Episode 42 – Emeka C Anen
Co-Founder at Throne.xyz
My first question is, what made you decide to get into tech?
Growing up it was something that was a part of our household. My dad’s an entrepreneur as well, so he always wanted the latest computer or gadget for his office. We always had more computers around the house than we needed!
So from very early on we were encouraged to get into it. I’m from an immigrant family [I don’t know if this is a fair generalization] but for us, at least, it meant my dad was always insisting on us not just being consumers but also creators.
It’s funny because he used to give me a hard time about always buying shoes. He’d say ‘with all this money you are spending on these shoes; you could do all these other things like learning to code’ etc. So it’s the environment I grew up in. I’ve always been the first in school to geek out over new features from cool products. So I’ll just say my upbringing and DNA I guess.
How did you actually get started with Throne.
I always knew I was going to do something entrepreneurial, for me the big debate was whether I was going to do it before school [school being an MBA program] or after school.
I say to my friends as well: if all your life you’ve been getting jobs or getting into good schools, it means you have good ideas. So why not pursue your ideas. I decided to start now versus waiting until after I graduate. Then it was just a matter of identifying what was something I knew a lot about and was passionate about. That was the easy part because my brother and I had always spoken about the state of the sneaker market. We had those wheels in motion long before applying to schools anyway. It was just a matter of time before we decided to double down on it and do it full time.
As a person of color what obstacles have you faced in owning/growing your own tech company?
I think that’s an excellent question. This is my first time, so it’s hard for me to say whether or not any obstacle is typical for an entrepreneur or if it’s because I am a person of color.
It probably plays in our favor, as we have greater insights into the community, as it’s something that we grew up with.
The closest thing to an obstacle is probably when trying to convey the value proposition of what you’re building to someone who may not be familiar with the space/culture. To counteract it, we didn’t attempt to go and fundraise until we felt we had an excellent product and a critical mass of users.
How did you build such an enormous amount of followers and readership?
We would go to a bunch of these different sneaker conventions and meet people. We even launched the product at a sneaker show. So we on-boarded our first users in the midst of our ideal target market.
So, what was your perception of the tech industry before entering it, and what is your perception now?
It seemed very glamorized and romanticized [being all about billion dollar exits]. As someone who is eating, living and breathing this stuff on a daily basis I have a very different perception now.
Also, it’s not about luck; it’s more about the hard work and the sweat that goes into it. People may say ‘oh why I didn’t think of that’. It’s not that people didn’t think about it [the idea], it’s just that they didn’t approach it the same way, people didn’t work as hard, people didn’t execute it as well.
A lot of companies are tackling the same space, but with different approaches. I’m learning that it all comes down to the execution, and that’s exciting and motivating for me.
So, what is your biggest fear or worry since we’re talking about a potentially competitive space?
I think we’ve been fortunate to build our company in a way that illuminates the consumers. If you begin with a community and if you listen and pay attention to that community, then that will be a fortress against any competitor.
What are the three tips that you would give to either a person who is in college or a young person on how to get into tech? Or even three tips on how to get into tech? Or better yet, three tips on how to create your own start-up, or start on their start-ups?
I’d say, learn as much information about your space as possible. People will say ‘I have this incredible idea’, and then I’ll pull up five exact competitors/clones. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pursue whatever your idea is, I am just saying you should know what else is out there, and what makes your approach different.
Number two, develop your own leadership toolkit, and by that I mean learn the things you don’t know how to do well, or you don’t naturally do well. Maybe you’re naturally a great communicator, but maybe you are a bad delegator. Focus on how someone around you does a superb job of delegating.
Regarding starting a company, the only other part is getting a team together. Assemble your team to go to war with, it will increase accountability, and decreases the chance that this is something that you will give up on in two months if you don’t get immediate positive feedback.