Tash Wong: Oh Sh!t, I Have to Make It Now

Making it is hard. Tash Wong is here to help.

Here in the bay, ‘making it’ means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Whether we’re making the next big app or going public with it, the area is bursting with ambitious people who are trying to revolutionize the way we interact with the world, each other, and the things around us. Yet, the metrics for this goal are fuzzy, and it might be healthy to take a step back and unpack that process of making it.

Tash Wong presenting at TYPO SF Image courtesy of Chris Hurtt (theheezylife.com)
Fortunately, Tash Wong brought those of us at TYPO SF through the process of making it with an engaging story, a beautiful slide deck, and killer use of emoji. Beginning with the notion of success, she noted that it’s quite difficult to describe objectively. Does it mean buying a great home, starting the next “Facebook for (insert concept here)”, or just having a lot of money in general?

Operating under this model, her startup Coastermatic serves as a useful case study; grown out of a class on entrepreneurial design at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, Coastermatic started with a simple premise: Instagram photos on high-quality, ceramic coasters. The idea took off, getting featured on TechCrunch, earning them around $10,000 in profits before they had graduated and – perhaps most importantly – fulfilling the requirements of that entrepreneurial design class that started it all.

The startup curve, as envisioned by Tash Wong Image courtesy of C. Moretti (@more_etti)
Tash pointed out that, for all intents and purposes, it would have seemed that they had done it – they had made it. Yet, their successes made way for an insight: maybe ‘making it’ changes over time, as people get married, grad theses deadlines creep up on you, and family plays an increasingly central role in life. On top of these shifting definitions of success, the reality of the aforementioned TechCrunch mention is a long period that Tash refers to as “the trough of sorrow.” Product infrastructure runs into problems. The novelty of the product wears off. You start to recognize your weaknesses, and imposter syndrome (which Tash personified as the Fraud Police) sets in, causing you to question what it is you’re doing.

Success suddenly seems a lot more complicated, doesn’t it?

Remember, though. This talk was all about taking a step back, and realizing that, despite the abundant creativity in your typical TYPO SF conference auditorium, we simply don’t know what the future will hold. Problems will happen, and models will change (as demonstrated from our shift from the hierarchical organizations to more networked models – thanks for the heads up, Tash!) It might be worthwhile to focus on our day to day, celebrating the small successes and victories that carry us through our journey to “the promised land” of startups.
The power of the personal narratives Image courtesy of C. Moretti (@more_etti)
Living day to day might sound like a tall order (or at least, a vague one), but Tash guides us along the way. Her major tips were to remember that:

  1. Everyone has the same amount of time, so figure out what your priorities are, and make the time to fulfill those priorities. Stay a little uncomfortable, and keep working at things that matter to you.
  2. Find a great community and all-star coaches to keep yourself inspired, motivated, and accountable. Join a listserv, find a meetup, and stay involved – remember that network that we were talking about earlier?
  3. Know the power of your personal narrative. While problems will arise no matter what (the best laid plans and all), its your decision to focus on the outcomes of those problems, and not the problems themselves. Think about how you’re working through those problems instead of drowning in them.

Making it takes a lot of work – but that’s half the excitement, right? When embarking on your entrepreneurial journey, get ready to lean in, power through the uncertainty, and – in the spirit of the conference, focus. You’re gonna make it.


Tash Wong

Chief Coaster Officer (San Francisco, California)

Tash Wong is the Chief Coaster Officer of Coastermatic. Coastermatic's goal is to help you relive the moments you want to remember by putting them on coasters you'll use every day. Prior to founding Coastermatic, Tash spent time creating groundbreaking mobile frameworks for the hospitality industry, product consulting for the New York Times and NY-based tech startups, as well as developing communication tools for teams. She holds an MFA in Interaction Design from the School of Visual Arts in New York and lives in San Francisco.

Text — Ricky Holtz (@AyyRickay)