Vida Ha: Engineer to Entrepreneur in Founder Labs

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Here is a story from another member of the House of Mikko team in Women 2.0 Labs. This time, an entrepreneur with a development background shares her story of living the dream: Vida Ha's Story

I moved to the Bay Area at the end of the last year with the same dreams of every engineer in Silicon Valley -- that I might one day start my own company in the distant future. Then, three months ago, I was finally struck by the magical "great idea meteorite" -- an idea I felt passionate about. Despite how petrified I was of quitting my job at an amazing company to pursue this idea, I was more scared of never taking a risk. While some people can start ideas on the side while still employed, my job was too demanding to allow that, so I took the plunge without any setting anything up for myself. Luckily, I was accepted into the Women 2.0 Labs program shortly after!

My first couple weeks of job freedom were extremely exhilarating -- the possibilities seemed endless, and I really enjoyed reading books about entrepreneurship and talking to anyone who's ever started their own startup. I was just ready to start ramping up on engineering efforts on my idea when Women 2.0 Labs began. I went into this program with the expectation that I could meet potential cofounders and learn a new technology stack for my startup idea. And while I have certainly met all those expectations, I have learned so much more about the right way to get a startup off the ground -- the non engineering stuff.

"I probably would have spent 6 months building out my startup idea before launching anything if it were not for Women 2.0 Labs -- now I know the important thing is to discover which ideas are good and which are not."

One big takeaway from Women 2.0 Labs is that it's not just about passionate people working hard on some magical great idea. Our advisors have showed us how we can verify that there is a market for their product/idea before putting in all the work to build a sophisticated product. I'm learning so much about the mysterious "business" side of things, where everything is new to me!

Another first for me is working so closely with a marketing person and a designer. My group ended up choosing someone else's idea, and it’s wonderful to see all the thought and market research that has gone into it. I also really like working with a designer and watching her create the concepts for our site. I work on the front-end, and the other engineer on our team is working on the backend and algorithms.

I have to admit, there are some things I miss about working for a big company. I have to learn about every single detail -- and since I am a backend engineer with minimal web experience -- that's a lot. I have to figure out how to host my web pages, how to install MySQL on my computer, whether to use Ruby on Rails or Django with Python, etc. The designer on my team has had to learn Adobe Dreamweaver. There's no IT to call when things go wrong, or limitless number of people to tap on the shoulder for questions.

Overall, being at Women 2.0 Labs this summer has just solidified in my mind that I made the right decision about not working for a big company anymore. While I still enjoy doing technical work, I also really love learning about all the other stuff. If you are another engineer that has aspirations of wanting to start your own company one day -- I know I'm not the only one in Silicon Valley, and you want to have a taste of what that might be like, I'd recommend you try Women 2.0 Labs too! You don’t have to quit your job or wait for a "magical idea" to get a taste of startup life.

If you'd like to see what we've built so far this summer, please check us out: www.houseofmiko.com.

If you like this post, maybe you'd like fellow House of Mikko team member Kimberly Dillon's post on the entrepreneurial journey from the new MBA perspective.