TrueRSVP, social planning startup, Los Angeles

EMPLOYEES: 7

FINANCIALS: Spent $10,000 on launch.

What led you to start your own company?

Sergeeva: When we met in the Lloyd Greif Entrepreneurship Program at USC, we started working on crazy business ideas and bonded over our fascination with technology. TrueRSVP grew out of our desire to help non-profits with a creative solution to achieve higher attendance rates and not suffer from last-minute flakes. We soon realized that most event types suffer from these issues and we could build a business out of it.

Where did you get the startup money?

Sergeeva: We raised a seed round from Tech Coast Angels – we’re the youngest team they’ve ever invested in. Before that, bootstrapping.

What was the most important lesson you learned?

Sergeeva: Startups are hard work. It’s long hours and lots of self-doubt. You really have to believe in your team and your idea to make it through in one piece.

Xiao: To listen to your customers and build a product for them. It’s surprisingly easy to forget that.

Does your youth lead to awkward situations, such as when you supervise older workers?

Sergeeva: It’s definitely been interesting interviewing engineers who are more than twice our age, but I think your age is all that you make of it. We don’t think it’s an issue so it’s not awkward.

Xiao: We’re both mature enough for our ages that it doesn’t really affect how we do business.

Will you start another company?

Sergeeva: I definitely want to start another company down the line – something in education or international development.

Xiao: Yes, after this one is successful.

Could you ever work for someone else?

Sergeeva: I think there is value in working for a person whom you really admire to learn from their methodology and leadership style. For me, that person would be someone like Sheryl Sandberg (of Facebook) or Jean-Claude Biver (of Swiss watchmaker Hublet).

Xiao: Working for someone else would be a great learning experience, so I’m definitely not against it. I’d love to work for a company that values innovation, design and positive business impact on the world, such as Ideo.

What do you do to relax?

Sergeeva: I’m a big fan of yoga, hiking, reading and cooking. I’m also obsessed with traveling – went to Ghana this winter.

Xiao: At the end of the day, hanging out with friends and talking and laughing is the best way to relax for me.

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