November 30, 2021

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How this Seattle entrepreneur went from functioning a food truck to primary a rapid-increasing crypto startup

8 min read
A few of the StormX staff members in Mexico, from left: Calvin Hsieh co-founder and CTO Alex Hidalgo, head of solution Simon Yu, co-founder and CEO Ollie Brown, UX designer. (StormX Image)

Extra than a year following shutting down his popular Korean-Mexican food truck and catering small business Bomba Fusion, Seattle entrepreneur Simon Yu checked in from Mexico, wherever he’s operating remotely, and the matter turned to food items.

“I experienced tacos here yesterday. I appreciate Mexican food,” Yu stated. “I nonetheless feel our tacos are seriously good. The blend of Mexican and Korean meals — it just goes so effectively together.”

Yu may well be done generating tacos for tech employees in Seattle, but he’s a lot chaotic cooking up an additional success tale with his present startup, StormX, a cryptocurrency system he co-started in 2015. And he’s nevertheless feasting on the classes of persistence he acquired along the way though struggling to make ends meet up with as a University of Washington pupil.

Earlier this month, Yu and StormX landed a coveted sponsorship offer with the Portland Trail Blazers, the NBA crew he grew up rooting for. We caught up to discover extra about Yu’s startup journey.

The early times

The Bomba Fusion truck on the T-Cellular campus in Bellevue, Wash., in 2016. (Twitter Photograph @BombaFusion)

Yu grew up in close proximity to Portland in Lake Oswego, Ore. When he moved to Seattle to show up at UW, his mothers and fathers were being still jogging a small frozen yogurt store in close proximity to Portland. But they ran into problems and declared personal bankruptcy when Yu was a sophomore.

“I was paying out-of-condition tuition,” Yu stated. “And I advised my dad, ‘There’s a good deal of tension ideal now. So I’m just likely to fall out and just operate and try to save enough cash so I can go back again to college or university.’”

He finished up functioning as a bank teller, but the barely-least-wage occupation was not enough to pay back for lease, university student financial loans, food items, and so forth. For months he was eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“It was possibly obtain a 2nd job or try out to start off a business of my personal,” Yu claimed. “I needed to offer these Korean tacos to children close to campus, to make some facet money.”

Utilizing his mom’s Korean barbecue recipe, Yu assembled easy tacos in his condominium and offered them for $3 to pupils working late hrs at UW’s Odegaard Library. Kickstarted by $100 he borrowed from his dad at age 19, and with no working experience in the meals sector, allow by yourself beginning his possess organization, Yu sooner or later turned the Bomba Fusion taco truck into a reality.

“I’m a fast learner. I assume which is the one particular detail that I acquired from staying an entrepreneur for 10 several years,” Yu stated. “We were just ready to keep figuring out problems, locating greater spots and the business commenced actually selecting up.”

Simon Yu provides at 9Mile Labs Demo Working day in 2016. (GeekWire File Picture / Taylor Soper)

New partner, new tips

Yu was nevertheless doing work in banking while running the truck close to 2014, and he formulated an desire in bitcoin. It was then that he achieved Calvin Hsieh, a UW computer science graduate who was also into the burgeoning cryptocurrency. Hsieh was searching for side work.

“He was operating on a bitcoin application, just a simple buyer application that compensated users like two tenths of a penny for observing a movie advert,” Yu stated. “He just preferred to do the startup complete-time just after school and he essential some revenue for living fees and so he utilized to be the food truck supervisor.”

Calvin Hsieh. (LinkedIn Picture)

Right after about a 12 months and 50 %, Yu quit his banking career to aim on Bomba Fusion as the truck picked up, although also pouring funds into the survival of CakeCodes, the bitcoin startup Hsieh launched and that Yu joined. Yu reported it was hard to get funding in Seattle due to the fact “everyone imagined bitcoin was funds laundering or a drug smuggling sort of procedure.”

The startup was bootstrapped for a couple of decades, and Yu drove for Uber and Lyft as he worked to fork out down his university student financial loans. But by 2016 they were accepted into the 9Miles Labs startup accelerator, pitching CakeCodes on Demo Working day as a gamified way to aid enterprises obtain new shoppers.

They landed angel funding toward the commencing of 2017 and as crypto picked up and the product or service was doing effectively, Yu explained they ended up increasing a ton of funds towards the close of 2017.

At the similar time, Hsieh went on to become supervisor, world-wide-web developer and inevitably co-proprietor of Bomba Fusion. And CakeCodes developed into StormX.

StormX good results

StormX is principally a cash again software, so whenever end users store from Nike or e-Bay or Adidas or any of the hundreds of outlets that StormX offers, they gain hard cash back in the type of cryptocurrencies, which can be redeemed as bitcoin, Ethereum, or StormX’s individual STMX tokens. Users can also do a pair of micro-jobs — enjoy online games or check out out distinct applications — to earn revenue as properly.

“Overall, what we’re trying to make at StormX is a one marketplace wherever individuals could just occur and discover unique strategies to receive funds online,” Yu stated. “And that genuinely stems from Calvin and myself always desperately seeking for techniques to make dollars via all these distinct careers and stuff. We’re seeking to develop a uncomplicated system where by anyone anywhere throughout the planet could just appear and just use our application to receive some side revenue or major profits or whichever it may well be.”

StormX has captivated a world viewers in additional than 150 international locations. The application has far more than 3 million downloads and has paid out out additional than $4 million in rewards to day. Complete funding for the startup is now $38.7 million.

Weathering a storm

Yu named from Mexico lately mainly because StormX has long gone 100% distant. The startup used to have a large office environment in Seattle, using 53 folks, like contractors, at its peak.

But they hit a crypto bear market in 2018-19 and Yu mentioned they didn’t have a superior solution sector suit.

“Our melt away was just far too superior. We were being normally striving to contend with Amazon and Microsoft [for talent] and you had to shell out a good deal of revenue for builders and it just grew to become as well unsustainable for us to survive,” he reported. “We had to do a substantial downsize.”

StormX went to a skeleton crew and slimmed down to eight staff members. But they are coming again, locating sensible people in Asia and Europe who don’t have a price tag of dwelling as higher as Seattle’s, and the group has developed to 23.

“It’s worked definitely properly for us,” Yu explained of distant employees. “I believe that the program is to continue on undertaking that.”

Path Blazers deal

The Portland Trail Blazers’ StormX jersey patch. (Photograph courtesy of Bruce Ely / Trail Blazers)

StormX landed its logo on an NBA jersey many thanks in element to a tweet, wherever Yu proclaimed that a single day his corporation would get the coveted internet marketing place. A StormX companion observed it and connected the startup founders to an NBA crew.

After talking to a number of groups, the Path Blazers at some point attained out and the conversation altered.

“Their attitude was just entirely different,” Yu said. “The business all the way from the CEO to the revenue reps, everyone was so into it.”

The organization sights the partnership with the workforce as a way to obtain far more mainstream publicity and display people today that there’s extra to cryptocurrency and blockchain over and above speculation and investing.

“There’s a whole lot of fantastic use circumstances and we’re just one of them,” Yu explained. “Our merchandise is in this article, we know how to switch the knobs. Now it’s time for us to definitely be intense with marketing and advertising. The Blazers was type of our first partnership, but we have various extra in the pipeline. We’re going to begin creating some excitement.”

No far more taco truck

Bomba Fusion was performing properly when Yu handed over the procedure to his moms and dads so they could have a supply of money. It pivoted generally towards remaining a catering small business, serving tech businesses this sort of as Amazon and Microsoft and many others together with Nordstrom and the Invoice & Melinda Gates Basis.

In March 2020, COVID-19 hit and corporations didn’t need to have food for workers who weren’t in places of work. And all over the very same time, Yu’s mother was identified with a brain tumor and was unable to operate the organization anymore. Yu advised his mothers and fathers they really should just retire. His mom returned to Korea for effective brain medical procedures, and now he sends his moms and dads money just about every thirty day period.

“We catered to 200 corporations or one thing like that. It was pretty popular,” Yu reported. “My mother was proud that she obtained to feed 50 percent of the Seattle tech populace from her recipe.”

Startup lessons

Yu stated that getting fantastic advisors to converse to was a large enable when starting up a business in his 20s with minimal experience. Advisors who ran profitable corporations coached Yu and Hsieh by difficulties that may well have appeared insurmountable.

He also credits the work ethic his moms and dads often showed with guiding him on his possess path. Anytime he and Hsieh ended up confronted with financial hardship, they figured they’d viewed even worse and if they could try to eat they could survive.

“We just really don’t just take things for granted. We just maintain likely,” Yu stated. “And which is certainly just one thing that is genuinely helped us separate from some of the other organizations. We certainly went via a lot of hardship. There had been certainly a good deal of points in our vocation wherever we imagined we would not make it.”

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