Elisha Tan

How does a tech startup founder look like? Well, contrary to what you thought it was, it is not that young male programmer with a team of hustlers behind him.

And that’s everything I’m not.

Seems like I’m much more doomed to fail than the average founder. But Learnemy, an online marketplace that connects you with instructors for anything you want to learn, was launched in April and it has been an amazing journey for me – a young female, solo founder who can’t code.

The journey hasn’t been easy (who actually had an easy time starting up?), and here are 5 things I’ve learned on mine.

#1 – Keep the child in you

A lot of my swimming instructors told me that they will much prefer to teach children because they have no fear in jumping into the pool while adults whine too much before making the leap. Children are pretty bad in determining how dangerous something is. To look on the bright side, a child’s naivety is also his bravery. So keep the child in you and stay naïve. That keeps you brave.

#2 – “I need a co-founder to start the business” is bullshit.

You and I have read more important having a team is. Yes, it’s true that you can’t do everything yourself. But no, being solo is not an excuse for you to not start on your startup.  Just to make myself clear, I value the importance of a team. But it’s an excuse not to start on anything just because you don’t have one.

After spending 4 months on searching for a tech co-founder and speaking to other founders who are at idea stage and needed a co-founder, I’ve came up with a list of excuses that other founders and I were using. Read that article and ask yourself, why really do you need a tech co-founder? Understanding this question helped me move out off my pit of excuses.

Photo: Elisha with David Weekly during Echelon 2012

#3 – Your brain is your best asset

Whatever you don’t know, learn. For me, there are two kinds of stuffs I don’t know – the things I know that I don’t know yet and the things I don’t know that I well, don’t know. For the former, a quick Google/Quora search will show the materials you need to digest (or see this article for free programming resources). For the latter, I talked to as many people as I can, sounded absolutely stupid (I don’t have to try very hard for this), and uncovered what I need to know.

#4 – Being female is awesome

I don’t know if there’re any ladies out there who thinks that they can’t make it because they’re female. If there are, I think the only crippling factor for such ladies is their mindset. Being a female founder today is awesome! The community is actively pushing for more females in tech entrepreneurship so there many females-only  opportunities everywhere. Ride this wave.

#5 – Make use your disadvantages

I believe that good and bad experiences are both good teachers. For all rejections I’ve faced, I wear these battle scars like a proud mother.

With that mentality, I’m a fan of using my weaknesses. I’ve realized that my disadvantages are really good stories for the media. If I were a stereotypical tech startup founder, I probably need a lot more to share my story.

Starting up is hard. Nobody owes you anything to see you succeed, but you’ll be surprised that there are many people willing to help you unconditionally. Being a solo, young tech startup founder who can’t code, I’ve received much love and support from the community on my journey and I’ll love to help you out in whatever limited ways I have. You can reach me at Elisha@learnemy.com

About Elisha Tan

Elisha Tan is the founder of Learnemy, an online marketplace that helps users learn anything by matching them with people who can teach it. It is an online matching service for offline learning. She believes that people should be able to make a living by doing what they like to do. Hence, she hopes to provide a platform for people to monetize their skill sets by teaching.