July 8, 2020 (San Francisco)
This past Monday, on July 6th, Harmony Plus continued our Future Entrepreneur Challenge (FEC) talkshow. For our fourth episode, we interviewed Albert Hao, an young entrepreneur who has won and coached various entrepreneurship competitions. He has been the inspiration and leader for over 1,000 student entrepreneurs as a LaunchX Regional Director of U.S.A West and South America.
Now he’s the CEO of OnTrack, the first AI productivity software company to help students and parents decrease online distractions and maintain productivity. Artificial intelligence, along with other tools, are utilized to determine when a student is off-task, and OnTrack guides them back to being on-task. Albert recounted his own experience as a high school student, where the distractions and diverted focus caused by the internet was a constant problem that he had to face. OnTrack is currently available on the Chrome Store, and a parental control version of the app (with a greater range of features) is also currently in its alpha testing phase.
Albert began his entrepreneurial journey in the summer before his freshman year of high school, where he attended a week-long entrepreneurship camp. There, he learned about the basics of entrepreneurship, setting up a business plan, and conducting market research. Taking this newfound knowledge into his first year of high school, he started a LaunchX club, an affiliate of the nation-wide entrepreneurship program of the same name. In this club, Albert starting working on his first business project, called EntreDev (short for Entrepreneurship Development), a social networking web app that connected like-minded young entrepreneurs and business people who wanted to start their own companies. After winning third place at the Model Entrepreneurship Competition and a regional finalist position at the LaunchX Global Pitch Day, Albert branched out with different teams to begin working on OnTrack in his Junior year.
When asked about his successes, Albert recalled that an early major success was receiving funding for his projects in the aforementioned competitions. For him, it was a tangible pay-off for all the work, effort, and thought put into those projects.
“We didn’t have a success for quite a long time, as it is with most companies. It was a lot of hard work, for sure. We had to scrap a lot of ideas and keep going.”
Albert also reflected on some of the challenges and failures that he’s had to endure. One particular example was EntreDev, in which the company itself was a failure. The idea, Albert explains, was well-intentioned, but there wasn’t enough market interest at the time and he also lacked resources in terms of app development and skills. If it had been a non-profit rather than a for-profit start-up, EntreDev might have worked better. He was able to take the lessons and experience from EntreDev to improve himself and his future ideas.
“The nature of entrepreneurship is that you have a lot of small failures, which [leads to] pivoting… Pivoting means that you adapt your business and change directions so that you can keep going.”
Albert also offered advice for students who were interested in pursuing entrepreneurship. For students, who spend most of their day at school, being proactive, setting clear goals, and having good time management is essential to balancing academia and entrepreneurship. He emphasized the importance of speech and debate as not only just a means of developing communication skills, but also as a means to develop other soft professional skills such as critical thinking, network building, and successful pitch presentation. He also recommended students to take up a sport as a way to manage stress and balance mental and physical well-being.
“Work hard, work smart, but also make sure that what you’re doing [is something] you care about and like. Otherwise, it’s really just going to be painful to do.”
If you are interested in learning more about Albert and his story, you can watch the full video here.
Tune in next Monday, July 13th, for Episode 005, with Garrett Clark, who has 10+ years of marketing experience across multiple companies like Sony and Intuit. You can sign up on our Eventbrite here.