutually beneficial connection. Um, there’s been a lot of founders that I’ve connected with. You know, lead investors. For example, I just got one a couple of days ago. I said, Oh, Hey, thanks for connecting us with this person. Um, he’s actually leading our round now. And I was like, that’s great. That’s amazing. Like, I don’t get anything out of that obviously. And I don’t want to, and I’m okay with that. Um, but it’s really great when those. Connections work out because the investors obviously happy. They made the investment and, uh, the, the founders are happy that I connected them. So on both sides of the coin, I’m able to at least contribute, uh, somewhat. And so a lot of the posts that I make about people raising capital or whatever. Um, you know, I’ve, I’ve seen some of these companies since, before they had raised any capital. I I’ve talked to some of these founders before they’d raised their $50 million rounds. And in some cases I know the investors and I had sent them deal flow because they told me they’re interested in this vertical or that vertical, um, and those conversations. It’s great to see them actually come to some kind of a deal at the end of it all.

 

Bryan: (00:40:14) That’s awesome. And for you guys listening, yeah. You guys probably can’t see me smile, but it’s smiling and nodding along. Cause I met Jimmy last year. They’re out roughly around the same time. And what struck me as how generous he really is. You know, like when, uh, my first initial conversation with Jimmy was our first month, not even our first bull market creating H on yet. And I came in super clueless talking to Jimmy. I didn’t know what to ask and I didn’t know what to say to him. He still took the call with me anyways, and truly try to help me learn, like what should I do next?

 

Jimmy: (00:40:45) And I remember that conversation. It was a lot of questions about like, so I think. It’s starting to grow. I know where we are. We have a couple ideas. What do you think about this? No one was great because, because I’ll tell you this. I was impressed at how quickly the community had already started growing. I thought it was really cool. Um, and I started sharing with my friends because I found value in reading this. Stories of others. And I wanted to share with other people who I wanted them to share their stories as well. Of course I share my story just like everybody else. And I thought, I thought it was such a great idea of building this community. Uh, and it was, it was actually really great that you reached out to me because I having a conversation with you. It was great to see how something was really working, but it was also great to see where you want it to take it, have some of those conversations. And to also recognize that it was still early on. Like, I didn’t know how early it was until we had that conversation. I was like, Oh, this is like, just something that’s just working, but you don’t, you know, it’s almost, you know, growing like a weed and you’re not entirely sure how to control it. Yeah. I would say that’s the perfect example of product market fit. And this is, this actually reminds me of a conversation I had with Steve Hoffman. So Steve, of course, founder and CEO of Reddit, he’s, he’s running it and, you know, read it obviously one of the largest properties and the internet today. And he said, this is his learning about product market fit. Probably market fit is like. When something keeps growing, even though you’ve done everything to screw it up, keeps on growing, it sounds like, you know what you’re doing wrong. And no matter what you do, it just keeps growing. You’ve probably got something really good there. And that was a, that was his experience with Reddit. And he was like, look, we were going through building this company. We didn’t know what we were doing at the time. And a lot of things we were doing were quite wrong and the thing just kept growing. We didn’t know what to do. It just kept. You know, continuing to grow. And so that’s when you know, you have something really, really exciting. And I think that was the early days. I mean, when you and I had that conversation, it’s the same thing. I saw the same thing. It was like, this thing just keeps growing and I was excited about it and I was sharing it with my friends and then my friends who were part of it, they were sharing with their friends and then, you know, more and more people just became a part of the community.

 

Bryan: (00:42:56) Yeah, thank you for that. Now that you reminded me, that’s kind of very

 

Maggie: (00:43:04) It does just keep growing. You know, there are going to be hard shows. We’ve had a couple of speed bonds, but it just keeps growing. And we know that it’s something that we definitely need in this community.

 

Bryan: (00:43:13) Yeah. Jimmy so this podcast is going to be published in January. So what are your goals for 2021?

 

Jimmy: (00:43:18) 2021? I mean, well, I think. Professionally. I’m very happy where with where we are professionally, our goal is to be growing very, very quickly. So in the next two years, um, ultimately want to 10 X where we are at, you know, that’s really what we’re hoping for. We’re going to be pushing hard and growing the company and keep going. Um, the company’s grown a lot since I joined, uh, already. And. The, the, the goal is to grow even faster, even more build up more of a team here are around growth as well. So that’d be good. Uh, personally, I think we were kind of talking about this before. I just bought a home here in Pleasanton. My wife and I are settling down a little bit. And so, uh, I think it’s, uh, just kind of settling in a little bit, getting comfortable here and building up, uh, our family here.

 

Bryan: (00:44:10) Wow. That’s really awesome to hear.

 

Maggie: (00:44:12) I mean, you’ve definitely had such a journey, you know, going from go planet and loop and mixer box. What are it all started? Let’s start at the humble beginnings, which would be the biggest lesson that you’ve learned throughout your journey all these years as a founder and as an executive.

 

Jay: (00:44:34) Yeah. You know, I, I don’t know if this is the biggest, but it’s certainly one that pops to mind and it’s just that you’re going to get through it. Um, with the founders that I kind of coached and talked to, and even myself, what I’ve seen is that, uh, with every entrepreneurial journey. It’s a rollercoaster. There’s going to be tremendous highs. You got around a funding. That’s great. And there’s going to be tremendous lows. The money is going down, down, down, down, down. What am I supposed to do? I think I talked about this story in the other podcast as well. You know, for a period of time when our company was having trouble and we were pivoting, it was a very difficult time. My co-founder and I were getting at each other’s necks, basically fighting all the time and it was like a bad marriage. And then, you know, to make it worse, we were trying to pivot, uh, we were building up something where we had to not be with our families here in San Francisco. We actually moved out to Seattle to launch the new application we were trying to build. Uh, and at the, you know, when we first started, we were in Airbnb, we were in one bedroom Airbnbs where we were basically in the same room working 24 seven, I moved over sleeping like three, four hours a night. So it was, um, incredibly painful. And so you’ve got these tremendous highs, this incredible lows. And if you want to be a founder, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to recognize that that’s what you’re signing up for. It’s going to be, you know, Sunny days and, and rainy days, and you have to be able to weather that. So what I’ve noticed is that, um, one of the things that’s great about Asian and these networks is having people that you can talk to who understand what you’re talking about. So what I found is that, you know, my founder, friends, for example, we can genuinely have a conversation about what’s going on because what you tell everybody is, Hey, we’re killing it. It’s this massive growth. Everything’s great. But the reality is. Of it or that it’s not so great. It’s actually really hard and every day is really difficult and you have to push yourself through that, but it gets a little bit easier if you have a network of people who understand that you can lean to and have a genuine open conversation. And I’ve actually posted about this and written about this before as well. You know, if there’s founders that are quite frankly just struggling and don’t know where to go with their companies or have issues, it doesn’t have to be all roses, you know, Let’s have a chat. Let’s talk about it. I’m happy to listen. I’m happy to have a conversation with you. You know, Brian, similar to how we started this. I actually enjoyed the fact that you didn’t come at it with like, I know everything. It was like, Hey, I actually am not sure about certain things. Can I ask you about them and say, yeah, let’s, let’s talk because it’s hard to find someone you can have a genuine conversation about and not feel like, Hey, I’m being stupid because I don’t know this. It’s like, no, everyone has the situations they go through where they don’t know it. Every one of these incredible billion dollar companies we’re talking about had instances where the founders were like, I’m in Omar over my head. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. And they had to have, I’m going to talk to, and that could be an advisor that could be an investor that could just be a friend. And I’d like to offer that out to, of course you guys, and our listeners and Asian folks, if they want it, someone who’s just a friend who wants to, you know, that you can have a conversation with let’s talk. Let’s talk about the real. You know, good and the bad. Let’s see if we can talk about what’s going on because we all need that. Sometimes

 

Bryan: (00:47:49) we love you. We love that. You’re offering that out. We also want to warn you too, because you’re going to be blown away. Are you sure about that? Jimmy?

 

Jimmy: (00:47:56) I’m offering it up and I meet it, but the word of advice is that it does get better. I mean at the end of the day, the good, the, the good comes with the bad, the bad comes to the good, but at the end of the day, it’s going to come. It’s going to be fine. So don’t get too low on the down days. Don’t get too high on the high days, try to manage it and find a strong network of people that you can depend on and have conversations with. Because I think it’ll be really helpful for founders out there, especially the first time founders.

 

Bryan: (00:48:22) Yeah. I love that line. Yep.

 

Maggie:  (00:48:25) So we always ask our interviewees this one last question. I know you’ve given so many good golden nuggets, but if you could give just one advice to an aspiring entrepreneur looking to get into the startup world, because during COVID too,

 

Jimmy: (00:48:40) you know, what’s interesting. COVID has obviously changed. Everything that’s out there. And I can talk at length about how it’s changed for investors and founders and everything, but for founders, um, here’s the good actually. It used to be that you really couldn’t get any deal done if you didn’t meet in person with the investors  because of COVID that’s not possible. And a lot of deals have been done without that. So the opportunity now is. If you are someone who is a hustler, someone who actually goes out and gets things done, and you go and find the investors you want to talk to set up the meetings you want to set up, you actually have more of a chance of getting that deal done now because everyone’s doing kind of a remote zoom call kind of culture now versus before where it was almost, you know, a lot more difficult for that to happen, especially if you are not local. And I think it’s actually a great opportunity for founders that really want to get things done really want to get in front of the right investors or whatever. Um, this is your chance actually, because before maybe they didn’t invest in, I don’t know a startup from Arizona or whatever, and they only looked in the Bay area because that’s what they knew. And they were already kind of busy enough with companies here. Um, but now I think investors have become a lot more open to having kind of the initial conversations, um, over email, over zoom, et cetera. And as a founder, this is a great chance for you to go after what you really want. If you really want to talk to that investor, you feel like there’s going to be a really good match there Um, prepare your narrative, figure out how to get in front of them. Warm intros are great, but go do it. I think this is a, this is a golden opportunity that really wasn’t available before.

 

Bryan: (00:50:25) Wow. That’s really, really good advice. Thank you. Thank you so much for that, Jimmy.

 

Jimmy: (00:50:30) Yeah, of course.

 

Maggie:  (00:50:31) And how can our listeners learn more about you online?

 

Jimmy: (00:50:32) That’s a great question. So I’m going to find a way to make it a little bit easier. I’m putting some, some ways, I guess they can email me at, at the moment. Um, honestly, if they email me and they put something in the head or not. Connects to Ahn. I’ll read it. Um, I will respond. I’m really good about email and, you know, I, I don’t know where we’re at in terms of numbers of people, uh for Ahn. And so maybe I’ll get inundated, but, um, I’m really, I’m happy to at least start an email conversation. So my email is just my name@gmail.com. Jimmy crew@gmail.com. I’ve just given it out. So feel free, email me, put something in the, uh, the subject header that says Ahn. I promise you, I will at least read it and respond. Uh, I’ll be really good about that. And then we can go from there because, uh, you know, if, if I could be helpful, then, uh, that’d be great.

 

Bryan: (00:51:26) Awesome.

 

Maggie:  (00:51:28) Thank you so much for your generosity. That’s amazing.

 

Bryan: (00:51:29) Thank you so much to be on today’s podcast. We really enjoyed it. We love your story.

 

Jimmy:  (00:51:34) Thanks so much.

 

Bryan: (00:51:36) And we’ll, we’ll continue having these conversations you in the future.

 

Jimmy:  (00:51:37) Thanks for, I’m really excited to share this story. Really excited to see the continued growth of this community you guys have built. And the honor to that you guys reached out and said, let’s have this conversation. So thanks so much for your time as well.

 

Bryan: (00:51:50) Awesome. Thank you, Jimmy, Jimmy.

 

Jimmy:  (00:51:52) All right, have a good rest of your day. Bye.

 

Outro: [00:51:54] Hey guys, we hope you enjoy this episode. Please subscribe to the show.

 

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Thank you, guys, so much.