Time Is Valuable
The Inventive Journey
Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Time Is ValuableAs a startup, you focus more on your product and strategy. This is very important because when doing a startup. If you spend too much time on your presentation of your idea you are just wasting your time. As a startup, your time is valuable. So focus on a small step at a time.
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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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as a as a startup you focus more on your uh product your bootstrapping strategy which is very important because you know you're doing startup if you spend too much time on your presentation um [Music] your your idea how to validate this idea it's not you you're just wasting your time i think you know as a startup your time is very valuable and you just focus on a small staff [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that has grown several uh startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as uh founder and ceo of miller ip law where we focus on helping startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and if you ever need help with your patented trademark feel free to go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time with us to chat now today and i'll i'll give the the apology ahead of time so we had uh we have lucas on and uh lucas actually recorded a uh episode before this somehow with the the zoom and all that they do it got corrupted so he's coming back on we're redoing the episode i'm sure it'll even be better than the first time but but uh just as an introduction so lucas and i have already had one great conversation i'm excited for a second one give you a bit more of an introduction to to lucas um so he was born and raised in china and came over to ohio ohio i think when he was a high school student and so and uh my connection to ohio this is a quick connection so i went to ohio or cleveland ohio for uh school and i did law school and nba school out in cleveland ohio so at least we both have a common ohio connection there um but then after uh or with high school nat um was pursuing uh grad school um and he had his kind of his first entrepreneur business he was part of a restaurant and then as you're as he's graduating he kind of combined his software background and hospitality background to do his current business and i'll talk a little bit more about what that is today and how he founded it and how that's gone and what or where the the company's at so with that much is an introduction welcome back on to the podcast for the first time everybody else is meeting you but uh welcome on pa er lucas hey hey what's up kevin so i gave kind of the the short introduction and overview but maybe taking us back kind of born and raised in china and going to ohio and then going to school kind of gives a little bit of the the of your journey yeah sure so came here in uh during high school went to ohio uh which was a great school called grand river academy a small town in the ashtabula county and uh first time go to first time go to a board other other country than china and uh it was a great uh study journey over there and then go to illinois study in the university of illinois i studied for four years and then go to chicago continue studying the illinois institute of technology aka iit another six years to pursue the phd degree so it's quite a long study time yeah yeah rather lucky got some friends uh starting doing the uh entrepreneur uh first time was a restaurant and now it's doing restaurant technology because i am always a technology person so i always want to combine my restaurant skill together with the technology skills so that's why i'm doing this so so you went to you know you went to grad school and first of all you know what did you major what did you graduate in as far as with uh graduate school uh grad grad school i graduated as a computer engineer i'm an engineering major uh focusing on computer networks computer networks uh security and uh things like that yeah yeah do a lot of codings do a lot of you know research it's a it's a fun journey as well yeah oh makes perfect sense so and now so you touched on it lightly so you went off you know you're doing grad school you're doing computer engineering how did you get into kind of the restaurant um restaurant business or how did you start to get connected or get and go in that direction yeah uh so while i was doing the uh the master degree because because during that time it was uh it was a boom of uh you know asian students studying in the united states you know and uh they are missing their hometown food so that's how we got into the restaurant business yeah like a lot of students trying to looking for authentic chinese food and uh so and you know in in the in the chicago chinatown before now now is much better before even though they serve pretty good food but it was more like americanized so you know it's not like very acidic so that's why we started like more like authentic chinese food for for the chinese students so that's how we started the uh that's the opportunity and um no is that you know so because and i agree first of all you know so i lived in taiwan for a couple of years and you know the food over there at least a chinese food night and i've been visiting china a couple times chinese food in taiwan and china is much different than the americanized version i like the trying the real stuff much better but you know there's a difference so you you one you can miss food or you can miss food from home it's much different to say now i'm gonna start a restaurant to service that need so was it your idea and you hey i wanted to start a restaurant or was it a friend or a partner or you know how did you kind of say there isn't this authentic chinese food we're gonna start doing that as a restaurant oh yeah so the the people the people missing the authenticity of the food was the driver to you know there's a business opportunity but i i wasn't the person to you know that boat to start a restaurant because you know restaurant is high-risk business it was a i got some friends college friends so they they they want to start it and i was just part of the ownership of that restaurant and i focus more on because you know more like a technology person so actually focus more on the how to optimize the operation with technology how to do like digital marketing and how to um how to do more like operation thing so how about actually you know how you cook the food how you um how you maintain the quality of the food how you operate a bit operate the restaurant more from my partners yeah but i was doing more like you know like like as a more like a support girl instead of them you know yeah okay no makes sense so so now you do the you know you participate you kind of on the i'd say it sounds like a bit on the operational side of how you make the food quality and how you manage things and how you run some of the business and not er less on the food side but nonetheless very important to run it now you graduate and so that was i think when you were during graduate school is that right as you were studying you were also doing the business as as part-time yeah so that was a part-time business so now so and then you so now you graduate and you're coming out of graduate school you and now you want to you know it sounds like you know you have the software background and the hospitality business so how did you know how did you make the jumper what made you decide to go into more of the software side of what you guys are doing now as opposed to continue on the restaurant or are you still doing both the restaurant and what you guys are doing now with the kiosk or how did that work out or you know how did you make that transition to where you're at now uh yeah because uh you know while i was running the the restaurant business and one of the major pin point is um when i of the very major pinpoint is how to deal with uh with the labor you know especially for for immigration restaurants um you know the ideal labor for for for immigration restaurant is was of course the second generation of immigrants basically why because they can the language they can speak both that you know like because we run in chinatown the second generation come to speak fluent chinese and english really well so they are pretty much the best uh you're your best staff especially in front of house but you know by the second generation of of uh second generation immigrants they don't really want to work in the restaurant anymore you know they want to do their parents working in the restaurant so they don't want to work in the restaurant you know so it's a liver is a it's not just a high cost it's a it's a it's it's it's like a resource very scarce resource very scary so we need more technology to help those restaurants to to to sustain this you know rapid changes so i think that's how we get into the kiosk which is to automate the point of sale for for quick service restaurant so you know like a lot of restaurants are doing it right now like mcdonald's you know shake shack they all use kiosks and now we're trying to push the kiosk uh we start from the authentic authentic restaurants uh as well so we push the kiosk to those like immigration restaurants where the technology was really really left behind you know in the market and uh we help them and then we try to get into the mainstream market as well so we're trying to get into serve more like instead of serving like chinese food restaurant we're trying to serve or like a burger hot dog which also you know they want to use kia so there are a lot of those type of restaurants in chicago so that's uh so that's that's how we got into the business basically yeah so now you so you make you see you get into the business make the transition say hey there's an opportunity here for kiosks especially for businesses that are you know i'll say mom and pops or smaller businesses or ones that aren't necessarily a national chain you know mcdonald's has their own kiosk system or wendy's or some of those but all the other businesses are a little bit left behind or don't have an adopted technology quite as quickly so he had that idea started to build the businesses get the kiosk so how's it going you know you jump into that you start doing it has it been successful you get into a lot of businesses has it been pivoting has it been struggles has it been goods or bad or highs or lows or how has it gone since years since you guys launched um it's there's up and downs of course and uh the most you know the most uh unexpected thing is uh it's of course a covet so that uh really make a struggle because even though in covet restaurant it's even open they really want to have a very high standard uh you know house security so they want to keep keep a long distance from their their customers and their staff so so you know maybe they want to use more kiosks but at the same time kovac really kills a lot of restaurants so restaurants are getting poorer so we'll have the money to to make the investment during this special time so it's uh it's really a tough time for us to be honest yeah you but you know even though people realize they need a kiosk they need more technology to to overcome uncertainties like for example you know you never know what what can happen tomorrow but technology can really help you guess through it but at this time at this at this time like january 2021 a lot of restaurants don't have the money to purchase the kiosk so it's uh it's actually a very tough time for us um so we the ideal customer for us is a restaurants uh small to mid-sized chains with less than 20 locations including you know mob and pop size you only have one you can use our kiosk if you have less of 20 locations you can use our kiosks it's not a kiosk for national franchise it's not it's it's it's more for local more for local businesses also it's it's it's a great solution for for restaurant owners who own multiple restaurants under different brand names say i i own a burger shop here i own hot dog shop over there i own another like coffee shop somewhere else but you know they are under the same owner so this owner really if you you really want to improve all your quick service restaurant locations and uh this is a great solution for you yeah no it makes perfect sense so now it kind of building on that so and i get it you know restaurants have certainly been pounded especially in person dining depending on where you're located has been taking a pounding whether it's outside or whether it's inside or whether it's not at all and depends on the states and so certainly i can see how that introduced that a bit of that you know that that struggle or that issue of trying to get people to adopt it when they're just trying to keep the business open in the first place and who would have anticipated that was what would happen to restaurants you know a year ago type of a thing but now if you look out and say okay it a little bit the old cliche term it is what it is you know i am what i am type of a thing and you know that's where the businesses are at today you kind of you know looking at how you're going to pivot or how you're going to move forward in the next you know six months to a year kind of where do you see things heading or what's kind of the plan going forward uh so we do see some restaurants they they're still doing really well during the pandemic they have a strong operation ability strong execution ability to get through so we are trying to take find out where those restaurants are and connect with them and provide our technology solution for them um but at the meantime we're gonna do more on research and the development rnd to improve the product because you know it's uh we're gonna prepare uh we're gonna we're gonna get through it uh soon i hope yeah it's a vaccine so yeah we're gonna prepare for it uh we're gonna make our logistic really well so that we can serve uh wherever you are we can we can we can ship it to you make sure it's very easy to install make sure it's uh it's easy to use and uh you know so please make sure the the system is stable wherever you are how good or bad your internet connectivity is and uh it's it's pretty good to use so we're gonna put more effort on on the product during this time this year so that oh and that makes sense and you're saying hey if right now as we're waiting for the restaurant business to pick back up you know we'll focus on the customers we'll have we'll still do sales but then we'll put a lot of our time and effort on to product development making things even more solid and making sure that as things open back up pick back up and as a vaccine and the covet is you know hopefully going away or you know being more minimized but then you'll be even stronger coming out of it to hit the restaurants back up as they as they start to open back up so it sounds like a certainly a great plan well as we wrap up the air wrap towards the end of the podcast i always ask two questions so maybe we'll jump to those now so the first question i ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it um so the first business decision i made was so actually before the kiosk uh we were doing something else so which was even more high-tech than kiosks so we we had a patent and uh and we were trying to do a business around that pattern which was a great pattern however the worst business decision is um we didn't figure out where the market is for that patent but we started doing business around that uh which is actually a you're doing it backwards so you don't you didn't find a market but you have a technology then you you look at your technology say hey who can use my technology which is not good so it but you know doing business it's more like you you have a business opportunity and then you create a unique solution to solve that problem and then you and then if that's you know unique enough you can apply for a patent that's how it works you know so basically um it's not a bad thing to have a patent but you know but it's not a good big business decision so we do invest we do spend a lot of investment around that happens to try to make sure it can generate some money but eventually we cannot so that's one of the worst decisions i made but that's a great but anyway that's also a great uh experience you know you always study from the failure so it's it's very important yeah yeah and i i agree with you because i you know i get people come into every so often to my office say i have a great idea i just want to get a patent on it and then i'll go license it or i'll just you know i'll go out in the marketplace and everybody will be beating down my doors because they have the world's best patent but i think to your point in the lesson learned is you know patton can be or play a well intellectual property can play a good role into a business but you have to make sure the business case is there where the market's at the people are willing to pay for it and how you're going to position yourself so that you can leverage it or take advantage of it rather than you know relying on that as a business plan so i think that that one certainly makes sense and you're not alone by any means on and learning that lesson i believe so now so i'll jump to now my second question i always ask which is so you're talking to a startup or small business what would be the someone that's just getting into startup or small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them uh so i think the the best advice i can offer because you know i i don't want to say something weak because i'm not like you know elon musk so i can say something like really broad uh i i would say as a as a startup you focus more on your product your bootstrapping strategy which is very important because you know you're doing startup if you spend too much time on your presentation um [Music] your your idea how to validate this idea it's not you you're just wasting your time i think you know as a startup your time is very valuable and you just focus on a small step which is do a minimum viable product mvp and keep validating it with your bootstrapping strategy so find some customer tell them to refer forget about like doing advertisement on social media forget about all of it just just look for your friends family and friends try your product give some feedback if they really like it if they really solve their problem they will refer it so you you look for that word of mouth uh if you if you ever get that then you're you know very good and you'll get whatever you want your fundings your your your your your people your your you know your team everything but you know running a startup start off with a meeting with a viable product and then do a bootstrapping which is very important no and i think that's that's great advice and certainly some things people should uh take to heart and and learn from so well as we wrap up if people want to find out more about your product they want to be a customer they're a small business they want to invest in your company they want to be an employee they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you connect up with you or find out more uh just visit our website our website infi dot us i n f i dot u s uh there's a number uh call the number and you can definitely reach me send the email contact us um you can always always find me because we are a small company you just look for lucas you'll find me for sure yeah well definitely in encouraging that was infee or nifi.us go check them out check out their kiosks if you uh for any all the reasons above if you want to use their kiosk if you're a business owner or restaurant owner if you want to be an investor if you want to partner up with them or anything else definitely encourage you to reach out to lucas and check out more about what they're doing well thank you again lucas it's been fun to have you on now for all now for all of the listeners um if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to tell it feel free to apply to be a guest on the podcast by going to inventiveguest.com if you are a listener make sure to one click subscribe to get notifications as all the episodes come out and to make sure to leave us an awesome review so that everybody can find out about the podcast and last but not least if you ever need help with patents and trademarks feel free to reach out to us at millerip law just go to strategymeeting.com we're always here to help thank you again lucas and which uh wish you the next leg of your journey even better than the last okay thank you so much you