Have Faith In Yourself
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Have Faith In Yourself
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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short version is quit or become rich this actually is by program so it's his quote a longer version is my own version is have faith in yourself have faith in life and be very focused in what you are doing [Music] everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where he helps startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and we are always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast lilly tong and uh lily was uh born and raised in china and uh always wanted to be an entrepreneur um and then went to college and moved to canada and did a master's degree in canada and then came to the u.s to do a a phd in the us i think it was an engineering and you can correct me if i'm wrong um and then went into i think whenever they got into oncology doing a phd uh program um or and working with people in oncology and became a physicist physicist i think in oncology um and then became a professor uh built an oncology clinic i think has something to do with yale and she could click clarify that as well and then combined uh ai or artificial intelligence along with the bill to perform oncology nurses which is what she's doing today so with that much is an introduction welcome on the podcast lily yeah thank you so very much devon and so hi so my name is lily tong and as thank um as devin introduced so i was uh in electrical engineering and accidentally got into oncology um so basically when i was doing my phd i had this collaboration with a group of people in oncology from i'll jump in just really quick because you want to jump to the end of the story we definitely want to get to that but let's rewind just because at the end of this we don't want to ruin the end of the book before you read the beginning of the book so with that let's uh jump back a little bit in time to when you're kind of born and raised in china wanting to be an entrepreneur and how your journey got started there so actually the entire family immigrated to canada so um that's like literally uh when i just graduated from college and we moved to canada so by then i mean although i mean still in the back of my mind i mean want to build my own company and survival was the number one priority and i also wanted to go to school and experience what school means i mean in in canada so i actually worked in a restaurant for a year and a half and uh during that time i was like taking english like tofu that exam and apply for uh grad school so then i got accepted to universal waterloo and then i did my master's degree there and then by the time i was graduating again i did not want to work i want to just have my uh to build my own company but i did not have a good idea so um by then people say why not just do a phd so and they also say i mean if you really want to do a phd you just go experience something different if you go to the us so that's why i came to the us and did my phd again with like always in the back of my mind i mean i'm paying attention to news about entrepreneurs and wanting to do it by myself i mean all those like school work got in the way and so i finished i came to the us did my phd still in electrical engineering and then that story and i was talking about um like happened so and i got into oncology so basically one question because you know i so i have an electrical engineering degree um and i never went for the masters of the psu i did get a ambassador an mba and i got the law degree but i went a bit of a different direction but coming out of the electoral engineering program oncology wouldn't have been the forefront of mind as to where i would have taken engineer not that it's a bad fill by any means it just wouldn't have been the forefront of mind that you think of as a typical electrical engineer and so how did you kind of make that transition or what what made you think of hey let's go into oncology was that opportunity came along somebody brought it up happenstance or kind of what made you make that lead so the project i did at phd was using machine learning to do image processing and the project we collaborated with mass general hospital and radiation oncology was to process the imaging medical imaging they took so to process that so what i knew about what still image processing nothing nothing about oncology um and for me i always enjoy working with people so i really enjoyed working with that group of people so that's all i knew and by the time i graduated they were hiring for post-doc so i'm like i really wanted to work with you continue to work with you so that's my motivation and i remember when i went there for interview the chairman actually took me out for a walk and basically spent half an hour telling me what the oncology what the medical physics was about thinking back i understood nothing [Laughter] so that's how i got into oncology um and again it's because of the mentality i don't want to really work i still want to be an entrepreneur that got me to the next level next level and so i was like always thinking i mean i had no intention to get into medicine and i want to say i'm like doing machine learning so why life got me into this kind of journey and now everything all the thoughts connected uh what a couple and i think that's definitely an interesting way that you transitioned into that a couple things i think we chatted about before the podcast is one you know i believe some part in that journey and correct me if i'm wrong he also did at least a part professorship or he was doing teaching or something along the way in addition to doing oncology did i get that right um so i graduated and then i became a clinical faculty in oncology and uh so i i began my um career at university of north carolina at chapel hill so i stayed there for five years and then because my husband's family is in northeast so we came back and i joined memorial sloan catering cancer center and then actually i was hired to build a new regional site in westchester so i assembled my team and built literally everything from scratch i mean by the time i started i had to wear a construction hat so that's how i started so i built this group and i ran the clinic for five years and and then later i joined yale so it's about 14 years of journey and during this 14 years i introduced many many innovations into the clinic and including one procedure actually now became standard of the care all over the world so and innovation that's always my passion and i got chance to do a lot um and it's exactly because this journey actually pointed me to a problem that i can use my electron engineering background to solve and eventually i quit my job and started this company now one and then you hit on it you know you say that kind of so nonchalantly oh yeah i quit my job and decided to start a company now typically most people you know it's not just hey one day i woke up and oh i decided i don't want to do this anymore i'm going to start my own company it's a bit more some people do that and it's just kind of have a realization hey i've got to do what i want to do and it doesn't matter i'll figure it out other people are saying i'm going to incrementally i'm going to start as a side hustle i'm going to get it going and transition over so kind of a couple questions there one is you know what was a trigger point for when you decided hey i'm going to start my own company and do my own thing and then two how was that transition once you made that decision so i've been doing side projects along the way i mean for several years and what eventually got to me and quit my job i think two things two two important things happen i mean number one i think i consider myself a mom above everything else so my kids are older i mean now one is eleven one is fifteen um and then another important thing is i met my co-founder um sherry chan so she i mean she's awesome i mean without her there's impossible that i can quit my job and so i met her about like almost four years ago and we became friends first and um then when i was like looking for a co-founder so i knew that she graduated from computer science so i asked her i mean if she knew anyone that can help me out to do some programming and she said here i am so so that's how we started and again she's awesome i mean she basically can do 10 people's work and we share a similar mindset and we share the same passion for like building a company we really want to build a good company so and all those things combined um and also and i think eventually we also got into uh y combinator so that's the point i quit my job and started doing um full time on the startup now and i think that definitely makes sense and why you make that transition now one of the things that you'll get or at least some of the time you'll get into is there's the idealize hey i'm going to quit my job i'm going to go pursue this it's going to be awesome it's going to be perfect i love it every day and then you get into it and you still you're hopefully enjoy it but it's still those ups and downs and there's bumps and there's scenes along the way that you didn't necessarily anticipate or didn't think of and so as you now made that full-time leap in other words you're going to do this whole time you put the other job how did that go you know the first period of time and up until today has it been kind of just a rocket ship to the top and there's been no issues along the way or has there been up trials and ups and downs or how's that gone for you since you made the full-time lead so i really enjoyed it i think this is the best decision i've made ever i mean other than having kids [Laughter] they always come the top and so i think um become a founder with a lot of life experience there is a big pro which is i consider myself very grounded so i do not have much of the emotional swing so i can like handle all those ups and downs um like wait like just like a normal life yeah so and so give us a little bit of insight what were those ups and downs i think that that's the part a lot of times where we want to gloss over in other words we don't want to let everybody we just want everybody to think hey the business was perfect and there wasn't any trials and it was just awesome and yeah then people get into saying why am i so different i have the trial so you know you know without having to rehash your open no wounds or poor salt in the wounds type of a thing but what were some of those kind of ups and downs as you got the business going uh so for instance we had to pivot and and i mean at the beginning we go out sale and nobody respond and so it's like many many trials and arrows and also i mean a lot of people when you go read the news the social media it's all positive like this fine it's like overnight success that when it's like raised millions of dollars and uh when you look at me really but and i think and again with lots of life experience there's one thing i can guarantee you is everybody goes through very similar journey it is not like some people will only experience ups and some people like will only experience downs no it is guaranteed everybody will go through ups and downs so i think um as a founder or even as a human being we just need to enjoy the journey the entire journey no and i think that's a that's a great point in the sense that i think that you know you you shouldn't anticipate all one or the others if you're always hating it and it's always the downs you probably need to either pivot the business suggest it or otherwise take it in a different direction because it shouldn't always be down and if your anticipation is hey i'm going to start the business and within a week i'm going to be having people that's banging down my door or wanting to buy my my product without me having to do any work that's also not a realistic view so i think that having that anticipation of those ups and downs is going to be beneficial and aiding you along your journey as you have that realization well now as we've kind of caught a bit up into where you're at today help us understand so if you look kind of now the next six to 12 months kind of rejecting out a bit into the future as to where you think the business is headed and what the plans are kind of what is that sick next six to 12 months look like so we'll continue to move forward i mean in terms of like getting more companies more pharmaceutical companies into the pipeline and continue our sale process and so i think right now um we've been i mean after pivot we've been doing this for about a year and i have some understanding about what means for a startup at the initial stage so i think a lot of people talk about product market fit and i think uh for us um our experience is that's 50 and another 50 is message user fit so and i think for us i mean although we continue to improve our product but the direction never changed i mean for the past year however our messages have been evolved and evolved and evolved and to the point and at this point i think our message is much more clear comparing to a year ago so when we talk to customers or investors it's um it's easier for them to understand oh and i think that that that definitely makes sense and you know oftentimes as you do the pitches more you you get better or you you at least get more experience and hear the questions that people are likely going to answer and you think those two questions or answers do better so they come off as being more polished and you are to understand and better address what the audience is wanting to you're needing and kind of those concerns and highlight the benefits and that just comes i think out of over time you have to get out there you have to sell and you have to share it with others otherwise you're never going to improve and get better so you can you can't just sit in the office and wait for people to come buy your product right so i think talking with people experience and get feedback that's part of the process so we cannot consider that's like failure it's just a process to understand okay what is my audience and how my audience think what's their view about our product because usually people have different background and when they understand a new thing they always apply their background to apply it to understand it so for me i mean i won't expect that i'm going to get everything like on day one so it's kind of like talking to people trying to understand like how they have feedback and about our messages no i think that that's that's absolutely right so well now as we kind of now brought ourselves to the president even looked a bit into the future a great time to transition to the two questions i always ask at the end of each journey or at least the end of each episode um which is the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what'd you learn from it and so i did think about that question and i don't think i made a big mistake although i make mistakes non-stop however i do think that for startup there are some mistakes that um once you make you cannot fix it um and i was lucky that y combinator actually taught us so i would like to share that with your audience so basically it's the equity so a lot of um i mean founders like if they sell too much of their companies at the beginning or at any stage when they raise their fund that is a mistake that cannot be fixed um and especially nowadays like um all the media is like okay this company raised how many millions dollars and that is like how many like millions of dollars so there is a pressure for founders to raise more to sell more of the company but that is a mistake you cannot fix and so don't do that no no and i think that that's definitely correct in a sense a lot of times you only hear hey this company ipo'd or hey this company got done doing a huge raise and why that can be you know it's not saying that that isn't sometimes necessary it's not beneficial you also have to think of how much did they have to give up with the company how much should they now lose an ownership or otherwise not able to maintain control the company somebody else now in essence owns your own company and sometimes it's necessary and you have to do it and or the business or the idea in the business won't get anywhere but i would also say to your point that you don't want to give those up unnecessarily because once the equity and the ownership is gone it is very difficult if not impossible to get back so i think that's a that's a great takeaway second question i always ask is if you're talking to somebody and it kind of dovetails probably a bit into what you just hit on but if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of i should give them so i have a short version and a long version so short version is quit or become rich this actually spy program so it's his quote a longer version is my own version is have faith in yourself have faith in life and be very focused in what you are doing no i think that that's great and i think that you know having that if you don't if you're not able to from the get-go where as you go along have that faith in yourself nobody else is going to have the same faith as you will so you might as well figure that out or have faith in yourself get the assurity that you need because it's going to be a lot of work along the way and if you don't have that faith and self-assurety of your ability to accomplish things at some point when you hit those speed bumps you're going to end up giving up because you're just not able to keep yourself motivated because nobody else is going to do it for you yeah i think that um if as we wrap up now people want to reach out to you they're interested in the your your field so they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you or find out more uh so two ways let me find me on linkedin lillytown or just send me an email that's lillyatlifeclinic.com so that's lioy life clinic l-i-y-f-e clinic dot com awesome well i definitely encourage people to uh reach out to you uh connect and find out more and support i think first of all cool technology and a great uh great area with that thank you again lily for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell we'd love to have you on the podcast and share your journey thank you and uh so if you'd like to be a guest so you can go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show a couple more things as listeners make sure to click subscribe and click sure to click share and review because we want to make sure that everybody finds out about all these awesome episodes and last but not least if you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else with your business just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat and we're always here to help thank you again lily and with the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you so very much [Music] you