REDWOOD CITY, CALIFORNIA —
Silicon Valley in California is a unique place known for high-tech companies and entrepreneurs that are on the cutting edge of technological innovation. While tech companies are constantly being created, most fail and only a few succeed in living up to their early promise.
Working out of a garage in Silicon Valley for some people is living the American dream. The founders of Apple started there, and Ray Wu, is one of many entrepreneurs who hopes to be working toward creating the next big company in Silicon Valley.
“Every day is very fascinating. There’s no routine. I think you have to be okay with organized chaos. I think you have to be okay with things changing, having to make very important decisions in a very quick way. I think you have to always be pitching, always be selling your vision, selling your ideas to both the outside and the inside company,” said Wu, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate who co-founded Wynd, a startup that is developing a personal air filter.
Improving air quality
The Silicon Valley is a unique place where some of the brightest people from around the world work and try their hand at entrepreneurship, even if it means starting out in a garage. Wu is originally from China, and the idea for a personal air filter with a corresponding air quality sensor and mobile application came from one of this trips back to China more than 10 years ago.
“I was born in Beijing in the 1980s and I came to the U.S. when I was pretty young. I still remember those days there was really no issue with pollution. China was still very poor, so there were no cars on the road, no factories,” said Wu.
“I would still go back and visit my relatives including my parents pretty often and with the rise of Chinese economy the environment has taken a turn for the worst. I’ve seen it affect my own relatives,” he added.
As an engineer Wu has been thinking about how to improve the lives of people who live in polluted places.
Journey to entrepreneurship
His solution is the company Wynd. His team includes many former M.I.T. students who spent almost two years engineering the Wynd air purifier. They also invented a portable sensor to monitor air quality, created elements on controlling airflow, and wrote code from scratch for a corresponding app. Wu said their invention can have even greater impact by crowd sourcing the air quality information collected by the portable sensors, which will give users an air quality map of a city.
M.I.T. graduate and air flow analyst Eric Munoz said his mother was not sure about her son giving up a job working on jet-and-rocket-engine design to join a startup.
“My mom was a little nervous,” said Munoz. His parents were immigrants from Colombia, and getting to the Silicon Valley hasn’t been easy.
“I grew up with a single mom, my parents split up when I was young, and so it was a lot of work for her to keep everything going and raise me and keep the household going. So I’m pretty proud I’ve been able to make it all the way to M.I.T and to be at this current place knowing where we started,” said Munoz.
The team often works 12 hour days, seven days a week.
As tough as it is to be a part of a startup, those who work at Wynd said starting a company in Silicon Valley has unique benefits.
“I think that people here, Silicon Valley people, do help each other. People who live super busy lives, who maybe are very, very successful, they don’t hesitate to grab coffee. They don’t hesitate to get on a phone call even if it’s with short notice, even if you don’t really know them that well. I’ve seen it happen so many times. And we try to do the same thing,” said Wu.
He said learning from others and building good networks have been invaluable in his journey as an entrepreneur.
”I think ideas are very powerful. I think ideas are important to rally people, but just having ideas is far from enough. Most people have many, many ideas and they never act on it. And to actually execute an idea, it takes a lot of effort a lot of time,” observed Wu.
While creative ideas and the dedication to their work are important elements, Wu says the success of a start-up will depend on how well those creative visions are executed.