Learn how to prioritize. In a startup or as a founder, there are thousands of things you need to handle, but figuring out which are the most important to get done first is imperative. Manage your time correctly by only completing the most relevant tasks yourself, and allow your team to tackle the rest. This is something you may need to be reminded of on almost a daily basis.
As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anson Liang.
Anson Liang is Founder and CEO of Generark, a company dedicated to bringing the most efficient, portable and sustainable emergency power solution to our changing world. Liang, a serial entrepreneur in the technology industry and energy sector, founded Generark in 2019 after experiencing the detrimental power outage effects of the California wildfires. As a new dad with a 6-month old, he took the future into his own hands, developing a high-tech, portable generator to help consumers take back control in the face of an emergency.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and was impacted by the California wildfires in 2019. On top of dealing with a four-day power outage at home, I was trying to take care of a newborn baby. Many people I know had to face the emergency from just the shelter of their cars or public group shelters because their homes and belongings had completely burned down. Experiencing first-hand the stress of not being able to store or prepare food to feed my child and the uncertainty of when the power would return prompted me to want to do something to prevent anyone from having to experience this type of situation again.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Starting a company is always challenging, and I can think of many different difficult times, but the most challenging always revolve around funding. At one point working on my first startup company, we ran out of money only halfway through the journey of trying to raise capital. We found ourselves having to try to convince venture capitalists to invest in and fund our company, or face the realities of what the next steps of not having any more money means for a new company.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
At the end of day, we want to achieve something bigger and create a better world for our customers. When you have a clear vision and mission for your company to be solving a pain point in people’s lives, you are driven to achieve this goal and create a better world. It’s not about the money. It’s all about the vision and the goal we want to achieve.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Our circumstances with Generark may be different because this is not the first company we have started. We were able to learn a lot of lessons in the past and build relationships and a network of resources we’ve taken with us on this latest venture. Everything we’ve been through and have worked on up until this point has contributed to the success of where we are today.
In particular, we’ve gained a good understanding of how e-commerce should operate and how to market a product. We know that there are a lot of unknowns along the way, but that the key is to listen to the customers and understand their pain points early on. We’ve saved ourselves a lot of time in the product development stage by putting ourselves in their shoes and building a product that solves a problem.
We recently launched our newest innovation, the HomePower 2, a solar generator that is a more enhanced, aesthetically pleasing version of our flagship product, the HomePower ONE. Once we listened to our customers, we came up with a few key improvements for the HomePower 2 including double the output, an ultra-fast recharge, long-lasting power and a thoughtful and caring design. We’ve saved ourselves a lot of time in the product development stage by putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes and building a product that solves a problem.
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?
We built a product first and then tried to find a customer who may need it. We had this great image recognition technology that we were eager to use, so we built a product around it before doing any type of customer research. That’s not at all the right thing to do. You need to identify a customer’s problem first, and then build a product that provides a solution.
This is still true for a lot of things in business.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes us stand out is our commitment to providing an affordable and reliable backup power solution to our customers. As I shared, I know firsthand all the emotions and stress that come with dealing with a power outage, especially when you have a complex family situation, like how I had to care for my newborn. There are traditional solutions to this problem, but they are more expensive and much larger, and not something the majority of families can afford. That’s where our products come in. We’re aiming to solve the problem of expensive backup power solutions by targeting a more specific niche. We ask our customers, in the first moment the power goes out, what is the most important thing you need to rely on in your home? Our affordable power stations are meant to provide power to those necessities. Every household has its unique needs, which is why our generators are compatible with 99% of household appliances and devices.
We feel confident that our newest innovation, the HomePower 2, will change the game in terms of affordability, power, sustainability and design. The HomePower 2 is the first portable, emergency backup solution designed for today’s modern home. At just 1/10 the cost of a whole house battery backup, this product was made to keep consumers protected during any power outage. It’s sleek, non-bulky, easy to transport and fits seamlessly with any home decor.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Any entrepreneur or anyone who works in a startup needs to be optimistic. You need to always be working from a positive mindset that your product will be built and that it will solve a problem for a customer. You also need to have a sense of humor to get through the challenging times. Finally, teamwork is important. The opportunity to discuss problems with colleagues or peers and working together to figure out solutions is invaluable.
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?
I’m grateful to my entire team, and all the friendships I’ve built along the way. I’ve made a lot of great relationships with those in my business network, and have been given a lot of encouragement and advice from these mentors and advisors.
Looking back, a lot of the advice I was given was very valuable. Half the battle is deciphering which advice should be taken and which should be passed on. While you don’t need to blindly follow the advice of others 100 percent of the time, it’s important to have faith in the people advising you. If I had not taken some of that advice, we would have made a lot more mistakes along the way. Listening saves a lot of time and money!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We are always trying to give back. Personally, I’m always sharing my experience and giving advice to friends, peers, and others just starting their own businesses. Professionally, we’re trying to leverage what we have learned in the past to build a better product in the home energy category.
We look at the trend of climate change and how electric vehicles are conquering the world, and want everyone to understand what the future of the energy space looks like. At home and in the office, you will have more independent power sources rather than relying on the grid. We’re trying to educate people and build a better platform and product aligned to this mission.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Build a good team. You can’t do everything by yourself, no matter how good you are. You need to build a team of people you trust who have different talents and areas of expertise early on.
- Know how to delegate, and understand the importance of it. Trust that others can do things better than you can, and give them the space to do so.
- Make time for your family. No matter how busy you are, family is still very important. At the end of the day, family supports you throughout your journey no matter what.
- Understand your customer, the problem, and the pain point before building your product.
- Learn how to prioritize. In a startup or as a founder, there are thousands of things you need to handle, but figuring out which are the most important to get done first is imperative. Manage your time correctly by only completing the most relevant tasks yourself, and allow your team to tackle the rest. This is something you may need to be reminded of on almost a daily basis.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
When you’ve just started the business, you always have high motivation and are excited about everything. Be careful, because you will try to push everything at its fastest pace without trying to understand the issue, problem, or customer. Focus on slowing down and spending time on understanding the customer and their pain points. Really figure out the solution to these problems and make a plan before investing in building the product itself. This takes a lot of emotional control. You need to be able to control your excitement.
Later on, you’ll face a lot of challenges, particularly money. This may be the toughest one, but every founder and entrepreneur will face it at one point or another. However, a lack of money is, if not the easiest, one of the easier problems to solve. Have faith in your business. If you still believe in your mission and vision, if you know the product is helping the customer and solving a problem, then finding the funding and investors along the way is still possible. If your product can solve a real problem for a customer, there will be buyers, which means there will be people willing to invest their time and money.
Have faith in yourself and your vision, because things will not always go perfectly as planned. You need to be driven enough to come back to the drawing board, make pro-con lists, and conduct analyses on whether the product is actually solving a problem or has the potential to be a success. Always remain rational, even in the down times when emotions can easily take over.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would do exactly what Generark is doing: working towards a more sustainable way of life that will benefit the entire world. We’re providing people with access to an affordable source of eco-friendly energy they can bring directly into their homes.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!