Tips for Startup Success
You don’t need to be an expert in investment management – or know much about it – to see clearly that Christina Qi is a success story.
Qi is a partner at Domeyard LP, a high frequency hedge fund based in Boston with a growing presence in multiple markets, an expanding team and thousands of job applications a year.
By all accounts, Qi took a huge risk when she pursued the startup right after finishing her undergrad studies at MIT in 2013. She risked stability and a salary to pursue a passion, and even she admits friends and family likely would have talked her out of it if she put too much stake in their opinions.
To Qi and other like-minded entrepreneurial success stories, big risks fueled by passion tend to pay off. She shared her top tips for success with the 28 Carrots blog ahead of her speech at the 2017 InnovateHER Pitch Contest and Cocktail Party on May 4 at the Willowdale Estate.
Tips for Startup Entrepreneurs
- Pursue passion: “We started the business out of passion. We had an energy and desire to do something innovative and different. For us, it was purely about loving what we were doing and wanting to continue doing it.”
- Don’t wait for market validation: For Qi, she pursued her dream right after college, at a time in her life when she was willing to take a bigger risk, such as foregoing a salary. “Looking back, if I had asked friends or family about doing this, or if I had sought market validation, they would have said no.”
- Maintain laser–sharp focus: We always maintained a very sharp focus on our niche: high frequency trading. We are still very focused on this and making sure we are very good at it. There are so many distractions with running a startup. When you pitch, people ask, ‘Why don’t you do this or that?’ or ‘Why don’t you do lower frequency trading?’ You need to know yourself and what you do best.”
- Don’t be shy: Qi advises that you will find a lot more support than you expect if you simply reach out. “We had so much support and that was both incredible and surprising to me. It was not just investor support, but people in the community who supported our passion and respected that we think differently than other founders.”
- Play nice with the competition: Business is not always about competition. Qi says in her experience, it pays off to be friendly to other companies in the same industry. “What I have realized is that being friendly makes such a big difference.” The payoff? “A few larger companies in recent years have folded or been acquired, and we get a lot of job applications from them.”
- Just do it: “I’ve never met a founder who said, ‘I totally regret doing my startup.’ My advice is: Just go for it. For me, I didn’t have the financial means to go for it, but I went for it anyways. I told myself I would do it for 6 months, and if it didn’t work out, I would get another job on the side. It never came to that.”
- Take advantage of pitch contests: Qi said that early on, she was afraid of doing pitch competitions because she didn’t think the judges would like a company like hers. In the years since, many have asked why she didn’t pitch. She offers a key example: “There was an accelerator at my college (MIT) and I looked at the application and said, ‘Oh, we’re not selling product’ and so I didn’t apply. Later they asked why I didn’t and said, ‘You would have made it!’