As the ‘Entrepreneur of the month’ Womenlines takes pleasure to introduce Michelle Sun, founder of education company The First Code Academy. An entrepreneur with incredible achievements, who is in love with coding and is now teaching kids to code across Asia. Prior to starting First Code, Michelle graduated from the inaugural class of Hackbright Academy, and held various technical roles in high growth startups in Silicon Valley, including as the first growth hacker at Buffer and Bump Technologies (acquired by Google in 2013). Born and raised in Hong Kong, she graduated from the University of Chicago and began her career at Goldman Sachs as an equity analyst. She also founded Women Who Code (Hong Kong chapter), a community for women in technology. She has been awarded many recognitions like Forbes 30 Under 30 in Asia (2016) and BBC 30 Under 30 Women Entrepreneurs (2015). Read about her entrepreneurial journey in her own words-
1. Please share with our reader’s little bit about yourself.
My name is Michelle and I am the founder of First Code Academy, an education company that teaches kids how to code across Asia. I was born and raised in Hong Kong, studied at the University of Chicago and worked in Silicon Valley before starting this company.
2. So when did you started this venture and what inspired or motivated you to take a plunge into this venture?
I started this venture in 2013.
What inspired me was when I was working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley, I volunteered to teach kids how to code in my free time. Observing how the kids learn opened my eyes to the possibility – the students were having so much fun building things on their computer! I decided to bring this idea back to Hong Kong where I grew up.
3. Can you share with us some of the challenges you faced during your initial days?
During the initial days, there were a few challenges –
Convincing the first customers: When the market is early, it takes a long time to get customers onboard. It includes educating the market, providing top-notch services from day one, and ongoing product development to stay top of mind to the customers.
Convincing early employees to join: When you’re a small, nameless startup, it is very challenging to get people to join the ship. Even today, hiring is one of my top priorities. It takes a lot of tenacity and flexibility to build a solid team. (PS: we are hiring in all front! Contact me if you are/know a friend who’s interested)
4. So how do you balance your personal and professional life?
I believe balance is about prioritizing the must-haves. To me, the must-have in my life are good night’s rest, exercise and inspired work. I make it a priority to have these needs met.
5. What would you suggest to other aspiring women who want to venture out on their own?
To start small, and think big! Many ambitious women may think they need to build something world-changing from the get-go, yet most big ideas start small. Allowing time to experiment and iterate has been an important guiding post of my entrepreneurial journey.
6. Is there any person who has mentored/supported/inspired you?
I’m inspired by Jessica Alba who’s built a company from solving her own pain points to a hugely successful social impact business today.
7. What do you have in the pipeline for your venture’s future development?
We are launching our operations in China this year, starting with Summer Camps in Shanghai and Shenzhen. We see a lot of positive responses from parents there already and are excited to serve the students in those cities.