Having applied for finance positions in 35 different companies, the 29-year-old Dan Kan decided to turn to the entrepreneurial path by opening a company that collects customer feedback.
Source: The Org
As a senior college student, Dan Kan applied at 35 different enterprises, most of which were financial-related. By the time of his graduation in 2009 at Claremont McKenna College, Kan’s applications were rejected by 32 out of 35. He then was left with two options: Teaching English in South Korea or working for a start-up called UserVoice, a platform that helps companies collect customer feedback. He chose the second option.
Now, 7 years later, he is the co-founder of Cruise Automation, a start-up that was acquired by GM in March 2016 for a billion dollars. How did the finance student build one of the most popular startups in Silicon Valley? The answer is a combination of luck, relationships, a little bit of “recklessness” alongside the right will and attitude.
Business tradition in his veins
Kan grew up in an entrepreneurial family. His mother ran a real estate and mortgage brokerage business in Seattle in the 90s. Dan’s brother Justin moved to San Francisco after graduation and founded Justin.tv, an online video game platform, in 2006, later renamed Twitch. Family has always been a huge source of inspiration and support for Dan.
Dan humbly believes that it is these relationships that have helped him set foot in Silicon Valley. “I wouldn’t be here without my brother or the other guys at Twitch. That’s probably the most important thing,” he says. “Not just having an idea or executing on an idea – it’s all about the connections that you have and the people you know and the people who support you.,” he shared.
Startup with no hesitation
Relationships will take you to the starting line, but you won’t succeed without determination. “What Dan has is courage, an indispensable element for a successful business. People think startups are risky, but in reality, they have too much fear of failure in their heads,” one of Dan’s associates told Entrepreneur. “He is someone who is willing to go to the end to make sure everything gets done, in a way that encourages determination for himself and his colleagues.”
At first, Dan founded Appetizely, a company that writes iPhone apps for restaurants that want to promote coupons during the low season, totaling 30 apps for each restaurant. Then Apple asked Appetizely to merge these apps because their functions were too similar. Realizing that this would reduce its efficiency, Dan decided to close Appetizely. That same year, Dan launched Exec, an on-demand personal assistant service. In 2014, Dan sold his start-up to a service company called Handy.
In any project, Dan’s enthusiasm has never wavered. “At Exec, he is willing to clean the toilets for customers by himself. At Cruise, he’s willing to go out on mapping car runs in the middle of the night,” said Tristan Zier, Dan’s partner at Exec and Cruise.
“Dan has always been someone who has a stockpile of ideas and the confidence to execute those. He is always looking for ways to improve product quality and user experience. He never just gets the job done, he always has to make sure he creates real value,” shared Amir Ghazvinian, co-founder of Exec.
The tale continues
After selling Exec, Dan began contemplating his next moves. Kyle Vogt, who co-founded Twitch with his brother, has always been obsessed with the idea of self-driving cars. Dan and Vogt then embarked on the Cruise Automation project in 2014.
Cruise was later acquired by GM for $1 billion. The student who was once rejected by dozens of companies is now able to write a success story. Through the ups and downs of starting a business in Silicon Valley, Dan still keeps his head sober. Risk-taking personality and cool head are an entrepreneur’s qualities.
Dan’s pragmatism can be explained as follows: when facing a problem, he immediately finds a solution without a flinch. “Every problem or situation can stress you out. So the wisest solution is to reflect on it and ask yourself: ‘What is the best solution?’ That’s how we approach everything at Cruise.”