An inspiring chat with Ahryun on International Women’s Day and this year’s theme: Choose to Change.
“I’m not afraid to live dangerously. After I made Peter and Jasper quit their jobs (while living in the most expensive city in the world,) I went to Edith Harbough (co-founder of LaunchDarkly) for advice. She became our first investor. That single investment from a fellow female CEO boosted my confidence and kept me going.”
Humble. Hardworking. Fearless. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we sat down with our badass CEO, Ahryun Moon, to learn about life before GoodTime, her “bone breaking moments”, and her #choosetochallenge wish for the GoodTime community.
CP: What does the idea of power mean to you?
AM: Great question. Power is access to network. Access to money. Access to information.
CP: Do you consider yourself to be a powerful woman?
AM: This is the thing about being a woman: Even if you have power, often you don’t feel like you have it. Men can have nothing and think they have it all. Women tend to be a bit more humble and underestimate themselves. Do I have power? Yes. Do I always feel like I have power? No.
CP: This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Choose to Challenge.” Describe the challenges of being a female Asian CEO in the Silicon Valley tech space.
AM: I come from nothing, to be honest. I have no network in Silicon Valley. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school. When we [Jasper Sone, co-founder and husband] came to San Francisco, we were borderline broke.
People ask me this question a lot, but I don’t want to think of my story this way. I can’t control that I’m a woman or that I’m Asian or that I’m not from the United States. There are lots of unconventional CEOs who are perfectly successful. I try to look at those examples. There are probably a lot of biases and prejudices against me that I’ll probably never find out about. I really don’t think about it.
That said, we’ve been in investor meetings where we’ve been asked why Jasper is not the CEO. I’ve felt like I’ve had to explain myself multiple times. Sometimes I think women take on too much responsibility in explaining or building consensus. Now, looking back, I realize I should have said “Why shouldn’t I be CEO? If you don’t think I have the capability to be a successful CEO then you probably shouldn’t invest and I don’t want your money.”
CP: You also fundraised very successfully in Seoul. As a female CEO, how was that experience different for you?
AM: Investors are animals of pattern recognition. In Korea there are a lot of well-known female CEOs. So there is that kind of pattern recognition. They have to see something that’s similar and that’s had a track record of success in the past. We already had a track record of success in Silicon Valley, which is the Mecca of all things startup and tech— the investors in Seoul all look up to Silicon Valley, so because we had not just survived but were really thriving—that was enough to make it worth it for them to invest in GoodTime.
CP: And that level of success so early on is remarkable. What are you most proud of?
AM: I’ve never been addicted to paychecks. Money doesn’t drive me, and I’m not afraid of risk. Think of it this way: if you break your bone, you grow a little because the bones grow back to heal. I’ve never been afraid of that bone breaking moment. That’s why I was able to start GoodTime. And before that, it’s why I was able to quit my very stable finance job and go into programming.
CP: I learned that about you! I heard that you taught yourself Python to make your finance job easier… which is wild!
AM: [Laughs] I’m not an engineer, but coding is the funnest!
CP: Did you think when you were a child that this is what you’d be doing?
AM: I thought I’d own an e-commerce store where I would sell affordable and trendy clothing and accessories.
CP: So you always wanted to be an entrepreneur.
AM: Yeah, ever since I was a little kid. Then when I went to college, I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do. I majored in accounting and became a financial analyst as it was a very stable career. But honestly I didn’t like it. One day I decided to learn programming and built the software for the multinational semiconductor company I worked for. That led to a meeting with the CFO, which for me as a junior finance person, was a huge deal. He sat me down and was like ‘Be selfish and tell me what you want to do. Do you want to be on a track to become a CFO like me?’ I thought about it and told him, “No. In fact, I want to quit my job to move to San Francisco and pursue engineering. ” And I did.
CP: That’s a brave move. Thinking about bravery and International Women’s Day, what powerful women inspire you?
AM: Whitney Wolfe of Bumble. Her story is so inspirational. Lynn Jurich of Sunrun. They both rang the bell with their newborns. I admire all professional women who have kids. I don’t know how they do it.
CP: What advice would you give to female founders looking to raise in Silicon Valley?
AM: If you look at my cap table, almost all of my investors are male. They’re willing to bet on you. I went through an accelerator, where they tell you what to do and what not to do, like cold calling. I did almost everything I was told not to do and still managed to raise. I learned that there was no such thing as the “right” answer or “right” way to do it. Find the way that works for you. That’s the right way.
CP: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
AM: Try STEM. Programming was never recommended to me, but it should have been. Why are we still being limited? Women absolutely thrive in STEM.
CP: Our last question is in the spirit of the 2021’s theme for International Women’s Day, “#choosetochallenge: What challenge do you choose for everyone in the GoodTime community?
AM: I challenge GoodTimers to take risks and fail. That’s the true spirit of entrepreneurship.