November 4, 2012
Fay Li was writing her application essay for graduate school, but the thoughts wouldn’t flow. She didn’t know why she wanted a master’s degree, she realized. She was doing it just because her friends were doing it.
Li had always loved to create things – songs to sing, dance moves for her dance studio – so she thought she would own a small business someday. She asked a friend for advice about graduate school, and he ended up luring her away to a travel startup called Tunnel.to.
Tunnel.to couldn’t get enough funding to stay in business, so Li has moved on to another travel idea: Trippal, an app that launched mid-October. It helps backpackers and business travelers meet people while on the road, be it friends or fellow travelers.
For Li, the best part is being independent; no one tells you what to do: “I can work ’til 3 to 4 o’clock in the morning. I still feel excited.”
But the flipside of being independent is that she has to go it alone – or, at least, alone with her team of seven. “You have to build up your confidence by yourself, day by day,” says Li. And you always have to be wary of competitors. “The work is your life. You have to take care of it like your baby, being very protective.”
But Li has learned a few tricks: she keeps her expectations low, knowing that everything takes longer than planned. She savors happy moments with her team, like a positive email from a user. She spends time with other entrepreneurs in Beijing, sharing stories and advice. And if you ask her why she does all this, she’ll have an easy answer this time: “It’s about being creative, and to realize your ideas.”
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