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Ying Gong of TickTalk Tech: “We need the society as a whole to redefine what makes a successful leader”

In the U.S., women influence 85% of consumer decisions and are responsible for 31.8 trillion dollars in spending worldwide. Female founders understand the needs and psychology of the female consumer because we are that consumer. We can identify with this market, differently than our male counterparts, enhancing our products and customer experience. When you have […]

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In the U.S., women influence 85% of consumer decisions and are responsible for 31.8 trillion dollars in spending worldwide. Female founders understand the needs and psychology of the female consumer because we are that consumer. We can identify with this market, differently than our male counterparts, enhancing our products and customer experience. When you have brands and products created by women, you can solve consumer voids based on your shared experience. By addressing this now, we have the opportunity to create a community of strong female role models to inspire our next generation of girls to challenge the status quo and feel empowered to start their own companies.


As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ying Gong, President and Co-Founder of TickTalk Tech LLC. The TickTalk 4 is an advanced 4G/LTE children’s smartwatch combining video and voice calling, secure messaging, step tracking, streaming music, locating, SOS contacts, reminders, and more in one device. Complete with a custom-designed parental control app, TickTalk has helped hundreds of thousands of families all over the world connect safely since 2016.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

At the beginning of my career, I was a teacher at a private junior high in Shanghai, China. The majority of the parents were successful and highly educated but faced the same dilemmas I was as a working mother with time management, balancing careers, and staying connected with our children.

After I married my husband, we founded a consumer electronics company where I served as the VP of Marketing and Sales. My husband and I were looking for a safe way to stay connected with our young daughter as we ran our company but weren’t ready to give her a cell phone. We quickly found that most children’s phone alternatives either had limited functionality, tons of distractions or were missing features any common phone would have. With nothing meeting our needs, we decided to develop a wearable product made responsibly for kids with a focus on family connection, safety, and developing better habits. We created a simple smartwatch that worked similar to a cell phone with no internet, games, or social media. Since then, we’ve launched four generations and have helped over 190,000+ families worldwide connect safely with their children.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

After we started TickTalk, one of our customers went to Disneyland with her son and lost her child’s TickTalk. After trying to locate the smartwatch through our app, the customer anxiously called us as there were too many people at the park to pinpoint its exact location. Our Customer Service rep comforted her while our team called the watch until a boy answered and hung up immediately. The customer gave us the authorization to use the Super Hearing function, which is a feature we installed on the watch for emergency situations, that forces the watch to call back the parent when initiated. The watch called our customer back and from the conversation, she was able to pinpoint where specifically in the park the watch was. Our customer was extremely appreciative of all the efforts our team went through to help her and our team loved playing detective for the day.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we launched our first-generation watch, we did not have an in-house R&D team and our software and hardware were produced by our manufacturer in China. Our manufacturers didn’t know that Daylight Savings existed in the U.S. and when we received the watches in the summer for inspection, everything looked great. After we started shipping around the holidays, we started receiving complaints from customers saying the time was wrong. We held an emergency meeting with the manufacturer in the middle of the night due to the time change and were able to fix the problem with a software update in 24 hours.

However, we then had to manually update all the unsold watches in our warehouse. It took us two weeks to manually change the time on each individual watch. Looking back, it’s funny to think something so small resulted in so much pressure but that’s how it works with start-ups. It taught us a great lesson that products designed by manufacturers are developed based on their local markets and user habits — sometimes leaving out a small detail that can have a huge impact. Because of this mistake, we established an in-house R&D team despite funds being tight to have full design authority on our products for our customers.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m very grateful for my team that has been by my side to help us achieve so much success. However, the person I want to thank the most is my daughter. She turns 12 years old this year and was only 8 when I developed this product. Due to my career, I’ve traveled a lot and was frequently separated from her. When I was developing the functionality of the watch, I came up with the idea, as a parent, of the best way to connect with my daughter when we’re apart while also guaranteeing her safety.

The majority of the functions on the watch come from her. She had told me she wanted to see me when I called every day, so I suggested to our R&D team we add video calling so our users can see their friends and family anytime. Our development team found it difficult to add this feature to such a small smartwatch while ensuring quality, smoothness, and limited battery consumption. I was persistent we troubleshoot because I know my daughter’s wishes are shared by other children who want to see their friends and family and that there were other parents like me who can’t see their children every day. I have to thank my daughter for her constant understanding and support, giving me infinite strength, creativity, and allowing me to grow with her. She has been my inspiration through everything.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I absolutely love “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson. The book challenges you to analyze why we fear change versus fearing the status quo. It encourages you to constantly improve yourself and make your “cheese” more delicious. It’s a short book and only takes about an hour to read, but anytime I’m stuck it always gives me new insights and inspiration.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

My favorite quote is, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” To stay hungry is to be continuously absorbing knowledge, learning, and staying open to new ideas. To stay foolish is to encourage yourself to think differently and always be innovative. We listen to all our customer feedback, considering it, and finding a way to simplify the process of solving their concerns.

This year, we launched free streaming music powered by iHeartRadio Family in our new generation TickTalk 4. We had customers who wanted audio streaming without having to worry about screen time with a tablet, paying for a subscription, or purchasing a music product. The first TickTalk product started with simple functionality like talk, text, and locating. We’ve evolved our products through the years to include new features our customers personally request that solve problems previously requiring multiple devices.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

When the pandemic first broke out, hand sanitizers sold out in the U.S. We used our overseas supply chain to find a trusted hand sanitizer, Unilever, produced in Southeast Asian countries where the pandemic was relatively mild at the time. These hand sanitizers were 3x more expensive than normal, but we still purchased them. We included these for our customers free to help keep families protected from the virus while the stores were sold out.

We also started a PPE company producing face shields that we donated to the national PTA, local hospitals in Orange County, and police stations to protect them as they served on the frontlines. Our company has been affected by the pandemic, but we wanted to do everything we could to help our community and other families stay safe during these unprecedented times.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

In the tech industry, only 25% of positions industry-wide (not just founders) are held by women despite females having a larger presence on almost all social media platforms. For most of recent history, men have dominated the entrepreneurial space. With only 3% of business investments going to women, the barrier for entry increases the difficulty and negatively affects the confidence for women to start their own companies.

Another barrier is the pressure of family, which is particularly challenging for women with children. Starting a company is very different than working as an employee — you’ll spend more energy on your own company, working more hours than you ever would as an employee, especially as a start-up. As a society, we put more pressure on women to do it all, with family and careers, than our male counterparts. For female founders, this is a massive hurdle to overcome when deciding to launch your own company.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

All of the employees in our U.S. office are women with different skin colors, backgrounds, and stories. They all have their own struggles and 90% of them are mothers, some single mothers. I try to give our employees as much flexibility as possible with their working hours to prioritize their families. I encourage them to take control of their problems, to be confident and brave. Empowering women isn’t just about starting your own company — you have to empower women to be the CEO of their lives. I try to encourage spiritual and economic freedom, life quality, happiness, and to demand respect. When you become empowered on your own, nothing will stand in your way if you want to become a female founder.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

In the U.S., women influence 85% of consumer decisions and are responsible for 31.8 trillion dollars in spending worldwide. Female founders understand the needs and psychology of the female consumer because we are that consumer. We can identify with this market, differently than our male counterparts, enhancing our products and customer experience. When you have brands and products created by women, you can solve consumer voids based on your shared experience. By addressing this now, we have the opportunity to create a community of strong female role models to inspire our next generation of girls to challenge the status quo and feel empowered to start their own companies.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

1. As a woman looking to start a company, we have to break through the limitations of gender. You have to overcome the ideological burdens and not let the potential prejudices hold you back. You’ll realize imposter-syndrome never completely goes away as a female founder, but once you take charge and act with confidence, it won’t be as difficult as you imagined.

2. We need the society as a whole to redefine what makes a successful leader. We live in a world where male founders occupy a majority of the zeitgeist. We need investors, the media, and the general public to bring awareness and respect to female founders. If we can increase coverage and notoriety for female-led brands, we’ll create an environment of advocacy for future founders.

3. We need large corporations to diversify their leadership, especially in the science and technology industries. Our customers are not one-size-fits-all, so why should the boardroom be? We need to reflect different genders, ages, races, incomes, and education levels to reflect the global consumer market. If we can diversify leadership in Fortune 500 companies, we can create a new generation of role models for potential founders of all races and genders.

4. The government should provide educational training, grants, campaigns, and foundations to encourage more female-led brands and ease the barrier to entry for female entrepreneurs.

5. We should establish a female entrepreneurs’ network nationally, or ideally globally, to enhance opportunities, offer support, and increase visibility. We should be lifting one another to rise together rather than treating success as a limited resource.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

If I could inspire a movement, I would tell everyone to put aside the discrimination, anger, hate, preconceived notions, and prejudice and love the people around them. Being kind to others will not only make you happier but will encourage others to act with kindness. I would love to launch a Kindness Campaign to remind everyone that deep down, we all are the same and just want love.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Hands down, Priscilla Chan. She is my #1 female role model and the ultimate pioneer of female founders. Her Chan Zuckerberg Initiative promises to advance human potential and promote equal opportunity. Her foundation alone donated 214 million dollars worth of Facebook stock to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in November 2018. Most people may hear Zuckerberg and think only of his accomplishments, but they need to look at the woman by his side changing so many people’s futures and helping them realize their dreams.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The best way to follow our work is to connect with us on social @myTickTalk or email our team at [email protected]

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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