NEW YORK — Hey twentysomethings, dreaming of trading in the safety of a regular paycheck to start your own business? There’s no secret sauce. Instead, founders of three companies have obvious tips: Work hard, network and ask for help.
FOUNDERS: Adora Cheung, 30, and her brother Aaron Cheung, 25
STARTED IN: Mountain View, Calif., July 2012
THE BUSINESS: Now based in San Francisco, Homejoy’s Web site connects more than 100,000 house cleaners with customers in about 30 cities in the U.S. and Canada
MONEY RAISED: $40 million
BIG BACKER: Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal
Coming out of the University of Rochester, which had no entrepreneurial community that she was aware of, Adora Cheung wanted to learn how startups work. She joined a Bay Area company, Slide, which was started by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin.
IMPRESS THEM: Slide didn’t have many employees when Cheung came on board. “I got to work closely with Max, and he came to know a lot of how I work. He and I work on a very similar sleep schedule,” she says. They would find themselves talking shop at 4 a.m.
FOUNDERS: Former Georgetown University schoolmates Nicolas Jammet, 28; Jonathan Neman, 29; and Nathaniel Ru, 28
STARTED IN: Washington, D.C., August 2007
THE BUSINESS: Twenty-two shops and 600 employees selling salads, wraps, soups and juices, in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland and Virginia
MONEY RAISED: $40 million
BIG BACKER: Steve Case, co-founder of AOL
Over the years, they raised $17 million from about 100 people before landing their first investment from a financial institution in December: $22 million from AOL co-founder Steve Case’s Revolution fund.
OLD FRIENDS: They raised their first chunk of money – $375,000 – from 25 friends, friends of famliy, former bosses and classmates.
FOUNDERS: Matt Salzberg, 30; Ilia Papas, 32; and Matthew Wadiak, 35
STARTED IN: New York, August 2012
THE BUSINESS: Delivers about 300,000 boxes of ingredients and recipes for home cooks every month. Blue Apron has 130 employees.
MONEY RAISED: $8 million
BIG BACKERS: Jason Finger, co-founder of restaurant delivery Web site Seamless, then known as SeamlessWeb and Bob Goodman, partner at venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners. KNOW YOUR WEAKNESSES: Salzberg had worked in finance, and needed people with technology and food expertise. He brought on Papas, who had e-commerce experience, and Wadiak, a chef.
IN PERSON: “It’s really important when you’re raising capital to have people who believe in you,” Salzberg says. And it’s easier to sway them with your passion face-to-face. “It’s hard to convey that ... on the phone. Often it’s through body language.”