[S1,E16] From simple idea at a restaurant to $900K funding and 7 million translations. Waygo – app that translates in real time from Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

Ryan Rogowski created a very helpful, for some people even anxiety eliminating, product – Waygo – an app that allows to instantly translate Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Ryan, apparently not alone, experienced a huge language barrier during his one-year stay in China. He had trouble especially in restaurants, since he had no idea what he was ordering. He soon decided to develop an app, that would translate Chinese in real time while hovering a phone camera over the text. Today, after 5 years, it translates from three Asian languages and users have made over 7M translations.

What were the first steps for Ryan to work on the idea? At what point did he decide to move to Silicon Valley? How did he end up on a 2-week trip with Dave McClure, Founder of 500 Startups, and did he get to the program? What user acquisition strategies does he use for Waygo? What would he do differently now?

Watch the interview and hear Ryan’s incredible story!

A lovely shout out to our partners: Runway Incubator for providing amazing space and to StyleBee for fabulous styling (use a special promo code VALLEYTALKS for $25 OFF of your first styling by StyleBee!)
A BIG thank you to our sponsor UnStock — an on demand community and marketplace for mobile videographers.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

  • Waygo team decided to go extreme with practicing their pitch:

    “We came up with this idea to go and pitch in random places that made us feel incredibly uncomfortable. Because, if we could pitch and explain our company in those situations, then doing it on stage in front of investors should be a breeze.”

  • Raising investment was the time when they decided to go full time working on Waygo:

    “I think when we first got the investment from Beta Spring, that was kind of pivotal moment when we already believed in the product, and we had some investors reaffirm that.”

  • The culture of working remotely is something that Ryan finds very helpful in Silicon Valley:

    “What’s been amazing about this era of startups and entrepreneurship is the ability to work remotely. We actually have only 2 of our members based in Silicon Valley and then other team members based elsewhere in the world.”

  • You need to go full time with fundraising:

    “Something that I learned pretty reluctantly early on is that when you’re fundraising, it’s really takes 100% of your time. When I was raising our initial funds, I almost could not work on anything else.”

  • since…

    “I probably presented to at least 100 investors and we converted maybe 5-10% of those into actual final investment.”

  • Startup life is a real rollercoaster and not everybody is aware of that:

    “What’s probably most surprising is how many emotional ups and downs there are. I think that not a lot of people realize it going into it, especially if you worked at a job that’s comfortable and you’re not worrying about paychecks, or if you do your job wrong the company can die.”

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