Tammy Cho // Ep 9 // Pursuing Passion and Creating Positive Impact
Welcome to Episode 9 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Tammy Cho 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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Tammy Cho is a tech startup founder who transitioned into the world of social justice and nonprofits. Tired of the rampant harassment and discrimination in workplaces across the tech industry, Tammy felt compelled to take action and founded and launched BetterBrave, a nonprofit organization dedicated to tackling toxic workplaces in 2017, just before the #MeToo wave began.
Since launching, BetterBrave has expanded beyond the tech industry and has equipped thousands of workers across America with knowledge of their rights in the workplace and access to pro bono legal and counseling services. She also co-produces Hidden Narratives, a podcast that illuminates the untold stories of Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic and is Co-Founder of Hate Is A Virus, a nonprofit that combats xenophobia and racism. Prior to these initiatives, Tammy co-founded Encore Alert, an AI platform that helps brands like IDEO, Denver Broncos, and the University of Michigan identify and act on emerging trends, crises, and influencers in their industry. She started the company as a college freshman at Georgetown University and sold it to Meltwater in 2016 at age 21.
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Intro: [00:00:00] Hey guys! Welcome to the 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.
Bryan: [00:00:23] Hey guys, welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast. My name is Bryan.
Maggie: [00:00:27] And my name is Maggie.
Bryan: [00:00:29] And today we have Tammy Cho. Tammy is the CEO and founder of BetterBrave. She’s also the co-founder and CEO of hate is the virus, Tammy, welcome to the show.
Maggie: [00:00:40] Thanks for coming on this channel, Tammy.
Tammy: [00:00:42] Yeah excited to be here.
Bryan: [00:00:43] Super excited to have you, Tammy. So can you start off by telling us, like, what was your upbringing like? You know, where’d you grow up? What kind of Asian style parents did you have? You know, we want to hear a lot more about that.
Tammy: [00:00:57] Yeah, that’s a lot to unpack. Yes. I grew up in Orange County, California. basically all my childhood life.
And then I moved to DC to attend Georgetown University. And then the tech life brought me out to San Francisco for about five years. And then now I’m based out in LA officially. yeah.
Maggie: [00:01:20] Wow. That’s amazing. And so what about your family? Like, would you say that they’re very like a traditional family, you know, did they have like a life that was kind of like set out for you? Like, did they envision you to go through a certain route, or were they very supportive and like anything that you wanted to do?
Tammy: [00:01:38] That’s a really good question. My parents were immigrants from South Korea. So they had moved to America just a couple of years before I was born. And, they were small business owners, so they ran dry clean businesses. And then a liquor store for most of my childhood. cause they basically grew up in a liquor store. And in terms of career paths and decisions, life decisions, generally, I think there were a lot more traditional. So I think because they wrestled with the challenges of being a small business owner and knowing how challenging that is. They definitely envisioned a better life for us. Right. And that better life was very much tied to the traditional stable career path to becoming a lawyer or becoming a doctor. And so those were definitely the path that my parents encouraged me to follow growing up and we’re definitely not the path that I’m taking. Yeah.
Maggie: [00:02:37] And so before you had started all of these amazing companies, you know, were you doing something before you went into the nonprofit world or, you know, did you ever have like a nine to five.
Tammy: [00:02:50] Yeah. So I started my first company as a college student at Georgetown. Yeah, so I was working on different startup projects.
I didn’t really know what the tech world or like what startups even were, at the time when I was in high school, but I actually started working on startups technically when I was in high school. And then when I got to college, I ended up teaming with, teaming up with a couple of friends to just start this side project.
And you know, And for me, like, I was just thinking about it. I like really care about this problem. It seems like with our team members who might be able to do something to solve it. And so we kind of just like started hacking away at the problem. And before we knew it, you know, it, we were sharing our idea, trying to get feedback from our mentors at the university. And they actually pointed out to us that this idea really has the potential. So our professors then start to introduce us to other investors as well as other mentors and those conversations. I mean, there were quite a few, we’ve probably had hundreds of conversations at that point, but that ultimately enabled us to be able to apply to an accelerated program and get accepted to actually focus and work on the startup.
Bryan: [00:04:08] That’s amazing. And For a frame of reference is back in you’re 18?
Tammy: [00:04:14] Yeah. 17, 18.
Bryan: [00:04:17] That’s amazing. What was the mindset like, you know, like feeling that your idea become realistic and that you guys are working with investors, like, what was it going through your mind at the time?
Tammy: [00:04:27] Yeah. You know, Funny enough. I think that there is something to the being naive at that point where I, you know, I knew I was young. I recognized that I was young. but I think, and being young like I knew that I, there was so much for me to learn and I think having that open mind and that willingness to learn from mentors and other members of our community, other founders, I think actually ended up being a strength in terms of being able to work on this company. I’ve definitely had a fair share of challenges related to the fact that I was so young that we can dive into that later too. But I think there was a lot of, I’m really grateful for the startup community for supporting us as college entrepreneurs too.
Bryan: [00:05:14] Yeah. That’s amazing you know. And as you’re going through this process, like, what were your parents thinking about you being a part of this business?
Tammy: [00:05:23] Yeah, my parents didn’t take it very seriously when I first started working on it. and well, to be honest, too, I think, you know, seeing how hard my parents had worked to provide for us, you know, we didn’t grow up with much and I knew like how hard it was on them. How hard difficult it was running this business. and so when I saw that I basically made this like commitment with myself. It wasn’t any pressure from parents, but I wanted to be able to, you know, once they go to college, like be able to provide for myself and say, I got a full ride to Georgetown. And then any other expenses that I had, I basically took on like, Five different odd jobs to pay the bills while I was there. But basically I like took a very independent approach once I hit college and I didn’t want my parents to worry. So I think I played a role in downplaying what I was working on.
So I framed it to them like, Oh, here’s like a little side project that I’m working with friends and, you know, it might be a business, but like, we’re kind of seeing how things go. and so. No, they were initially supportive because they didn’t really know what I was doing, but they just assumed it was like some fun side project I was doing all with friends that were semi-productive. but then fast forward some times I actually had to come back to them to break the news that I was going to be leaving school, to focus on this company full time. and that’s when things completely shifted. My parents were, you know, obviously supported it as a side project, but after realizing that this is something I might be leaving school for definitely shifted their worlds a bit. and that was a very challenging time for us to figure out what to do next.
Maggie: [00:07:20] Yeah. Was there like a transition period where you were like, okay, I need to focus on one thing, right? Like school might be taking up too much of my time and maybe I need to leave and, you know, put 100% into my business that I’m working on.
Bryan: [00:07:34] And To take it back one more step to like, What is your opinion of school? You know? I feel like that’s sort of played into your decision to leave, you know, as you’re meeting more entrepreneurs out there, you’re starting to realize that, Hey look, you can, there’s so much more to be learned in the real world compared to school, you know?
Tammy: [00:07:53] Yeah, that’s a good question and kind of controversial, but yeah, I think in terms of my perspective on school, I do, I have, I definitely have mixed feelings in regards to it. and it was you know, I do see the, you have school for some. And then for others, maybe school potentially might not be the best path or maybe there are ways that like education, generally it can be improved to cater to people who might break out of school. Cause it doesn’t align with them. yeah, I would say like, it was interesting for me too, because, you know, I went to a public school in Orange County, but it was a unique model where you had to test to get in to attend, this, this high school, middle school, high school combination. And, it was very, very focused on academics. And like, I’ll let you think about is how to get good grades, how to have like a great testing score so that you can get into these universities, these top tier universities, and that’s where everybody’s head was at, including mine at the time. and so to realize that I expend all this time working towards getting to a university and then coming to a point where as I’m attending school and working on this project, I had to, I realized that. Yeah. Like, there’s just no way I can do both. and I think part of the reason was because one, you know, Academics. I also am a new grant for people who know any grant I type three, I’m an achiever. And so I, if I put my heart into something like I want to Excel at it. And so for me, I think for schoolwork, there was a part of me, if I was working on it, I want to be able to dedicate all the time to it and get good grades. But at the same time, on the other hand, working on this project, I truly believe in the potential of this to kick off and that is solving a real need. And I find myself dedicating so much time to it as well.
And I was working like 70 70 hour work weeks, basically 70, 80 hour work weeks to try to fit both the company, as well as School at the same time. And so I was already feeling like I, as already thinking about like, Hmm, I feel like I probably should pick one to focus on for now. And then the tipping point was actually because we were then able to raise funding from around funding from angel investors and raised over a quarter of a million dollars for this initial round. so that was the tipping point for me to make a decision on, am I going to stay in school and to give up the startup? Or am I going to focus on the startup full time and then take a break from school?
Bryan: [00:10:54] Wow. That’s powerful. Sorry, you know, and it’s so powerful, especially for us in the Asian Hustle community to hear this because a lot of us give up in our startup ideas while in college. You know, a lot of us may or may not been able to create like super companies in college because we listened to our parents and the safe path is to stay in school, get good grades, get a job first and then figure out your company, you know. And because your story is so unique that, you know, you come, you have such a hustler mentality that you came into college and you’re like, Hey, I want to make sure, like, my parents are not paying for anything. If I had to work random jobs, I want to make sure I stay fully independent. That’s really powerful too. And what makes it even more unique is, you know, your courage. Your courage to stand up for what you believe for and go for it and look at where you are now, you know. A lot of people want to be where you are right now. They want to be Tammy Cho. They want to experience things that you experienced too you know. Because in our opinion, I always feel like, you know, a lot of us follow the traditional path. Right. You know, go college, take the grades, graduate, get a good job. And then we find ourselves sort of depressed. Cause it’s like, Oh man, I have a lot of people in the Asian hustle network always say I never lived life the way I wanted to. And by that time, it’s in their late twenties, early thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, whatever. Right. And you show them that, Hey, you could succeed in an unconventional path. And I absolutely agree at you with the education perspective. You know, I feel like the education system is not for everyone.
It really depends on you as a person or what kind of type are you and you know your type, your achievement type. You know that you don’t need to have someone tell you what to do. You know what to do? And that’s so powerful for people to hear this story and to sort of emulate you and walking forward that there’s more than one path to see feeding last instead of one, you know. Our parents are so dead set on us being doctors, lawyers, engineers, you know, accountants that they forget about us being happy that America is truly the land of opportunity There’s so much opportunity out there that you just have to go for it and to see it. Yeah. So I hadn’t really had props to that, Tammy.
Maggie: [00:13:17] I think it’s really powerful too, because you know, a lot of people, they like to dip their toes in a lot of different areas, but they burn themselves out, you know. And if you’re giving 50% into something and a 50% into another thing, you never truly give your 100% into one thing.
And I liked that you were able to make that realization. Like I have to focus on my business because I want to see it grow, you know? And in a lot of cases, people miss out on those opportunities, like, they’ll be like, Hey, I feel like I need to finish school because my parents want me to finish school. And what if they had that opportunity, like right next to a school, but they missed it. While they were in school, you know?
Bryan: [00:13:54] I’m pretty sure a lot of us can relate to the fact that, Oh man, I had that. I had the idea when I was in college, but I didn’t pursue it because I was scared. Myself, including, you know, there’s a lot of different ideas that I saw blow up. I’m like, It, I was thinking back about that. I kinda want to transition and dive into your experience of being such an early founder. You know, foundings helped me a seven, 17, 18. How’d you meet your co founders? How do you vet them? And like, what is your experience like raising money as a female entrepreneur? That’s pretty young
Maggie: [00:14:28] on top of that being female and a member of minority too.
Tammy: [00:14:34] Yeah. it was. It’s definitely challenging. one quick thing I did want to add it’s your two, your last points though, was just in regards to, you know, testing. I do think it is important to test out different fields that you might be interested in. cause I think that’s oftentimes the first step, right?
Like even for me, I was a college student. And on the side, I started working on this company. And from then I think I was then able to realize over time that this is something I want to shift my focus fully onto. And I think one of the things that stopped people too, it just stops the idea. Right. And he gets scared about the execution, but I think if there’s anything, that I can I can share that I’ve learned from my experience is that if you just take that one step, even if it’s as a side hustle, you may never know where it leads. You might drop it and that’s fine too. You may never follow through with it and that’s okay. You realize it’s probably because you realize that it’s not worth pursuing further. but on the other hand, you might realize that the one that you want to focus on for the rest of your life. yeah. And then in regards to starting a company as a college entrepreneur, that was really, huge, huge learning experience for me. And as I mentioned, I didn’t know anything about the tech industry or the startup world because, You know, we almost fell into it because we were just, you know, listening to the advice of our mentors open-minded and pivoting according to the advice that we were receiving. And, you know, we only then after starting to work on this company, found the label of like, Oh, we’re actually working on a startup and tech. Oh yeah. Yeah. But in a way, I think that was almost, that was one of the strengths for us too, just because we are truly just focused on like, how can we execute rather than getting caught up in like, Oh, I want to be this cool entrepreneur and like the hot new industry. We were just really just trying to figure out how can we address these issues.
And the challenges that I did come across being a young founder and also being a woman and a person of color was there were definitely a lot of microaggressions that I experienced in the industry. And so I had two incredible male co-founders, Felipe Lopez, who was our CTO and James Lee, who was the CEO of the company.
And they’re wonderful. But you know, when we went to, for instance, startup events and we were exhibiting encore alerts, our company. there’ll be little things like the VCs that we’ll walk by our booth, would first talk to me. they’ll immediately assume that I’m an intern. And then when they realize I’m a founder, they’ll kind of ask like, are, do you have any other founders like, and you can clearly tell their mood and the way they talk shifts when they’re talking to a male founder.
Another clear example was even in regards to fundraising process. when VCs were reviewing how much equity each of the founders have, they often times wanted to push my equity down among the three founders and the reasons they would say it would be reasons like for instance, the fact that I was a college dropout, make them, sir, you know, which is fair in one sense.
But on the other hand, you also see a lot of male founders who’ve dropped out of college and then that’s actually seen as a positive, right? Describing that’s like the next Mark Zuckerberg or the next bill Gates. And meanwhile, it’s a red flag for me, for women under yeah. so those are a lot of the challenges that are just some of the challenges that I had experienced being in the industry and, you know, parts. And I think it was only over time being in the industry for so long. I explained her tough conversations with other female founders and recognize that this was actually a very common behavior. and even, especially in regards to the equity gap, for instance. Research studies actually show that female founders oftentimes have less equity than their male co-founders.
and there’s a huge gap. They call it the equity gap in that regards. And that applies to employees as well. So when male employees are likely to have higher equity than female employees.
Bryan: [00:19:15] Yeah. That’s really disheartening to hear, you know, especially coming. Especially you come here as a co-founder, you know, I feel like you did your equal part, you know? Did you, you didn’t step back. You didn’t step down. Did you like to stand your ground and be like, no what are you talking about? I just have my Equal share.
Maggie: [00:19:35] I’m wondering like how you were able to react to those types of instances and like, if you ever said anything or if it was like more of like a self-affirmation kind of thing, like just don’t mind them, you know, do your own thing. Like how were you able to respond to those types of comments?
Tammy: [00:19:50] Yeah, that’s a great question. And I. Huge learning experience for me, I did not, to be honest did not take many actions against that. And I think I was one of the very few female founders in the DC tech scene at the time, there’s probably like two or three hail founders that were consistently at these events.
And they’re incredible, but they’re very little of us and this was not a topic at the time that we discussed as much. And so I actually felt very isolated and alone in that, you know, like my co-founders were supportive, but I think I didn’t even know how to really verbalize how I was feeling about this.
And at the time it was even hard for me to realize what was wrong. It just felt off. But a lot of it, I took it upon myself where I felt like, Oh, I was the problem. And I almost felt like I was. Bring the rest of the team down because I was on the team and, you know, and when they suggested pulling the equity down, I didn’t fight back because, yeah. Yeah, because I think I voiced that I was, it’s a felt off to me, but then at the same time, I think I didn’t really know. You know, I just gave him the benefit of the doubt and I didn’t want to pose any additional barriers in terms of getting securing funding for a team. And so kind of took it as like take one for the team and decrease my equity, you know. Fast forward to where I am now. Like, hell no, that’s not quite a fly with me. But I think, and I’ve learned so much of that. And, and I think. That experience is one of the huge reasons behind why it work on the initiatives that I do today as well. But it was definitely a learning experience for me.
Maggie: [00:21:44] Yeah. I think it’s very easy to, you know, even if you’re young or if you’re not, like if you’re a person of color or a member of a minority working in the workforce and you see that you have a lower salary than the other person who may be like white, you know, it’s very easy to be like, You know, maybe I’m not doing my part. Maybe I’m, you know, putting the team down, maybe I need to do more. Right. So I think it’s very easy to kind of get those two ideas mixed up and, you know, put it on yourself. Right. But I think now, like jumping, fast-forwarding to now we see, you know, with better brave, like better brave is, was started with all women. Right. That’s really important. And I think, you know, you coming to that realization and you coming back, bouncing back with a company that’s like full of women. I think that’s really powerful.
Bryan: [00:22:29] It just builds on top of that too. I’m very, very mad hearing this story. If I was a co-founder at the time, it’d be like, hell no noise decreased in tiny share. It’s just the way I am in general, you know, but I’m really sorry that happened. And I think that even for us, Working towards Asian Hustle Network. We have this huge initiative to empower women entrepreneurs inside of the community. And any way that we could support your AMA sessions. You know, the last couple of winners that we give away a thousand dollars to have been female entrepreneurs, you know, it’s a strong initiative for us. I mean, I always felt like even this is a funny story. Well, let’s pull it back. And small girls are so much smarter than me and academically I’m like, Yeah. And let’s not be, that’s not me. That’s smart.
Maggie: [00:23:17] They are, they are.
Bryan: [00:23:21] I’m really happy. Like you’re okay now. you learn from that mistake that you’re using this experience to bill for, and never let this happen again. And I do want to dive a little deeper into like how you found your co-founders. How did you vet them? How’d you meet them? What kind of part of the issue is that to have with them before we started working together?
Tammy: [00:23:43] Yeah. So, one of my cofounders, I knew since high school actually, so we were part of the theme business organization. And so, he was a few older, a few years older than I was, but we have the same business organization and got connected one of the summers because he was starting a different company at the time. And so I, you know, over the summer while like everyone else was doing SAT prep, funny enough, it was like too expensive for me to attend these like prep academies. And that’s why I like looked for other projects to work on. Yeah. It was a blessing in disguise. and I came across this opportunity to work with this friend. And then, We ended up working on that for about, I believe it was about two summers. And then by that time, it was around the time for me to go to college and I ended up going into Georgetown University, which was the same university that he was at. and so then we continue to work on different ideas together and ended up landing on one, which was Encore alert. it was a different idea at the time, but what it eventually evolved into was it was a social media analytics platform where we basically were able to smartly identify, look through all the social media data for these big brands and identify key opportunities. And issues, PR crisis that they need to address as soon as possible and would send them alerts. but teamed up with, the founder, this fund to start that. And then we, you know, we needed to find someone who was technical to be able to build the product as well. And so how we found our third co-founder is actually through a platform called angel list.
Bryan: [00:25:27] I love angel list.
Tammy: [00:25:30] It’s a great platform. I haven’t used it since. So many years back. but yeah, we posted, on this platform where it connects founders to other people who are interested in roles and tech, and And few different people responded, including Phillipe Lopez. we then jumped on a call with him. I’m not even sure about the time he like realized we were college students in our dorm rooms, interviewing people. But we jumped on a call with him. We ended up doing a short term contract with him just to see how we can work well together or not. And, you know, by the end of that period, we knew that he was the one, we worked really well together. he was incredibly smart. Just in terms of the way he thinks about just technical infrastructure and architecture was what we were looking for. And so we ended up teaming up after that. And then shortly after we got accepted into another startup accelerator program that required all of us to be present, live in-person in DC. And so, Felipe was actually based out of Brazil. So we flew him from Brazil to DC for this program.
Bryan: [00:26:51] That’s insane. Yeah, that’s really full, you know, it’s just to hear a volley, how the film about most challenges early entrepreneurs start, especially if you’re not technical. how do you find a technical cofounder? And most ideas die Right there. It’s like, Oh, I can’t start this project because I don’t have a technical founder, but you guys figured out a way to do it because you’re so passionate about the idea that you want to start, that you’ve found a way to do it, you know?
And that’s. That’s amazing, you know, and just be able to start thinking bus solutions instead of problems. That’s a given his own. Now, like when you can start looking at what you currently have, what you’re missing, how to find it. That’s when we start solving the problem, this is how you become a true entrepreneur.
Maggie: [00:27:37] Let’s talk about how like, Finding a co-founder. It’s like marrying that person, right. It’s pretty much, yeah. It’s like dating. Yeah. But you know, I think the best people who work together most efficiently and the best is like, you guys are on the same page and you guys were seeing the longterm vision. You know, obviously there are arguments that happen, but that’s always like the short term. Those are always temporary.
Bryan: [00:28:00] They’re never personal two or full founders because you are going to have disagreements. And I find that when working with a team of things go too well. Let me things are swept under the rug and nothing. That means a bigger underlying issue that’s going on, right? Yeah. I mean, I do want to talk a little bit more about like some of the early mistakes you made. I know one of them was lowering your equity, which I’m still very mad about by the way, but I just want to hear a little more about like, Are there mistakes and lessons learned that we can take away with your experience?
Tammy: [00:28:36] Yeah. I think another big lesson, that we learned over time, just based off of like very early projects that we’re working on.
So I think that sometimes there’s a tendency, especially, among founders and even like creatives. Where we get really excited about an idea, but it’s not necessarily solving a real problem more with this idea, then figuring out how we’re trying to address a major issue that’s going on. and so I think that’s one of the lessons that we learned, which was to really try to identify the needs of who we’re trying to serve, and then build a product around that rather than the other way around. And the reason I say that too is that there were definitely, when we first entered the accelerator program in DC, No, it’s a, it was a four-month-long program, the first three months you’re basically, and during the bulk of the program, you’re basically paired with different mentors. You’re working on your concept idea.
And the goal is by the end of that period, you then pitch your company to a bunch of different VCs and angel investors to get funding, to get actual seed funding. And, You know, when we first went into this program, they actually gave us funding saying that they are giving us funding because people leaving the team, not necessarily the idea and the major flaw with the idea was that we were building a great solution that we felt like was brilliant. But in actuality, wasn’t really solving a huge need that people would be willing to pay for.
And so, during that program, we quickly pivoted, we pivoted basically like a month before we had to pitch to the VC. Yeah. Which is it was in that house, super stressful, but also really rewarding. And then within that month we were able to build a very simple. A first version of the product. And we pitched it to prospective customers and were able to get them to commit to a contract. All before a fundraising day. And so then, when we actually pitched the concept that day, we had VC investors that were interested in funding us, and we were able to raise the money after that and have actual customers.
Bryan: [00:30:55] Yeah, it sounds like it happened so quickly though.
Maggie: [00:30:58] I think a lot of people get like the shiny objects syndrome. Right. Like when I do this, when I do that, like, that’s the next bad, right. But people don’t do like market research. Like, is it actually going to solve an issue that people are experiencing or is it just like something you want to focus on? But I’m glad to hear that you guys were able to pivot in such a short amount of time.
Bryan: [00:31:18] And shout out to your friend Patrick Lee for telling us to focus. One of those times where we focus. Yeah. I mean, trends may affect. Fast forward a little bit more like when you guys sold your company, you know, at the age, or pretty sure acquisition happened around when you’re 20 finished you’re in 21. Right. And what was that process like? And what was the feeling like we were about to sell this company and why don’t you sell the company?
Tammy: [00:31:46] Yeah. So that was a very interesting time for us as well. we were going through our second accelerator program. We’ll call it 500 startups out in the Bay area, and close to the end of that program, the CEO of Meltwater, which is the company that acquired us. I’m happened to be speaking at 500 startups to the entrepreneurs there. And we were doing introductions. And when he heard about what our product was, it’s certainly see his eyes light up because I think it was a product that he internally was very interested in building out and then realizing that a product like this was already in the works made him very excited.
And from there things initially moved pretty quickly. We set up an initial conversation with them, which was meant to be like, just exploring partnerships with them. Not necessarily acquisition. We had a partnership meeting, introduced our product, they introduced their company as well. And that’s how the conversation started.
Pretty soon it was more apparent that they were interested in acquiring our company. And from there it became a discussion internally about what we want to do next. Do we want to raise another round of funding to continue working on this company privately? Or did we want to merge and be acquired?
or did we want to be acquired by meltwater during this time? And there are a couple of different factors that we looked at for this. one, I think we want to get a better idea. it required a lot of self-reflection too. Right. But we needed to think about like, in terms of our respective life visions, did we see ourselves working on this company forever? And this mission forever? Or were there something, was there something else that we might want to explore down the road? We also have to evaluate where we were at the company. And to be honest, at the time we weren’t doing fantastic, right? Like we had 10 employees at that point, but it was still, and we had a great product.
We had, you know, all the customers that signed up for a product, very little churn and turnover. But in terms of acquiring new customers, that was not necessarily a strength from our team. And so we felt like potentially this might be a good time for us to transition this to a more established company.
So that, you know, one, we know that they have of the sales bandwidth and the knowledge to be able to distribute our product to the right customers. And then two, we could also learn from that experience of how they do that. And also learn from the experience of being acquired and what that transition looks like as well.
And so and then the last piece that we looked at was the offer and, you know, the arrangement was structured in a way that we can continue to operate our product under this new company. Which is actually unique because a lot of times you’ll find acquisitions where they will either dissolve. It’s more like an Aqua hire, where they just hired the, they’d like technically acquire the company, but those employees just join as an employee, and work on the new company’s products.
And then they basically have to abandon ship for their startup product. But for us, we were in a senior position where we could actually, as a team, join Meltwater and operate our own product within their umbrella. And so considering all of that, you know, we talked, had many conversations with the team about it, and then decided to take the path back of the shin.
Bryan: [00:35:21] Wow. That’s amazing. Congratulations by the way.
Maggie: [00:35:24] Congratulations. That’s amazing.
Bryan: [00:35:29] It’s truly amazing. It’s really inspirational to hear it. It’s about because every… to us, like, it sounds like everything happens so quickly when a three to four-year range about who you are, basically a high schooler to your ideas of what’s possible to defy your parents, to taking those risks, to leaving college.
You know, it’s just moving to San Francisco to start this company and then getting acquired. Like that’s really amazing, you know, and you know, obviously, you’re full time right now and doing BetterBrave and, you know, cofounder, hate is the virus. Like what made you decide to leave Meltwater and start a new venture?
Because for most people. They went through their entire life goal in four years. So the question after you achieved your goal is always like, okay, what makes me happy? What’s next? You know, you really want to dive into a mindset too, at the time. What made you, what made you want to leave this, you know, essentially a really great opportunity, decent-paying job, you know, really comfortable, like to get there. Get us over again, figure yourself out and find new co-founders.
Maggie: [00:36:44] Yeah. And you know, like in speaking about BetterBrave. Like how are you able to come up with that idea and what’s like the inspiration behind it? And were you already thinking about it when you were at Meltwater or? Oh yeah. It was just, how does, how did that idea transpire?
Bryan: [00:37:01] Yeah, that’s the one to understand that let’s start mental health like at the time because I feel like mental health is one thing that’s never fight talked about the Asian community. In exterior, it may seem like a lot of us are doing really well. You know, you know, you sold your company or a lot of us have a nice job, nice cars or whatever, but we’re just really unhappy inside. You tell your parents this they’re like, what you left this and now you’re leaving that. What
Tammy: [00:37:27] do
Bryan: [00:37:28] you want?
Tammy: [00:37:30] You know. Yeah. All good questions. And that was such an interesting period of my life too so much had happened in like the two-year span. yeah. So once, I was at Meltwater, that was also a really cool experience. Just getting to learn about how a bigger company operates, you know, Like a hundred million dollar company, they, have thousands of employees around the world. And there’s so much that we learned in terms of how to operate a business during your experience there. with that said, I think, you know, As I was working there and I believe that there’s value in the product. You know, I did think a little bit more in terms of my life vision and what I care about. And I think I hit a point where I realized, I’m starting to realize that I don’t see myself, you know, Doing social media analytics forever, as much as it’s needed. I don’t see that as like my colleagues. And so I was starting to think about like, what are some other areas that I might be more interested in focusing on, and this was not something I was actively looking for that was in the back of my head. and then, in July, Let’s see, I believe it was July of 2017 around that time, beginning of 2017. you know, I had come across the story of a student Fowler over at Uber. those who don’t know she was a software engineer at Uber. She had reported numerous incidents of sexism, harassment bullying at Uber.
Every time was met by HR saying that there was nothing to can do because hers is the only complaint. There were dozens of other people who were also affected by this behavior. And, you know, when I saw her story, I realized that I wasn’t alone in my experiences. I think, you know, as I mentioned before with the whole equity conversation, too, I think in the moments that experienced these microaggressions or the sexism or the racism, I almost took the blame on myself rather than evaluating what was wrong about the situation. and so, yeah. I, when I saw her story and realized that I was not alone in that many of them, other women were experiencing these type of issues, all compelled to do something. And I didn’t know what it was going to be, to be honest. But the first step that I took was, again, just really trying to understand this problem and where it stems from. And so I ended up teaming up with one of my coworkers at the time to interview people. We just had hundreds of conversations with other women and men, people, you know, employees, lawyers, HR experts, just to get a better idea of their experiences in the workplace. Every single person that we talk to either had a personal experience with this issue or the new somebody who experienced harassment in the workplace.
And you know, hearing all these stories, it’s just impossible, I mean, to not do anything about it. So we looked at what was something, what is a gap that we see? Why is this happening? One of the first places that we can start was address this huge gap in terms of the knowledge that employees have in terms of what their workplace rights are, as well as how to navigate these issues. The resources that are currently out there to help you understand this are very expensive and for effected, don’t have the money to afford those resources. Consequently can’t take any action. So yeah. So taking all of that, basically it became the foundation and inspiration behind better brave.
Bryan: [00:41:24] Yeah. I think BetterBrave is super essential right now. I have worked at places before where my female coworkers came up to me, but Hey, I was sexually harassed. Like, and then we tried talking to HR and everything, nothing depressing, nothing really happened. I was pretty upset about that. You know, like it’s a very common thing especially in Silicon Valley, you hear about these types of stories.
Tammy: [00:41:54] Yeah. And you’re constantly told whether it’s in the media or through just your community, that, you know, you should report these issues to HR and they should take care of it, but they don’t do anything.
Maggie: [00:42:07] I remember like back in 2017, when that story came out regarding Uber, you know, all of these other stories kind of just started coming up, you know, from random people, whether they be women or men, and then other companies like employees from other companies started coming out with their stories too. And it just became like a ripple effect and a movement. Right. But then no one, like very few people talk about it because, you know, there’s just like this pride issue. Like they don’t want to talk about it. And they feel like like tell me about how, you know, employers don’t really give the resources, like during onboarding. They don’t address that type of issue. Right? Like they don’t say like, if this, and this happens to you, this is what you need to do, you know? And I love that BetterBrave is able to offer those resources. Yeah.
Bryan: [00:42:51] Yeah. Right. Even for us, as we incorporate Asian hustle network, we’re going to reach out to better brave for more resources, you know?
Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much for that, by the way. And I think now’s a great time to talk about the very new initiative. You know, that you’re a part of hate is a virus.
Tammy: [00:43:11] Yes alongside you.
Maggie: [00:43:15] Yeah. So Bryan is part of Hate is a Virus and Tammy is part of Hate is a Virus.
Bryan: [00:43:20] I’m the visible partner, it’s obvious that Tammy and Michelle are the true beasts here.
Maggie: [00:43:27] It’s so funny because we always, like, I always see Bryan doing these videos obviously. Right. And it always takes him like a couple of tries, but he’s always like. Well, how does Tammy do it? Like it’s so, she doesn’t like with no mistakes and I’m always so eloquent. Yeah. But I mean, I guess coming from me, what has been your experience with Hate is a virus and, you know, the whole movement is just so incredible. And just seeing the beginning of Hate is a virus movement transpire it’s it’s been so inspiring, you know, and you know similar to the black lives matter movement. This is just like the same thing for Asians, you know? And, you know, I’m just very curious, like what has been your take on it? And you know, how do you see the future of Hate is a virus and you know, what kind of work are you planning to put out for this movement?
Tammy: [00:44:18] Yeah, that’s a great question. Yeah, I think in terms of hate is a virus, it’s been such an incredible experience. Being able to work on this initiative together with Bryan and Michelle as well, and the rest of the team, Carrie. So Jessica, and so many more, Angela who are all part of this, organization as well.
And in terms of what the journey has been like a bit, you know, when we first started hate is a virus, I think each of us kind of came together because we cared so much about the issue. We had our respective, a full-time jobs. We’re working on our respective company, but, you know, similar to, with betterbrave, as we saw more of these stories of the hate crimes against Asian Americans come to the surface, we felt like we just felt like we had to do something about it.
And then the universe brought us together in a way, and we’re able to launch this initial initiative together, to tackle the racism against Asian Americans feel by COVID-19. And in terms of where we’re headed. I’m super excited about it as well. So we have, we have three primary pillars for hate is a virus.
So one piece is awareness. We want to continue to raise awareness of the issues of hate and racism against communities, through creating, you know, really digestible, accessible, educational content. And publishing that on our social media channels and spreading the word about that in partnership with community organizations, leaders, and advocates. the second pillar that we have is related to education. So we realized that it’s not enough to just raise awareness of these issues through a hashtag campaign. Right. we need to actually equip our community with tactical strategies on how to take action. Against the hate and racism and something that’s really important to us is to really mobilize and incorporation American communities to stand up for our own communities, as well as other communities, especially in solidarity with the black lives matter movement. And then the final pillar for us. And what we’re focused on is really continuing to fundraise for different causes that are tackling these issues as well. So we’re continuing to raise money for a reason, a million fund to support small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19. And we’ll be hosting more fundraisers in the future as well to serve wherever we can.
Maggie: [00:46:58] That’s amazing. So powerful, great job to the both of you guys. I know you guys were able to raise almost $20,000 in two hours, so that is super amazing. And I super, I fully believe, and 100% agree with everything that you said. I feel like as Asians, we need to do our part, you know, and if we’re not able to support other communities, then it’s very hard for us to see our community grow as well.
Bryan: [00:47:23] I absolutely agree. I mean, prior to working with Tammy, I always heard the legend of Tammy were telling me, like, you know, Tammy’s super sweet, smart as you were on top of it. And I was like, yeah, Who is this Tammy person I keep hearing about, but you look, you definitely live up to your reputation. You know, it’s been like a true honor to work with you and Michelle, like, you’re so smart. He’s so sharp in every single way. Like I don’t have any negative disables. Okay. It’s the super honor to be working with you on this on this project.
Tammy: [00:48:02] Yeah. Thank you so much.
Bryan: [00:48:03] You know, one thing I’m kind of curious about here, you know, as you are accomplishing and working on so many things. What is your relationship with your parents as of this point? Like what did he think of Tammy Cho like her daughter. They look at you and be like, okay, what is Tammy doing? She’s doing all these things you tell. So what is your relationship with your parents right now?
Tammy: [00:48:26] Yeah, that’s a great question. And thankfully, it’s good. It’s funny. I was such a good, good kid growing up. And then my parents never thought I was going to rebel. And then I guess my form of rebellion was starting a company and leaving school. Yeah. So fast. I was saving it up for that moment. Yeah.
Maggie: [00:48:50] You have to give me a break. I was good up until this time.
Tammy: [00:48:53] Yeah. yeah, but you know, at this point I think my parents have given up… not on me, but just on the fact of like me pursuing a traditional path.
I think at this point, they, I remember having a conversation with my parents, about less than a year ago actually, where, They were telling me that finally realizes that we’re just from different generations and there might actually be more information that I know about this current generation and the current state of the world that they might not be aware of. And so that they have to just trust. Yeah, that based on that information and they brief me well enough to be able to take all that in and make decisions for myself no matter how unconventional and rebellious it may seem to them. And I think, yeah, it’s been really heartwarming to hear that from them and hear their encouragement. They still like, occasionally ask me if I’m planning on like joining Google at some point. Yeah. But generally, it’s been, it’s been good.
Bryan: [00:50:02] It’s awesome to hear because my mom has had a similar conversation with me and she was like, she’s she fell down. She does. She sat down next to me. She’s like, Hey son, there’s nothing I can teach you in life anymore. You know, the rest is up to you. I fully trust your ability and your character and your sense of righteousness to do the right things when no one’s looking. And that’s really powerful. And that story really resonated with me a lot. You know, it’s the, almost like a handing of the Baton or something. Next-generation to have that trust. And that feels great. Yeah. Like, I’m pretty sure, like, you can relate to you that all my life I’m always like, why are you not a doctor? You know, he’s talk like. You stopped doing this and you stopped doing that, you know, but now as we have more control and it’s the best thing in the world, and there’s obviously also kind of scary at the same time or crap and parents have full trust in me.
Tammy: [00:51:01] I know it’s power.
Maggie: [00:51:06] It’s like very often it’s common that Asian parents. They want to look after us when we’re younger. Right. Because they know that they have control over you and they’ve immigrated here. You know, it just left everything in their home country and they like to envision this future for their kids. Right. But as we go older, it’s like, they get kind of laid back because they don’t have that much control anymore. Yeah.
Bryan: [00:51:29] I’m pretty sure by the time we have kids, we’re going to be like, why are you not falling down this path? What are you doing again? I don’t get it.
Well, yeah, we’re super excited to have you in the podcast today, we learn so much about you so much great stories and like stuff that effect people looking up to you and want to do the same thing with you. You know. So Tammy, like what are they, what are some of the last advice that you can give to early female entrepreneurs who want to proceed down this path, paths of entrepreneurship, and the challenges that they’re going to face?
Tammy: [00:52:07] Yeah. that’s a great question. I think I think the piece of advice that we give, especially in regards to entrepreneurship generally too, is that I think it’s very important to focus on your mental health and wellness. and also do some self-reflection. Yeah about why you’re making, you know, why you plan to do what you want to do. Because I think oftentimes it’s easy to get caught up in what society expects of us, or we get caught on caught up in the glamour of being a tech founder, being an entrepreneur. Right. I think there’s an element of glamorizing that occupation now. But I think it’s really important to really understand why you’re doing it. And stay grounded in that because the entrepreneurial journey is a series of ups and downs and like the lows are super low. Right.
And so I think that’s really important to recognize. And then the second piece I would say too, is to. It’s really challenging. I mean, I personally find it challenging, but to continue to practice separating work from your sense of identity and your sense of worth. I think especially for entrepreneurs, oftentimes we feel like if our company is not doing well, we’re not capable and we’re not enough, but the reality is is that we’re taking huge leaps of faith and taking risks and actually doing something out there. Right. And when we’re taking these action steps and may, you know, we may make mistakes along the way, but that’s just part of the journey.
And we just need to acknowledge that and kind of forgive ourselves and just keep growing from it.
Maggie: [00:53:47] That’s very sound advice right there. Yeah.
Bryan: [00:53:50] Tammy.
Maggie: [00:53:51] So how can our listeners learn more about you? On social media or anywhere?
Tammy: [00:53:56] Yeah. let’s so you can follow our social media handles for the organizations at, on Instagram @weareBetterBrave and then @hateisavirus.
And then, my personal handle is @tammycho on Instagram as well. And then in terms of learning more about organizations, you can also go to hateisavirus.world and BetterBrave.org.
Maggie: [00:54:21] Amazing. Thank you so much for being on this podcast, Tammy. It was great listening to your story.
Bryan: [00:54:25] Yeah, that’s awesome. Thank you so much, Tammy.
Tammy: [00:54:28] Thank you so much for having me.
Bryan: [00:54:30] Of course, honor. Thank you.
Maggie: [00:54:33] Yeah. And all that you do through the Asian Hustle Network too. It’s just so incredible to see the community that you’ve built and just, you know, during these crazy times, too, just seeing how the community has been really supportive and uplifting each other.
Bryan: [00:54:46] Yeah, thank you so much for that. Thanks, Tammy.
Outro: [00:54:50] Hey guys, we hope you enjoy this episode. Please subscribe to the show. We like to get to the top 10 on iTunes so be sure to leave us a five-star review. We release an episode every single Wednesday. So, stay tuned. Thank you, guys, so much.