A Memorable Journey

Through the TechTrek East class, I really gain a lot of perspectives about startups and the tech industry in general. I truly appreciate my opportunity of talking to founders of startups, officers at different tech companies, and visiting different firms. The class breaks my old view of how a tech company should look like and give me more insights into how those tech companies work. My journey of the TechTrek East class started with the book The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World. In the book, the author talks about the founders of Uber and Airbnb and their experience of establishing those history-changing companies. Through reading, I learned the challenges and problems that people will face when they start a company. I was inspired by a quote “mental toughness, the ability to overcome the hurdles and negativity that typically accompany something new, was the essential characteristic of great entrepreneurs.” Having a good idea or product is won’t always bring a company to success. However, a successful startup has the leaders with mental toughness. It leads to the idea that investing in the people, rather than just the product. I heard this idea several times in our class and our visit to New York City.


     In the class before our trip, we had the guest speaker Sophie Miller to talk about her experience at Google. Sophie Miller is the TechTrek alumni who is now the Head of Partnerships of AR+Lens at Google. In her speech, Sophie talked about how she liked her job from a telemarketer to a product manager at Google and her life at Silicon Valley. Also, she mentioned the importance of getting help and speaking out as a woman in the tech industry. I’m impressed by her passion for technologies and the determination to help more woman feel comfortable in the tech industry. When she talked about her trip to Silicon Valley with TechTrek class, she said “I would never forget the time I sit in Google, and a guy said we would map the world.” From her talk, I could tell TechTrek class could be one of the life-changing experience for her, and her passion and positive attitude gave me a lot more to expect for our trip to New York City.

      On the first day, we visited Sprinklr, an online advertising company. During our visit, the president of Sprinklr Carlos Dominguez told us his life stories and experience at Sprinklr. Dominguez was born in Cuba and didn’t have a good education at his young age. When he was a boy, he would do any proper jobs to make a living and support his family. Most of the jobs he did when he was young were simple and time-consuming. However, he always tried to discover innovation at his job. He made a cleaning device to help him clean public payphone. With the device, he could finish his job a lot faster than his peers. His life is challenging, and he faces it with positive and fearless attitude. He told us the importance of adapting to the transformation in both life and work. Human beings don’t like change in nature. However, the world is changing, and people need to change to survive in this competitive world. In addition, he talked about how Sprinklr used data to help their clients advertise their products and boost the revenues. He said Sprinklr tried to add significant value to all the data they collected and embed the information they had into the marketing strategies.


       We also visited Freshly, a healthy food delivering company. The founder of Freshly Michael Wystrach hosted our visit. From Wystrach’s talk, I could feel his passion for his business. Freshly is more than a business for him. It’s more like his philosophy and the idea he wants to deliver to the world. Wystrach made me think of another entrepreneur Wombi. Wombi is the founder of Lovepop, a 3D card company in Boston. We visited Lovepop on our Boston trip before the trip to New York City. When we entered Lovepop’s office, we could see the big slogan “Create one billion magical moments” on the wall. At Lovepop, Wombi talked about his story of founding Lovepop and the difficulties he had been through. He mentioned Lovepop ran out of business three times before they got fund from the TV show Shark Tank. Wombi, likes Wystrach, regards his business as his philosophy. Wombi told us that he received several letters from his customers who got terminal diseases. At about the end of their lives, they bought the 3D cards from Lovepop and sent those cards to their families, friends, and the people they cared. Wombi believed the card was more than just a card for those people. It represented their wishes and love to the people they cared. When he said those words, I saw his passion and the tears in his eyes. As an entrepreneur, a person needs to have a strong belief and passion for the business. Starting a business is tough and nerve-breaking. Only the people with a strong passion and mental toughness can overcome all the challenges they will have and survive.


    Through the visit to Two Sigma Ventures and the Fintech Panel, I knew the difference between the cultures of startups in Silicon Valley and in New York City. The venture capitalists we met told us that in New York City, there are many entrepreneurs with banking and law firms experience, while many entrepreneurs in California have the software-engineering background. Also, most of the startups in New York City are more realistic and have mature business plans, while startups in California like shooting the moon. I enjoyed visiting different startups in New York City and can feel how the atmosphere of traditional banking and legal service affect the working environment of startups in the city. Also, I wish I could have a chance to visit different startups in the Bay Area and feel the working environment there.


4 thoughts on “A Memorable Journey

  1. Great concluding blog post! I agree that it was really interesting to hear about the differences between NYC and Silicon Valley startup cultures, especially because a lot of the people we spoke with have experience in both environments. Having seen the New York culture, I’d be very interested in taking some tours on the west coast as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hongbo I really enjoyed reading your wrap up blog post, and couldn’t agree more on how interesting it was to hear about the differences between New York and Silicon Valley. I happen to be from the Bay area, so it was very interesting to see firsthand how the cultures differ. I like what you said about New York based companies having concrete business plans and having an attainable goal in mind, that is definitely important. However, to your point, I think it would also be very cool to get to visit some of those Bay area based companies and see how they are trying to change the world. It was such a great experience!

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  3. Hongbo, great wrap up blog post! I read The Upstarts too, and I agree that the themes of the book were present in many of our visits. It was great getting to know you throughout our class. Thank you for your hard-hitting questions at many of the companies! You definitely made everyone’s experience on the trip better by asking tough questions and really making the people we met with think.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice post! I loved your highlighting of all the different ways companies work to add value. We got to visit some amazing startups who all seem to have unique visions that don’t stray to far from the original purpose of their businesses. They all saw problems in the world and want to solve them. And venture capital works to bridge the gap between these ideas and their execution. Great trip and great wrap up post!

    Liked by 1 person

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