Thankful for… Friends

It’s senior year and I’ve been spending more time hanging out with friends and getting to know the people around me better. I’ve been learning how to open up to strangers, old acquaintances, and current friends. I realized it that it takes time to develop friendship, trust, and intimacy, and that my friends are awesome.

I am so thankful for the people in my life. A group I can study with, a group I can go downtown with, a group I can have heart-to-heart talks with.

I am so fortunate that I have all these people in my life and that I have people to share my pain, sorrow, and joy with.

I am happy where I am in my life right now and I am growing so much. There is still a lot of room left to grow and it will require a lot of effort but it’s okay. I’m making progress and that takes time.

I am learning how to speak up more, how to be more assertive, how to take a stance for myself, how to share my problems with people, how to open up, and how to just simply joke around, have fun, and enjoy life because sometimes one shouldn’t take life too seriously.

And I know if at any point I run into a problem – however small – my friends/family/people will be there for me. People can surprise you with their capacity for understanding and change, if only you reach out or speak up. And when you have a strong support system, you can get through anything.

I love you, world. Thank you God for letting me exist and heal.

2018, a year looking back

More than anything else, it has been a year of growth.

January: Attempted the GMAT without truly dedicating my heart into it. All I wanted to do was read articles that made me feel good about myself, and enjoy life.

February: Demo Day and My birthday. The first time since middle school probably that I actually had friends that could celebrate my birthday with me, even though I wasn’t close to most of them.

March/April: Interviewed and was accepted to my dream internship in venture capital.

May-July end: Bay Area. Anxiety/Self-Doubt/Inferior complex continued to plague my everyday.

August: School starts. It alright, though busy, but already better than last semester.

September: Picking up pace. I re-consider therapy because I’m starting to fall off track, and it is the right decision.

Oct-Nov: Interviews. Failing Midterms. Failing DFA. Consistently taking L’s and not being able to give in my all in many things. Escape, though, made me really happy, especially that I finally found a co-ed “squad” I felt comfortable enough to have fun with. Made me realize that it is important to prioritize.

Nov end: Thanksgiving was when I realized wow, I love my friends. Also I learned how to study properly.

Dec: Applied what I learned and actually studied. Felt good about it though it was kind of too late to save my grades. Still carrying my anxieties, I head over to Panama for Global Brigades and it is definitely a good experience. Which brings me to now – Beijing, Taiwan, and Japan in the upcoming two weeks left before spring semester starts.

More than anything else, never discount the power of one small moment to change your life. One second, one week, for life is built up by the small moments and the everyday, and the small moments bleed into years and before you know it your life will pass by your eyes. You can procrastinate the small stuff but you cannot procrastinate the big stuff. If there is something you want to do, you just have to put yourself out there and go do it.

 

Something I’ve been wanting to start.

I think there exists a place on college campuses, and even in the world, for people to tell more genuine stories. Good content. Real content.

The world is missing a lot of that.

We’re used to masking our thoughts, our pain, our failures and what we truly feel to make it seem easy on the outside. It’s an evolutionary need. To survive, it is important to show or feign confidence, as people gravitate towards those who are successful and seem to know what they’re doing.

But it annoys me. It completely frustrates me that on the surface people seem okay, but beneath that, they are actually going through so much. Some people feel comfortable talking to their close friends or family members about it, but for those who don’t even have people to open up to? That sucks.

I’ve been in that situation.

It’s hard to share, and it’s hard to open up. But I believe that by creating a space especially through writing, people can, and people will.

There exists a place where people can speak up about their blunt thoughts and the problems they’re struggling with. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to feel pain. It’s okay to be a college senior with no job lined up and to not really be sure what you want to do with the rest of your life.

That is what I want to tell people. You don’t have to be fake with each other.

I hope to start an indie publishing magazine. It may be a print publication, or just a Medium publication or newsletter – at the end, a platform – where students can submit their thought pieces or creative writing works, and let their peers hear what they have to say.

Because there is so much beneath the surface, beneath the filtered Instagram posts and the faces you see everyday. There is so much beneath everyone, and I want to hear those stories.

So, here I go. miscellaneous, for all the diverse stories out there. It’s time to speak them out.

You are valuable because of who you are.

My whole life, I’ve been pushed by my parents to be someone else. 

I loved writing and was involved in – at one point – four editorial publications in high school, but was consistently looked down upon by my dad for doing that. I liked reading books while my dad said reading books is not useful because they are long and outdated (and that I should read articles instead). I liked fashion design while my parents said that’s a waste of time and that if I had spent it studying for the SAT’s then I could be in Berkeley now instead of USC (even though I really don’t think USC is “worse” than Berkeley.. and USC probably fits me better..)

Everything I do is “wrong” for some reason.

But it was only recently that I realized that everyone has interests, is a real human, and has a right to be interested in what they’re interested in. I know that is a very obvious statement to most people, but I didn’t fully understand that till now.

I never really talked to or was friends with people from Ivies or prestigious firms. I only saw these people from social media, particularly Linked In, and all of them seemed like “Gods” who were so perfect they must not have any problems with their lives. I didn’t understand until this summer, when I am first the first time, exposed to so many talented people – Stanford PhD’s, MIT undergraduates, Researchers, Scientists, CEO’s – you name it.

Yet, these seeming “Gods” are also real people with friends,  families, their own problems, and their own wacky interests and quirks. A business development representative at work is a part-time DJ; one of my roommates is super into Indian dance; McKinsey consultants go to the gym. I know this seems so obvious and almost like I’m condescending these smart people, but I really didn’t know everyone was so normal with normal lives.

I also learned that people’s value is also not only measured by what company they worked at or what school they went to, but also who they are as a person. That was very surprising to me, because my parents constantly rated me (and everyone around me) based on 1. their education or 2. if they are less well-educated, then their personality or looks.

Only now do I understand that I have a right to be who I am, and I am not any less “worth” than the Google employee (at least in terms of non-monetary value). I have a right to be interested in creative writing, and I do not have to be ashamed of liking to read fiction, or being super weird sometimes.

 

 

 

Startup Ideas (I wish someone would work on)

I have identified these problems that I fervently wish someone would solve (I’m currently working on another idea so will not have enough time).

1. Dieting app, especially related to eating disorders. 

Currently behavioral tech (as I’ve written in my previous post) and specifically digital therapeutics is gaining traction.

There is Joyable (social anxiety) and telemedicine apps for depression, anxiety: Talkspace, Ginger.io,7 Cupps  etc. There are also apps for milder mental health concerns such as stress management or “life coaching”: Genie, Happy. And there are apps for meditation: Headspace, Stop Breathe & Think, Simple Habit.

Problem: However, there are no effective apps that tackle dieting or eating disorders specifically. Currently, dieting apps are outdated and non user-friendly – you need to manually input the food you eat (takes a load of time), estimate your portion (hard to do), and remember to do this every day for everything you eat (people forget). There is also a lack of accountability on the users part, so it’s easy to lose momentum, and not keep up with it.

Current apps include: My Diet Coach, Myfitnesspal,

So here’s my idea:

An app similar to the ones above but for dieting.

It links to a therapist/dietician/fitness guru (depending on whether you have an eating disorder or you just want to lose weight) and this can be a pay-per-session program. This will ensure that a professional person holds the user accountable, which helps with building new habits.

The app should use image recognition so the user can take a picture of the food, and the algorithm can guess (to a certain accuracy) what food you are eating, suggesting an option, “Are you eating a hamburger right now?” You can then select Yes or No, or input your own item, then, input your portion. The app can also tell you the number of calories the item has.

It can also use the geolocation identifier in your phone to send you a notification if it notices you’re in a restaurant or café. A notification would pop up and ask, “Are you eating here? What are you eating?” And it will remind you to document your meal. (Or a smarter algorithm could directly pull up the menu of the restaurant and let you choose from there, but that’s for later releases).

Why this app is necessary: 

The US Weight Loss market is worth $66 Billion. Why is no one monetizing on this? And just part of that – Medical weight loss programs, constitute $7.6 B.

Even Myfitnesspal, which isn’t even that user-focused (still relies on manual input), was sold to Under Armor for $475 M. There is definitely money to be made off of this -someone just needs to jump in and solve the problem.

Problems with the app:

Image recognition is hard. If anyone of you have watched Silicon Valley’s episode on Jian Yang’s Hotdog (Seefood) app, you’ll see how hard it is to accumulate and generate a database of photos from all kinds of foods from different angles and lighting. It’s difficult, but if it could be done, that would be really useful.

But apparently this technology actually exists?

2. Subleasing, especially for Students, Interns, Transitioning between jobs

Problem: Airbnb solves the problem of renting a place for a shorter duration. For three months and longer, it is more difficult to find a place for those times, it can be way more expensive as well.

I can’t find the exact number, but I know that a bunch of people come to the Bay Area to intern over the summer (I’m one of them).

Currently, many still post on Facebook pages and groups, but this is highly inefficient and rely on users sorting through pages of irrelevant posts, and message request when people often don’t see the request or don’t get back to you even when the offer is taken unavailable already.  Since Facebook is also not a product catered specifically for rent and sublease, there is also no specific feature built in to filter your preferences: Duration of stay, number of bedrooms, whether you’re looking for a roommate, city, radius to a certain location, furnished or not, price etc.

There’s Craigstlist too, but Craigslist is known for its poor design and non user-friendliness. People on Craigslist also turn out to be scams more likely than other platforms.

There’s also Apartmentlist, which is great, but it generally offers minimum one year subleases and are done officially through the leasing companies (which makes it more expensive). Many rooms are also unfurnished, which is inconvenient for people only wishing to live short-term.

Solution: There should be an easier way for people to post their listings and photos and an easier way for people looking for places to browse through and find a place immediately. Basically Facebook subleasing but more efficient and with filters.
(Now that I think of it, if Facebook could just take on this idea and do it instead of a startup, maybe that’d be even easier?)

3. Wework but more like a café and for anyone to go to any time, not just people working on a startup idea.

Problem: I love Wework (even though I’ve never been in one), but I love their idea. However, because I’m not working on a startup idea, I have no reason to really step in one and rent a desk, or an office.

I love working in cafes (as many people do) but a lot of times, they just don’t have enough space, or are more catered towards serving people food and drinks rather than allowing people to have a space to work.

If there was a place that served as a balance between two, that would be perfect.

Solution: A café/workspace that when you walk in, you pay by buying a drink/food or by the hour ($3/hour), that is completely clean and quiet with some background music and café vibes. A lot of cafes also tend to be loud because half the customers come here to socialize or work on group things, and half come here to work individually. At this place, there could be a separation between the two, and two different rooms/vibes.

Notes: This is honestly a super random idea. I don’t even know if the market exists for this or if it’s just a problem only I ran into. But I’d love to start a cafe/co-working space regardless!

Thanks, and let me know if you are going to start working on these ideas!

Tech Markets: the (behavioral) mental health tech space

This is part of a series I’m launching called “Tech Markets”, in which I will analyze various tech markets’ current state, including its major players, problems and opportunities for incumbent entrants.  


What is behavioral health? It consists of:

  1. Clinical behavioral health problems that is typically diagnosed by a therapist ex. Depression, Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia etc.
  2. Mental health improvement/self-improvement: Combat stress, gain more Happiness/Purpose in life etc.

Let’s focus on clinical behavioral health first. 

The major stakeholders include:

  • Indirect: Insurance providers ex. Aetna Insurance
  • Indirect: Government providers ex. Medicare
  • Supply: Therapists/Licensed Clinical Social Workers/Counselors/Psychiatrists
  • Supply (Location): University Counseling Centers/Private Practices/Outpatient departments within Hospitals
  • Demand/Users: Patients diagnosed and seeing a therapist
  • Demand/Users: Patients undiagnosed but seeking mental healthcare (both users who are aware and unaware)

Each stakeholder faces different problems in their own area and their interactions with each other. 

  • Therapist: don’t have enough data on patients outside therapy sessions
  • Insurance providers: would love to give their clients more resources
  • Patients: get lost in the process of transferring from inpatient to outpatient behavioral clinics
  • Hospitals: not advanced enough for high-tech solutions

Current players:

  • Patient-facing: Lantern.io, Talkspace, 7 Cups,
  • For therapists: TAO
  • For Insurance providers: Quartet Health

Opportunity (Market Stats):

The mental health tech market is expected to reach $2.31 billion by 2022 (CB Insights), and the predictive health market is expected to reach USD $19.5 billion by 2025 (Grand View Research, Inc.) There is projected to be $237 million in funding to mental health companies in 2017 (CB Insights).

Opportunity (My Opinion): 

I believe there are many opportunities for growth in this market. Statistics show that most people face a mental health problem at some point in their life, so a tool that caters to this problem is definitely needed.

  • Expansion in China: 

Mental health in China is just beginning to gain traction. There is large opportunity for growth, especially tools in diagnosing and educating the public about this issue.

  • More data for therapists: 

Currently, various counseling centers either collect data in an ineffective way (as USC’s Engemann Center does with its weekly survey questions) or don’t collect at all. Without understanding users’ behavior during the rest of the week, it is difficult to provide and create a targeted treatment plan. Possibly, the current strategies are ineffective but there is no way to track or evaluate that other than asking the patient, whom may be unreliable as a data source (if mental illness gets in their way).

  • Better prediction (aligned with AI and machine learning): 

It would be especially powerful to have an AI-powered predictive tool for bipolar disorder, especially because it is so difficult to predict manic episodes while they are so devastating on the patient’s loved ones and family members.

  • Collaboration with corporations & university centers 

With corporate wellness on the rise and becoming more important especially as a PR move, companies are more willing to dedicate dollars to funding wellness initiatives to attract good talent and show that the company values work-life balance and cares about its employees.

Currently, companies such as Headspace, Stop Breathe & Think, and others are optimizing on this demand by creating corporate solutions (integration with Slack/Spotify).

My Own Venture Idea:

“SmartMood”, an AI-powered personal mental health tool for patients and therapists, which includes a mobile app with sensors for tracking patterns of user data and a web or mobile analytics dashboard in which patients can opt-in to sharing their data with therapists or family members. Using sensors in the user’s devices (such as mobile phone or wearables) that tracks aggregate patterns of the users’ call activity, location, and sleep, the software can predict potential triggers of disordered episodes (ex. when fewer texts are sent, or there is suddenly lower physical activity), and suggest recommendations – activities or tips that the user or therapist suggested. This creates “smart” predictions and personalized treatment, which would be more reliable.

Ideally, this solution would be marketed towards counseling centers, which include either private practices, university centers, or outpatient departments at hospitals, that would pay for a subscription annually or monthly depending on the number of patients, and their patients would either use the app for free or pay a small fee (ex. $5) to cover the cost. This cost could also be covered by insurance providers or even universities and schools that may want to help their students/clients.

Conclusion

Let me know if you have any comments or opinions on this. Thanks!

why I’m starting a tech blog

I’m into tech and venture capital, but if I’m not put into an environment where I’m forced to listen to new ideas and source startups everyday, I will easily forget to do it.

But don’t get me wrong.

Forced is not used in a negative sense here. I love tech, and I really do want to get to know the startup scene at USC and LA, but if I don’t set a goal for myself, I’ll just not do it.

As a student, there are easily a million other things I could be doing.

Sleeping, for one. Studying. Partying. Participating in the 500 student orgs on campus, rushing for a sorority/fraternity, taking an on-campus job, doing a spring internship etc.

But today, as I was walking on campus, I realized something.

It was the Viterbi (Engineering) Career Fair today and a bunch of notable companies – Google, Visa, Oath set up booths while lines of students waiting to speak to these recruiters stretched across the sidewalk – long and winded.

There were so many people. There are so many qualified people competing for the same jobs with pretty similar resumes – what even sets someone apart?

A research position? A patent filed? A first place in a hackathon?

It’s so hard to determine, really.

My entrepreneurship professor told us a story recently.

Out of college, he needed a job, but he didn’t know how to get one. So he went to different companies and asked to speak to the CEO. Expectedly, the reply he often received was that the CEO was busy. However, one time it was different.

He had been sitting in the lobby for hours and late at night, as the CEO was leaving to go home, he saw my professor and said, “You’ve been waiting here this whole time? Come on up.”

In the office, the CEO pointed at a stack of paper and asked, “You see that stack of resumes over there? Well, I didn’t even look at any of them and I’m going to hire you instead, because you’re here.”

And that’s when I realized people can tell if you’re genuinely interested in something.

Actions speak louder than words. My professor went the extra length to show that he really wanted the job.

With internships, just applying online and tossing a resume in a sea of thousands is easy – anyone can spend just a few minutes writing a cover letter.

But if you really want to show your true interest, you need to go above and beyond and in a sense, prove to others and yourself, that you really do love what you claim to love.

That’s why I’m starting this tech blog.

It will “force” me to stay accountable, to spend more time pushing myself to learn and accumulate knowledge about what I love instead of all the other easy distractions I can default to like social media/Youtube/Netflix.

So here it goes. Tech + art. Things I’m interested in. A snippet of my mind, my world, through a medium I am most comfortable in – writing.