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Chanath Palihapitiya Interview

This interesting talk by Silicon Valley VC Chanath Palihapitiya really sparked my interest and highlighted several phenomena of importance:

1. As a society the source of our social capital is shifting from graduating from a prestigious school then going on to own a car/home to the validation we receive on social networking sites like Facebook or Instagram.

2. Education is becoming increasingly less relevant as information and new/cheaper methods of learning are becoming available on line.

3. Silicon Valley is becoming increasingly about making a quick buck on trivial apps than funding meaningful startups that can advance society further in medicine, education, and other worthwhile causes. In the photo space alone, in the 8 or 9 years, 1,038 startups were funded by more than $1 billion in venture capital, and 7 successfully exited.

While I believe these new social changes are slightly more complex than that and may apply mostly to people of a certain disposition and background, and while some people still and always will receive validation from going to HBS or believe in the importance of education, these are interesting new trends. The percent rate of college enrollment has been decreasing, but likely because young people feel discouraged with the sad state of job opportunities/the return on a college education. Youth with little skill and the ability to code will continue to make apps following the herd so long as there is the potential of reward. I don’t think every 21-year-old startup founder is capable of solving diabetes, but I hope that those who are capable do so. I suppose the lessons from this interview would be 1) nowadays you can possess less and be happier, 2) Learn/accomplish things by yourself and you can be just as esteemed as Ivy League graduates, and 3) We should make a concerted effort to use our abilities and available venture capital to make a more positive influence on the world.

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Great By Choice (Book Summary and Thoughts)

One of my goals over winter break was to do the reading that was indefinitely stalled on my ever growing to-read list. “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins was an interesting read, introducing me to some practices that I hadn’t thought of, but will now be implementing religiously in my own life. The main thesis of the book, backed by a fair amount of analytical evidence and research, is that we control whether we succeed or fail, and that the most successful companies that beat their respective markets by far (which Collins calls “10X companies”) all share similar traits. All 10X companies plug and chug away at a constant pace (which he calls the “20 mile march” in which progress is marked and paced so that the company does not overextend itself but always hits profits and goal margins, even during unideal times), make a habit of delivering, save up large cash reserves for inevitable bad luck events, and adhere to what works consistently and with discipline. The CEO’s of 10X companies are not necessarily visionary, creative or even charismatic; they are neurotic, paranoid, obsessive, and validate all of their methods and decisions with field evidence. Surprisingly, they take less risks, and change less than their less successful competitors. Here are some of the other points that struck me:

1. Discipline

The 20 miles per day concept can really be applied to anything, including learning to code, exercising, writing a book, or building a company. Successful people make reasonable measures and adhere to them religiously, even during busy or stressful times, so that regardless of conditions, they always make progress.

2. Fire bullets, then cannonballs.

This aspect reminded me greatly of The Lean Startup A/B testing wisdom, in which companies first test their theories on a small scale before launching into massive expenditure.

3. Expect, and prepare for disaster.

Save cash. Maintain a high cash:assets ratio. Build a sturdy culture to weather upcoming storms. Take less risk on the three risks Collins outlines: Death line (in which faltering can entail company (or personal) death or debilitation), asymmetric (in which the potential downside far outweighs the potential upside, i.e. not bringing water on a long hike through a desert, etc. Can be avoided through some foresight and planning), and uncontrollable risk (which can be prepared for). Time-sensitive decisions don’t mean that you need to rush into a decision, merely that hypervigilence, early recognition of threat, and constant worrying for worst case scenarios pay off. It entails making a deliberate, not rushed, decision in the time available before the risk profile changes.

4. Be consistent in methodology. Once you find something that works, don’t fall for the new fad. You can make amendments, but don’t change the constitution.

5. Luck is like flipping coins. There will inevitably be both bad and good luck. You can increase luck by swimming with great people, and you can also ensure that your preparation means you receive great returns on good AND bad luck.

“Great By Choice” was overall an interesting read, and although it mostly reinforced the ideology that I possessed before, that hard work determines one’s fate, it brought up interesting specificities in how 10X companies are managed and propelled into success.

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What to Do in My Final Semester

In the midst of finals, I have managed to somehow induce a state of stress such that I no longer feel particular hunger nor fall asleep after hours of trying. Remarkable and slightly alarming as this is, I also recognize that this is my second to last semester. So how did this semester measure up? How satisfied am I with it? And how can I ensure that I leave my four years at Cal with no regrets?

Overall this semester, I worked very hard as a project manager for my consulting group and in achieving both client happiness and team bonding. I got to meet and work with an awesome startup with the nicest founder out there, as well as the coolest team. I applied to a few incubators and learned a lot, and finally have been seeing the slow but steady growth of J’s and my vision! We created a brand, and now we are creating a product, but we still have to launch it. I also began the processes of outsourcing product development and manufacturing, and am learning that is far more difficult than I initially thought. I endured the long days of recruiting, only to make up my mind that I would rather spend the next year working on something that I want very much to make a reality, although recruiting was still a valuable learning experience, as it always is. I made mistakes, and now I know better. When I wasn’t being preoccupied with side hustles, I did try to study and complete my assignments on time. I also ate extremely healthily and worked out religiously until finals, and have witnessed an overall improvement in health. However, this semester I have not been able to be as social as I would have liked to be, and I would like to change that during my last semester and make it a point to catch up with at least one friend for lunch or dinner per week before we all graduate and leave.  I’d also like to strive for better performance in my important courses and leave Cal with good relationships with great professors. 

So how did this semester stack up? Not so bad. I’ve been lucky to have the friendships of some very special people, including my partner and my PIC, and I couldn’t have kept at it without their support. I hope for an even better semester next year!

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The Virtues of Hustling

Do YOU Have Grit When…

You apply to 10 jobs and get no response? Can you find the motivation to keep firing off resumes until someone answers?

You send off a job application and want to make sure it was received? Do you ask via email or phone call, and do you refuse to let up until you get a response?

You sit down to write yet another cover letter? Do you have the discipline to make sure it’s tailored to the particular job — even though all that writing is tedious and a giant pain?

You prepare for a job interview? That means knowing the four questions to ask an employer and taking the time to research the company beforehand.

You have no energy, after a draining day of work, to attend a networking event? Do you dig deep and go anyway because you never know who you’ll meet?

You wrap up a networking situation? Grit means you take time to write a thank you note, even if someone only connects you from one person to another. (Use these templates to get started.)

You get passed over for a promotion? Gritty people then work twice as hard, rather than checking out mentally or looking for a new gig.

You realize you lack certain skills? Do you voluntarily teach yourself what you need, even if it won’t result in a raise or bonus?

You start a side hustle? Here are nine reasons why you should stick with it.

You hit a low point and life doesn’t seem to be working out? As Duckworth said, all the smarts in the world won’t save you. Your best weapon is a heavy dose of determination.

Read more:

9 Reasons to Side Hustle 

4 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview 


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Our YC Experience

So today my co-founder and I hitched a ride to Mountain View for our 3:30 interview slot with the YC. Long story short, we didn’t get in.

Am I disappointed? Well, of course. We spent a lot of time preparing for that interview, and I’d asked several very kind YC alumn to help us. I can truly say that the YC has one of the most supportive networks of entrepreneurs in the world, and that is one of the things that I regret missing out on most. We couldn’t have done it without the support of those people, and of those that like and believe in us. It was pretty cool to walk into the building and immediately meet Kirsty Nathoo, the CFO. She undoubtedly doesn’t remember us, but it’s great to bump into the people that you’ve only heard about. We also met Vivek Shah of SimplyInsured. Nicest guy ever. He put our nerves to ease, helped us clarify what we were going to say, and was just generally very kind. Apparently he used to work for McKinsey. The interview went by fast, way too fast, and before we knew it we were ushered out the door. I still think it went relatively well. We received the following feedback from Gary Tan:

“I’m sorry to say we decided not to fund you. You guys are the kind of bright and passionate founders we especially like to fund, and we liked meeting you. We agree with you that targeting anime communities up front is probably the right initial approach. In the end what gave us pause was how hard it would be for you to bootstrap the initial community into something that could seriously challenge [redacted]. We encourage you to build your product, ship it to early users, and iterate as fast as you can — you should particularly focus on how to reduce the number of steps to make it easy for users to see content and leave positive feedback. As I mentioned, we really liked you and would very much welcome hearing from you in the future, since applying to YC isn’t like college where you only get one shot at it. There’s another train leaving every six months.”

So there’s our grand adventure. I can see why they decided what they did. We haven’t released yet, and it’s safer to wait awhile and view more concrete numbers than invest so much in a possibility. It’s hard to bet on beating down a behemoth, but I think it’s definitely possible. Myspace probably thought it was invincible too. Ultimately, however, we were as prepared as we could have been and we worked very hard on our MVP. I’m proud of my cofounder and we still intend to keep fighting until the end. I mean, what’s real startup life without sleeping on a couple of (metaphoric) floors? Or literal floors. We can be that hardcore too.

I was debating whether or not I should write about this. No one likes to brag about their failures right? (Or near-successes.) My final thoughts were more along the lines of, “Well… so what. Haters gonna hate.” In more eloquent terms, I thought of the following, one of my favorite quotes:

“It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong [wo]man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs,
who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails,
at least fails while daring greatly,

so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Probably overdramatic, but it’s a quote that brings me a lot of comfort. I would rather die trying today, than never knowing what could have been tomorrow. Now back to the grind. Anyways, here’s some pictures of our beautiful faces and far more beautiful dinner:


My co-founder and me in the headquarters! It’s all orange.


“加油。我知道你可以成功。” – 姑姑

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GMIC 2013

I had a great time at GMIC 2013! There were a lot of really inspiring entrepreneurs and innovators. Guests included PG of YCombinator (whose talk I was especially excited for), CEO of VK (Russia’s largest social networking site) Pavel Durov, the VP of Facebook mobile, CEO of Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi Lei Jun, etc. not to mention the startups trying to get there. It was an enriching experience to not only hear from industry giants but to talk to entrepreneurs with such innovative ideas and brutal dedication. 

photo (2) photo (1) photo (3)Driving a Tesla! My future car ;P

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Pavel Durov, who I am now a giant fan of 🙂 He’s done great work to preserve the individual’s right to privacy, even in face of a government that opposes what it regards as subversive behavior.1382144_557606280987036_229558622_nPG!

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Recently I had the opportunity to work with a YC-backed startup called SpoonRocket, which delivers $6 organic meals to you in <30 minutes. They’re an incredible service and I couldn’t recommend them more for convenience and a good meal, especially when working late at night or simply when hungry. They have an excellent app that makes ordering super convenient as well (it takes about two touches).

Check them out!

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To Change China

To Change China

As of June 3rd, 2013, my dad has finally returned home!!! My family and I are extremely happy and grateful for all of the support that we’ve received these years. 
Now that my dad is finally home, “Now what?”. I’m very grateful for his return, but I know with certainty that we’re not the only case like this out there. We were lucky. As such, I’ve decided to create a website to encourage better understanding of its political institutions and push for reform. I believe that if we are to criticize something, we should first understand it. That’s why I hope this site will not only offer news, but inform its readers about China’s current government structure and political economy (without putting them to sleep). This way we can better understand China’s many complex underlying problems, and perhaps, slowly, propose solutions that the rest of the world can contribute to. 

Feel free to follow me at!