Brandeis International Business School

005: Taking a Chance

If not now, when?

Siqi Mou is the Co-Founder and CEO of HelloAva, an AI-powered personal skin care consultant. Prior to starting HelloAva, she was a financial news anchor at Bloomberg TV and held several positions at Morgan Stanley, PIMCO and the Federal Reserve. Siqi has also been a concert pianist for over 20 years, and she currently serves as the Music Ambassador for Carnegie Hall.

Siqi received her MBA from Stanford, her MPA from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and her BA in Economics from Stanford University. She was awarded Inc. Magazine's 30 Rising Stars Under 30 in 2018 and L'Oreal's Women in Digital in 2017.

From the Dorm Room

Siqi’s first job out of college was at Morgan Stanley in New York. However, she didn't feel satisfied working in finance. It was a great job in the short term for training, “but deep in my heart, I still wanted to be able to solve a problem... and create something that's influential to the world.”

So Siqi went back to business school, where her school experience bled into her career experience.

She had the opportunity to be taught by Professor Steve Blank, who is a sort of the guru in Lean Startup Methodology and uses the Business Model Canvas as a tool to bring his students through the process of creating a product and starting a business.

After presenting a prototype of her HelloAva idea in front of the class and the guests that were invited to watch, some of them were interested in investing.

To the Board Room

So, after that class, Siqi was invited to pitch her idea – and by the time she graduated from business school, she actually had a few offers to fund the business. She was originally planning to go back into finance, she found herself asking, “If not now, then when?”

So Siqi and her partners decided to take a chance on themselves. “And that's kind of like the whole point of going to Stanford Business School too... to take a chance on yourself when you're still young, when you don't have kids or family yet. So, I decided I'm going to take the risk for the first time in my life and just do something that feels a little scary, a little unsettled, but close to my heart.”

One of the big misconceptions that Siqi had in school, and a misconception that was prevalent in business school, was there are only so many industries worth going into. But there’s more to the business world than finance, consulting or tech.

Even though other jobs might not sound as prestigious, you can still learn and grow so much, in both your career and as a person. “The world is huge. It's out there for you. If you graduate from a great school or a great major, it is widely open. We shouldn't limit our choices.”

Another misconception that Siqi had, and one that she thinks is prevalent in the younger generations, is the idea that you have to work in industry for a couple years before you can pursue your dreams of being an entrepreneur.

“Especially after I went to business school, I realized that a lot of my classmates from undergrad... They didn't have any work experience. They started it right after the dorm room, right from the dorm room to the real world. And they created something that's so special and so appealing to their generation, and it just took off.

“So if you have a great idea, and if you want to take a chance, and you feel like you're ready, I think you should just go for it. You don't have to necessarily have to go through a big corporation and then go to it because, once you do that, you might be too late. Someone else might have already done it. So, it's just finding an opportunity, and the right time, and the right people.”


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