Di Di Chan is cofounder and president of FutureProof Retail.
In this exclusive interview, Chan talks about time, trust, and maximizing your talent potential.
TechNewsWorld: What is FutureProof Retail’s mission? Why did you start the company?
Di Di Chan:
Our mission is to bring the best of online shopping offline. I met my partner in a philosophy club, and we bonded over the value of time. We spent hours talking about maximizing potential, which is measured in time.
We ended up traveling and shopping, and I wanted to buy a bottle of water for the airplane. We were in a rush, and I wasn’t able to buy my water because I didn’t have cash on me and didn’t have time. At that moment, we realized that waiting in line is one of the ways time is wasted, and we thought we should combine our strengths and talents and do something about it.
I realized that there was an opportunity to create FutureProof Retail to solve the time issue and to blend one of my favorite pastimes — shopping in physical stores — with all the benefits of online shopping.
TNW: Describe your career trajectory. How did you get where you are today?
I thought I was going to go into law for the longest time. I had a plan since high school: I was going to do international law focused on education or sustainable development. I got an undergraduate degree in global studies and went to grad school in economics.
At one point I moved to New York, and that’s when everything changed. I was in New York for my master’s in economics. I got a job working for the department chair, who was also my advisor, and his research was on entrepreneurship. He became a mentor and a friend.
At one point I asked him to write me a letter of recommendation for law school. He said, “Of course I’ll give you a good recommendation, but I see you being one of the entrepreneurs. If you want to explore that path, law school is always going to be there.”
I decided to take a year off before going to law school. I started with philosophy again. I sat down one day and re-planned my life. I wanted to have enough time to find myself and discover what I wanted, and to maximize my potential.
I asked myself, “What am I good at?” and realized that I was good at being a student. So I started an education start-up and started working with students from 15 different countries with an education consultancy that helped students discover their passion and make the connection between college and career. I realized there’s a huge gap between education and career.
Then I met my partner, and as we began talking about time, FutureProof Retail fell into place. We decided to combine our collective talents — his in technology and mine in research, finance and human development. Together we created this company based on our philosophy, passion and talents.
TNW: What is it important to bring the best of online shopping to offline retailers? How is your company redefining retail checkout?
There are a few ways. For one, from the consumer point of view, when you go shopping you have people who help you and service you, and you walk away happy. What we’re doing is bringing the online offline, to centralize that service. It’s not just the top VIP shopper who can enjoy that experience — everyone can. When you’re shopping online, you get a list of relevant recommendations so you’re not wasting time looking.
From a retail point of view, costs are increasing — for goods, operations and service — but prices can’t be increased too much. The only way to make up for that is to have increased efficiency. Bringing online experiences offline lets them change retail and to offer really good service, by combining the strength of technology and the strength of human service.
From a marketing point of view, I remember in high school I used to sell those coupon books. Or getting Sunday comics and coupons in newspapers — we’d spend hours finding the best coupon. Today, you get a long receipt with a print-out coupon, but you might not remember to bring it back.
With a lot of print advertising, the messages don’t offer a connection. I’m even paying Hulu and Pandora to not have ads. There needs to be a new channel to reach people.
As people are shopping with their phones, that’s a new channel that you can get the relevant message to the relevant customer. We’re looking at e-commerce being combined with the joy of going out shopping, and that’s a win-win for everyone.
TNW: Could you describe specifically what solutions FutureProof Retail offers?
We build a mobile shopping application, and within the checkout, there is marketing potential.
For instance, you can scan and a business can recommend a blouse. If you scan hot dog buns, it can recommend hot dogs or ketchup.
Checkout is the foundation, but what makes our solution unique is we’re connectable, flexible and customizable. We don’t believe in one-size-fits-all.
TNW: What advice would you give to girls and women who are interested in working in tech field or starting their own tech business?
I would say they should trust themselves, and if they want to do something, just do it. It’s difficult, and we’ve been trained to need validation — to check if we’re doing it right. There’s a lot of self-doubt, questions, and wanting an authority figure to tell them what’s right.
Make sure you have mentors, but trust in yourself and know that you will make mistakes, and that’s normal. Everybody makes mistakes. You making mistakes doesn’t make you any less.
If we want to be on an equal footing and we want to do well, the best way to do it is to go through all the mistakes, keep getting up, keep trusting that you’re smart and capable of figuring this out.
You don’t have to be perfect. Start your own company. The best way is to change the game is by being the boss, rather than trying to please the boss.