When he quit his engineering job to work full-time on Yardly, he had high expectations, he said. But he soon realized it was going to be very difficult to scale this kind of business to the size they originally had in mind.
"We started to learn some of the limitations with the industry, with the way seasonality works, how things are different from each city," he said. "It's never going to pan out to the size of business that we originally anticipated."
They restructured Yardly to "run more like a business, less like a tech startup," he said. "And we became significantly more profitable in Year 6. We just wish that we could have made some of the changes earlier on."
No one can go back in time to apply such lessons. But Zhang is looking forward to helping other early-stage founders "shorten the trough of sorrow" through a side project called Zalis Ventures, before he leaps back into startup mode in the fintech space.
"It's not just about building fancy tech and getting lots of investment, and growth at all costs," he said. "When you accept the fact that every startup is essentially a business, and you have to run it a certain way to operate sustainably, all of a sudden, a lot of things became very easy for us. I wish that I had learned that earlier."
The Sept. 15 episode also takes a look at the next cohort for the Community Safety and Wellness Accelerator, kudos for Growing Greener Innovations and Copperstone Technologies, and attention for Scam Detector.