Joseph Truong, Founder of VoiceHero

October 20, 2020

1. What were you doing before you quit your job?

Prior to starting VoiceHero, I had recently graduated from my Undergraduate studies in Business. I was fortunate to join a startup program called Next 36 which accepts individuals across Canada who are looking to start companies. There, I met my Co-Founder and we pursued this journey of building something new to add value to customers. I had worked several internships across various fields in marketing, accounting, non-profit, but wanted to give this a shot due to the opportunity, and given I’d be working with a network of highly ambitious and intelligent people to start “something”.

2. What initial hesitations did you have about quitting your job and how did you overcome them?

Although I didn’t necessarily quit my job after graduating from school, I had all of the thoughts about whether I should pursue a corporate job or start a company. Next 36 and the platform seemed to land on my plate and given some of my entrepreneurial experiences that I had in my undergraduate years, I thought it would be a good opportunity to start a company. I knew regardless of the result, I would be well-off and was confident the outcome would still take me far in my career.

3. What is VoiceHero?

My company, VoiceHero, is an analytics platform to help developers understand conversational user behavior on voice applications on services like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The inspiration came when I was playing around with an Alexa and realized there were apps called Skills which highly resembled Mobile Apps. There were opportunities for customers to make purchases and enjoy delightful experiences. I decided to pursue this opportunity and ultimately joined the Alexa Accelerator Powered by Techstars.

4. What are you doing now? How did you decide to take a corporate job after closing your startup? Will you consider launching another company in the future?

Ultimately, our team decided to sunset VoiceHero based on various challenges including personal reasons, funding, growth and many more. In April, I started a role at Amazon as a Program Manager in the Partnerships and Roadmap Planning function for internal teams at Amazon to deliver features to the Alexa Mobile App. The idea of starting a company in the future would be great and I would highly consider it at some point again. But for now, I have the flexibility to think about what really motivates me and gets me excited now that all of the pressure of starting a company is out of my mind. I can work at my own pace and do it when I am ready. I’m not great at predicting the future, but it’s likely I will start another venture.

5. Looking back on your experience of founding a company, what do you know now that you wish you knew before? Are you happy with your decision?

Knowing what I know now about starting a company, there is way more thought that goes into starting a company. I had a great opportunity (moving to Seattle and meeting mentors like Sean J), platforms (Next 36, Techstars), and investors who supported me and my approach to entrepreneurship. But looking back, I honestly did not have a clear vision and plan at any given time. I had a drive for starting “something” and knew that’s what I wanted to do, but it was way too broad and required more self-reflection which never allowed me settle on anything. I started with everything else except for the problem and that problem pivoted drastically at times causing friction within the founding team. I am very happy with the decision to move on but I know the bigger decision to start a company requires much more careful long-term planning, vision, and co-founders to “start something”.

6. Any other advice you can share for others contemplating a similar path?

Find a problem or space you care about so much you lose sleep over it and that you believe YOU are the right person to solve it. It’s hard to have that level of passion and conviction but don’t waste your time until you think you have this. Starting a company is not this “cool” thing people just do for fun, it is very difficult in every aspect (mentally, emotionally, physically). Honestly, I haven’t found it yet and most people might never feel this way about a problem.

7. How did you manage wellness and mental health during your startup? You worked your ass off during the program, how did you stay sane?

I honestly didn’t stay sane. I was hyper-focused and tried almost too hard to solve every problem and let it get the best of me. This affected the people I worked with, especially my co-founder. All of that built up intensity, and sleep deprivation adds up and when things go south, it can completely deflate the team if you don’t have the mentality to bounce back.

8. Knowing what you know now, how would you go about finding a co-founder or validating an idea?

Work with someone long enough to tell that they are the person you want to pursue this long term with – think of it like a marriage (and I believe this analogy is accurate regardless of what people think). It takes years to build trust, and you need to accept and understand each other: from how you work together, how to motivate each other, lifting each others spirits when times get tough, and more.

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