Being a startup for our generation is cool; after all, it’s something that’s current and trending. There are startups for almost anything you could possibly imagine and our current generation is growing increasingly reliant on the convenience they bring.
But when it comes to explaining to parents on what exactly a startup does, that could prove to be quite a challenge.
As writers on a digital platform, even we have had problems telling our parents what we do. We don’t have physical print copies of our articles to cut out and scrapbook and to them, it’s not even concrete. Different generations grew up with different expectations on life—that’s understandable.
So we reached out to some startup founders to see how they got their folks to wrap their heads about what they do. After all, how can you pitch to a crowd when your own family doesn’t understand your product?
As a social app that helps strangers meet each other, Ditto might raise doubts or even fear in the older generation who have always warned their kids to beware of strangers. How would a parent feel about their child doing it?
According to founder André Teow, “As with most Chinese parents, they were very concerned. They wondered why I left my well-paying job to join the unknown, thinking there was something wrong with me. But after awhile, they warmed up to it and are now my biggest supporters.”
MaidEasy has helped locals connect with maid services. CEO of Maideasy Azrul Rahim shared that he actually had to keep his startup under wraps when it first got going.
“When I first started, they didn’t know I had left my previous job as an investment analyst for 6 months. So whenever they came to visit, they would always wonder why is it that I wasn’t going to work. But my parents were cool about it and there was no real pressure.”
His parents don’t even know what Uber or Grab is, so descriptions like “This is the Uber for maids” weren’t going to work.
“Seeing as they didn’t get it, I kept it straightforward and simple. Maideasy is a cleaning company that uses local service. That’s it. Seems like they were able to understand it by just that and are supportive of what I do now,” said Azrul.
Founder of GIG88 Ziv Kong had to fight down misconceptions of what a startup is.
“In their mind, starting a company requires big capital and a beautiful office. We run GIG88 in my house that doesn’t even have an air-conditioner. After a year of running the business and my father personally watching performances on GIG88, they started to understand what we’re doing,” said Ziv.
His parents were also concerned because they assumed the team didn’t know what they were doing, seeing as how Ziv himself was from a tech background. Jumping into the entertainment industry was seen as a risk.
“It took awhile but thank God, now they’re very supportive and proud to show our platform to their friends even!” said Ziv.
Moovby founder, Nadzri Sazali, shared the same problem as other founders where his parents were not familiar with the startup scene, which led to him having to simplify his explanation so they wouldn’t be confused.
“Since my parents are not familiar with startups, in a sense of how an app can make money, I explained it to them conventionally. What I told them is, we are a middle man where we refer users to providers and get commissions out of it. But the difference is, we digitalise and automate it by building a web platform or an app,” said Nadzri.
For founder of LocalUsher, Sabrina Cheng, she was lucky to have one parent who understood the startup community while the other needed more explanations.
“My dad is the more traditional one so he didn’t really understand what an online startup was. I had to even let him know Facebook began as a tech startup! My mum is more open-minded one, she can even use Uber by herself so it’s no problem for her to understand what I’m doing,” shared Sabrina.
But rather than her parents, she found it more difficult to explain to the uncles and aunties of her family who constantly asked what it was she was doing.
“Our best and shortest explanation is that we are like travel agents, but we do trips in Malaysia only and that everything is online. I think after we were on mainstream media like the TV shows and radio, they trusted and supported what we are doing more,” said Sabrina.
Founder of Ombré, Imran Sheik said “For me it was quite hard because my parents lived in the era where command economy was the norm, i.e. they believe in working by the hours instead of starting up a company. I think as much as it’s hard to say this, I usually share with them the opportunity and the positive side of entrepreneurship, not the challenges.”
He found that not focusing on the obstacles faced by a startup helped ease his parents into what he was doing for a career. “I understand some families are very close that they share everything, but it’s just not the same case for everyone. My parents’ reactions are okay, but they get easily worried when we face any challenges,” said Imran.
Using a crowd-advertising concept as a means to help drivers earn money, founder of MyBump, Nadia Jalil, had some strong convincing to do after breaking the news to her mother when she left her previous job as a legal associate at Khazanah Nasional.
“After we participated in an accelerator programme organised by Khazanah called Project Brainchild, I decided to leave my job and focus on MyBump because I saw the potential behind it. Safe to say, my mother was not too happy about that. She asked why I’d leave such a good job for the sake of selling stickers so I knew I needed to explain it all properly,” said Nadia.
“After she began seeing the media being receptive to MyBump as well as the traction we’re getting, she started to show her support and understands how happy I am doing this. Although at the end of the month, she does ask about my salary so I still have a lot more convincing to do!” shared Nadia.
Founder of CatJira, Richard Moh, shared that even before working for CatJira, he was already one of the early hires for a very young company which was already heart-attack triggering to his parents. They always believed having secure careers as the best choice.
“To them, CatJira is an alien concept because they are accustomed to brick-and-mortar businesses where delivery of product and services are visible. To my privilege, my parents are already primed about startups from my days before CatJira. Hence, they got more curious where they would ask questions to understand how digital businesses are built and I would illustrate it with shopping malls—developers build malls, get tenants, and so forth.
For them, the last thing they want to see is us going through the life challenges they endured back them. As long as I was able to assure them of that, they are pretty fine with CatJira,” said Richard.
Know of any other startup founders who’ve had trouble explaining their jobs to their parents or had the same issue yourself? Let us know in the comments.