Kwiri Yang is the Founder and CEO of LifeGyde, an education technology company that equips the next generation with interpersonal skills to thrive and lead in an exponentially changing world. She has built, scaled and sold four companies, including the latest one sold to Inc. 500’s #1 fastest growing consumer electronics in the education technology space. Recognized as a 40 Under 40 Emerging Civic Leader, she volunteers her time building communities focused on education empowerment, social impact, and supporting next-generation leaders, second-time founders and female leaders.
Yang started her entrepreneurial journey as a teenager and bootstrapped her first company at the tender age of 16. She founded SK Technologies, a company that pioneered energy efficiency solutions for corporations.
The company helped save utility costs and benefited over 2,000 immigrant small and medium business owners in California. She played a crucial role in S1 filing, series D fundraising and growth strategy that took the company to over $1B valuations with a 15,000% growth rate in 3 years, ultimately reaching 4.4 million users. By the time she graduated from the University of California Los Angeles at the age of 19, the company had already made over $ 3M in profit.
However, during that time, Yang fell head-first into a bottomless pit of anxiety and depression due to the stress she was dealing with as the Founder of a big company at the young age of 16. She said, “I had to overcome circumstances relating to health and career that were entirely out of my control; I was in the dark and fell into depression. The shame, guilt and self-imposed expectations were overwhelming. I went to seek help from seven different therapists jumping through many hoops, switching from one therapist to another, which took considerable time, financial and emotional toll.”
When she was on the road to recovery, she decided to open up and share her experience with close friends and supporters and was surprised to learn that she was not alone in her struggle. In fact, many of her millennial peers from all backgrounds were battling a similar struggle with no proper means to attain emotional resilience to balance their life smoothly.
In hindsight, Yang says, “While I knew that there were many fantastic telemedicine platforms out there, what I found helpful along this journey was the importance of preventative care relating to mental healthcare. Many of the professionals and coaches I got help from were extremely helpful, and I wished I had those resources and guidance before getting to the point of anxiety and depression.”
This intimate battle led her to open LifeGyde. The company helps fight the stigma around mental health and provides access to preventative information and advice. LifeGyde’s mission is to equip the next generation with interpersonal skills, personal development transformation and social-emotional learning to increase self-awareness and emotional intelligence. The company uses technology to foster deep human connection as today’s workforce continues to evolve to give the youth a better chance to adapt to the dynamic work scenario.
However, during her struggle with depression, she continued her journey and founded and sold three companies. Yang said, “Getting the ball rolling again after making exits was the hard part — those were the parts that felt like transitions”
Yang recalled, “After my third startup was acquired by then-unicorn Fuhu, a children’s tablet company, I transitioned to a senior role in the company, as their Head of Global Strategy. I was excited to have the opportunity to see a startup — named the company of that year by Forbes — go from Series C to IPO.”
However, things soon started going downhill for the company; Yang had no control over the company’s decisions and the external factors that eventually led to Fuhu filing for bankruptcy before the IPO was even out.
At that point, Yang was at her lowest; she said, “I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I felt I had no more resources of my own to sacrifice. I only had other people.”
This led to the inception of Second Time Founders, a community for transitioning founders to work on personal growth. Yang said, “We’re building a community where founders can exchange stories, learn about tools, and develop ideas on how to define their purpose and realize their true potential.”
According to Yang, “For entrepreneurs looking for the road ahead, the key is to find those people who can give you the tools, understanding, and support to confront your past regrets and recuperate real-life lessons from those experiences.” This is why she believes that ‘Second Time Founders’ is a great resource for entrepreneurs to learn from their mistakes and develop resilience by sharing with others who have dealt with similar struggles that led them to establish million dollar companies while also maintaining their emotional resilience.
However, as an entrepreneur, she says, the most rewarding part of her job is to pursue what she truly feels passionate about and challenge how things are done in the world. Yang said in an interview, “I am passionate about defying the status quo and disrupting the way that things are done when it’s ineffective and does not create positive change in the world. Having my own business means never-ending hustling and having to deal with constant uncertainty. But by focusing on the journey and small wins, speaking to the customers and investing in people’s lives, the journey makes it all worthwhile.”