Ken Wong is the founder and managing partner of sFoundation, a startup accelerator in Silicon Valley. Following a layoff, Wong decided to start a software firm, but felt excluded by existing accelerators because of his age. That experience caused him to shift paths and start a new inclusive startup accelerator focused on companies with women founders, minority founders, and founders over 40. sFoundation works with companies producing a technology-related product to help them reach the next step in their growth. The company’s 8-10-week program is offered quarterly to a diverse range of budding startups.
Why did you start your business?
I had been doing IT-related work for about 14 years. About 12 years ago, I decided to change careers to accounting. About a year and a half ago, I lost my job. At that time, I was thinking that I wanted to start my own business. I started a software company and realized that I needed help to move faster. I found a few accelerators that I tried to apply to, but I found out that I was too old. At that point, I thought that instead of starting a software company, I would start an accelerator that would be geared towards people in a different demographic.
How did you fund the business at the start?
I always saved money. I used my savings. This year, we’ve been cash-flow positive. So, the expenses for each month are paid by revenue.
Running the Business
How do you manage cash flow?
Because of my background in finance and accounting, I know a little bit about bookkeeping. I use a spreadsheet to look at income and expenses. I recently also started using QuickBooks online. Now, at one click of a button, I know my cash flow. That’s better, because having to juggle a spreadsheet is not a good way to manage money.
What’s the most challenging thing about running the business?
Juggling tasks and juggling people. On the supply side, we need mentors to help the accelerator program work. On the demand side, we need enough startups to apply to our program. I have to go out looking for customers and for people to help me who have the same mentality to help startups. The majority of my time is spent finding mentors and advisors. I also have to talk to a lot of engineers and people with startups to find startups that want to move to the next level. There are so many people involved and so many things going on. My to-do list on a daily basis is tremendously long.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the business?
Helping a startup is almost like seeing a kid grow up. Seeing them go from one step to the next is extremely rewarding, whether they find financing or get their first customer.
What I’ve Learned
What’s the biggest mistake you made at the start?
I spent too much money in the first year. I realized that if I kept doing that, I would have no money left in my savings. A friend warned me that if I kept doing that, the IRS wouldn’t let me continue without making a profit.
Also, I didn’t have a 15-second elevator pitch. That’s so important, because I talk to so many people. After 15 seconds, you kind of lose them.
What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?
Reserve cash. Don’t spend on so many things, especially on advertisements through Facebook or Google. That can chew up a huge amount of cash – literally thousands of dollars. The return may not be what you expect. Prepare for the long haul. Spend cash slowly so your business can last longer. You’ll get more customers and the business will eventually pay for itself.
Network with people. It’s the most important thing. Know as many people as possible. People are generally willing to help startups.
What’s next for sFoundation?
The company has grown so much. I’m hoping to form a braintrust group. Also, now that we’re generating cash, I can pay more people. When you pay good people good money, you get good results.
Ready to see your credit data and start building better business credit? Check Your Personal and Business Credit For Free (No Credit Card Required).